Microsoft and Google are currently involved in a patent lawsuit in Germany that could, according to FOSS Patents’ Florian Mueller and a number of German reports, lead to an outright ban of Google Maps in the country.
Microsoft’s EP0845124 patent in Europe is for a “computer system for identifying local resources and method therefor” and was issued in 1996. The issue was discussed in a regional court in Munich today and as Mueller notes, it doesn’t look like Google was able to convince the judge “that the patent is highly probable to be invalidated at the end of a parallel nullity proceeding.”
If Microsoft wins the injunction it is asking for, Google could have to shut down its mapping service in Germany, both on the web and on mobile phones (or at least on all of its own Motorola phones). In the worst of all cases, it could even be ordered to stop distributing Chrome in Germany unless it blocks access to Google Maps from the browser.
The more likely option, however, as the German press agency DPA reports, is that Microsoft could offer Google a license for its patent. A Microsoft spokesperson told DPA that this could be “a way to end this war.”
Google’s lawyers also argued that Google Maps is too important and shouldn’t just be shut down. Currently, about 4 million Germans use the service, and shutting down access to it for anybody with a German IP address would not just inconvenience them but also hurt Google’s image. For now, Google is keeping its cool (at least in public). A Google spokesperson gave us this statement: ““We are confident in our position and look forward to defending it in court.”
FOSS Patents’ Mueller also reports that Google’s counsel argued that the company would “suffer irreparable harm if it had to shut down a key part of its Google Maps service in Germany and that customers who then use competing services (such as Microsoft’s Bing Maps, which Judge Dr. Zigann mentioned) may never return to Google Maps.”
All those Germans who decided to hide their houses on Google Maps’ Street View will probably cheer for Microsoft to win this injunction. The court will render a decision about this injunction in about two months.