Microsoft loses mapping patent tussle in German fight with Google and Motorola

Microsoft loses mapping patent tussle in German fight with Google and Motorola

Summary: Redmond contended that Google and Motorola had infringed on a mapping patent it owns. Not so, says the patent court.

TOPICS: Patents, Microsoft, EU

Germany's Federal Patent Court has struck down a contended Microsoft mapping patent, leaving Google and Motorola, as well as other smartphone providers, free to use the technology without licensing agreements in the country.

Microsoft argued that both Motorola Mobility, with its Android devices, and Google, with its Maps service and applications, had infringed on a mapping patent it owns.

The patent covers a "computer system for identifying local resources and method therefore". Originally filed in 1995, it sought to meet an emerging need in the growing web ecosystem. According to the patent, "it is not possible, using existing web search tools to answer questions such as 'where is the nearest hamburger restaurant?'" To meet this need, the patent laid out a method of storing map data on a server, and attaching it to other content, and then have it be readily accessible by client devices.

However, the German court invalidated the patent last week because it "lacked an inventive step", a court spokeswoman told PC World.

Typically, decisions from the Federal Patent Court require weeks or even months to be finalised in written form. However, Microsoft has already stated that it will appeal the ruling, a court official has confirmed. The court official called the notice of appeal at this stage "unhelpful," since in any case the company have to wait for the written judgment to proceed.

In Germany, Redmond initially sued the two companies in the Munich Regional Court in 2012, where it looked likely to win in 2013. At that time, some commentators worried that if the court ruled in Microsoft's favour, Google Maps would have to be shut down in the country. However, Motorola filed for a postponement of that case, until the case before the Federal Patent Court was resolved. Last week's ruling, if upheld on appeal, makes it likely that the Munich Regional Court will rule similarly.

In recent years, Microsoft has been pursuing a strategy of profiting from licensing its owned software patents to Android smartphone manufacturers. Companies like LG, Samsung, and HTC have signed licensing agreements with Microsoft that can reportedly cost the manufacturers up to $15 per phone sold.

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Topics: Patents, Microsoft, EU

Michael Filtz

About Michael Filtz

From the day he brought home a modem and dialed in to a local BBS in 1991, Michael has been obsessed with technology and how it enables collaboration. He has a master's degree in journalism from UC Berkeley, and has worked in and around the technology start-up scenes in San Francisco and Berlin.

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  • rotten Microsoft

    cancel all the licensing agreements with Microsoft! Don't allow Microsoft to blackmail Android manufacturers!
    Jiří Pavelec
    • Google, do something!

      Google, do something! Fight against this evil by Microsoft and Apple! Don't just look at that! Fight for progress!

      Enough of exclamations :)
      Jiří Pavelec
      • Microsoft and Apple - Do something!

        MS and Apple, do something! Fight against the most EVIL technology company ever created - Google!

        Don't let them continue to steal others' ideas, infringe on other's patents, all the while keeping their IP hidden, and stockpiling Google users and non-users data alike.

        Evil must be destroyed, the biggest step in that fight is to destroy Google!!!
        • Pretty poor example of a patten

          "computer system for identifying local resources and method therefore"

          You can't just patent an idea, you need to show that you can make it work in a specific way.

          And yes, we all know you wish you could make Google go away, but even with your secret MS decoder ring you are no Super Hero for MS.
        • you liar

          "iOS 6 Blatantly Rips-Off Android"
          "How iOS 5 Copied Android"
          "Yes, iOS 7 copies Windows Phone and Android -- get used to it"

          don't defend the wheel like patents from abusing and bribing Apple + Microsoft

          thanks god almost every judge invalidates their patents in EU at least because they have learnt they bring nothing but progress obstructions
          Jiří Pavelec
    • Please, they all do this

      If there's a problem, it is patents in the first place. One can hardly blame companies from playing the playing field according to the rules that are there.
      • Enough blame...

        There's enough blame to go around, to be sure. However, it's one thing to take out a bunch of ridiculous patents "defensively." But in this case Microsoft was clearly trying to use this absurd patent offensively, to stifle competition.
      • Google has to attack back

        Google has to attack back, the only reason Google does that

        Google does not attack anyone else except for the ones who attacked first
        Jiří Pavelec
    • Uhm, you are an idiot.

      Money goes to the inventors of things. Stop buying your phones out of the back of a truck. Android is only successful with Microsoft licensed inventions. Notice Motorola, the only pure android vendor left, lost 300 million per quarter and Google sold them to the chinese (lenovo). Google SOLD AN AMERICA COMPANY TO THE CHINESE. GOOGLE SUCKS!
      • This case would suggest otherwise.

        The Judge clearly stated that the patent here "lacked an inventive step". So since patents are clearly being granted for non-inventions, your rant about "Microsoft licensed inventions" sounds like empty rhetoric to me.
      • liar

        I know, you defend poor and general patents to obstruct progress, why? Are you paid for that? Or you don't want progress?
        Jiří Pavelec
    • But only in Germany

      they still have to pay licensing to MS for phones sold in the rest of the world.
      • Re:

        "they still have to pay licensing to MS"

        Well, that cookie's crumbling mighty fast....
  • Microsoft is getting the short end of the stick here

    I have been following this case for a while and have read the patent. Looking around what we have today it might not look like this is anything inventive or new, but the reality is that this patent was filed in 1995, long before we had any idea of but local search. Back then this was cutting edge. Microsoft has been making mapping software long before Google even existed. Is it wrong for Microsoft to want to benefit from a patent that changed how we look at the world?

    Also, this court case was started by Google around Motorola patents. Microsoft pulled out this patent to defend itself. Read some of the older articles on this case (many are linked to at the end of this article).
    • Sure I could have filed a patent

      for a device to convey food to my mouth and collect fees from anyone who makes spoons and forks, but I'd have to invent some specific device to convey food to my mouth in order for my patent to hold up.
  • Google is dead

    Google win end 2 years from the filing of the RockStar lawsuit. Rockstar will finally bring the Gangsters of the tech world to justice. By Google, good riddens.
  • Patents expire

    One good things is that patents do expire. And this one doesnt have much time left valid or invalid. Other good news is a number of the Android licenced patents are also very old and don't have much time left either. (Unrelated but noteworthy) Patents for technologies such as mp3 also set to expire in the next few years [1]. Its a shame we have to wait so long but at least in the near future many of these basic building block technologies will be patent free.