Microsoft patent may block Google Maps in Germany

Microsoft patent may block Google Maps in Germany

Summary: Microsoft looks like to scoop a ban on Google Maps in Europe's biggest market.

TOPICS: Patents, Google, Microsoft, EU

Microsoft looks set to win a German patent injunction that could force Google to block Google Maps in Germany.

The rivals were in Munich I Regional Court in Germany on Thursday continuing a battle over a Microsoft's European patent EP0945124 for a "computer system for identifying local resources and method therefore" that Microsoft applied for in 1995.

Patents blogger Florian Mueller reported from court yesterday that Judge Dr Matthias Zigann appeared to be fairly certain to hold Google and its Motorola Mobility subsidiary liable for infringement.

"Google has not been able so far to convince the court that the patent is highly probable to be invalidated at the end of a parallel nullity proceeding," Mueller said.

A decision is expected in about two months, according to Mueller, and if Microsoft does win the injunction, Google will need to stop shipping the Google Maps Android app in Germany, disable access to Google Maps for computers on a German IP address, and exclude Google Maps from its browsers used in the country.

Microsoft's complaint was originally against Motorola Mobility's use of Google Maps in its Android devices, but it engaged Google as a defendant last October after Motorola executives denied knowledge of how Google's Map servers operate.

Motorola Mobility is one of a few Android device makers holding out against the licensing deals Microsoft has demanded from the tech industry in the past few years. Nikon, which uses Android in its Coolpix cameras, was the latest manufacturer to agree to Microsoft's licence, which is said to give it up to $15 per Android device.

Original device manufacturers Compal and Quanta, as well as equipment manufacturers, such as Acer and Samsung, have also agreed to Microsoft's Android license.

A ban on Google Maps in Europe's largest market may tip the scales in favour of Motorola agreeing to a licence, which was a possibility raised when Motorola lost a software keyboard patent battle with Microsoft in Germany last September.

"Google's own counsel told the court today that Google 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 a Microsoft's Bing Maps, which Judge Dr. Zigann mentioned) may never return to Google Maps," Mueller noted.

ZDNet has asked Microsoft and Google for comment and we'll update the story if we hear anything back.

Topics: Patents, Google, Microsoft, EU

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • Always seems strange this.....

    What do Companies genuinely hope to achieve by banning other services?

    Ok, they may then get some money as compensation, but do they really think that everyone is going to drop their current phone/tablet and switch to their own OS?

    Apple's reputation is suffering as a serial litigator, and all I can see this doing is continually hurting the consumers, and the companies own reputations as the services that people want to use are blocked, by others legal action.
    • Personally, I look at it as a company trying to protect

      their IP. If they succeed there is obviously at least some validity to the patent and they're are in the right when trying to stop others from using it. I don't think the motives behind it should really matter.
      Sam Wagner
      • Microsoft usually doesn't have a case. They just like to throw their

        lawyers around to try and convince others it would be cheaper to just pay them then fight it out in court. They did this with Android manufacturers, but when B&N pushed them they ended up having to pay B&N $300 million. Motorola also held out and they didn't have any issues in the majority of places.

        On the other hand, this case is rather ironic considering Microsoft's reputation for being a blatant IP thief.
        • Not to mention they're a corporate bully...

          ...who likes to gobble up innovative small companies and claim their patents as their own.
          • are you sayng

            that if somebody buys a patent cannot claim it as their own?
          • No, I'm saying

            They'll lie and claim they "invented it" on their own.

          • microsoft fail

            Microsoft patent troll
            Henrique Dourado
      • There's no ideal answer - yet

        I agree that it's unfair not to expect a company to protect it's IP, if it is indeed genuine (I have no reason to doubt this one for now) but ultimately it's the consumers that lose out.
        Little Old Man
      • Are they protecting their IP...

        ...or are they using it to trap unwary developers in an effort to raise the barriers to entry as high as possible.

        Unfortunately, it looks like the "C" word is again regarded as profanity by ZDNet's talkback system. I've long thought that MS regards it in much the same way.
        John L. Ries
      • It May Be

        It may be that Microsoft is protecting it's IP, but exactly what IP is it protecting? For some reason all of these companies that pay Microsoft for "patent violations" are forced to agree to non-disclosure of just exactly what they are paying for. Kind of sad, don't you think, that because no one can say what actually is in "violation" of the patents? If the open source community knew what was in "violation" it could be written out of the code base... and then where would Microsoft be? Definitely not making money off of alleged "violations".
        • Now that I do agree with

          As I originally stated, I don't challenge the validity of the case, mainly as I can't be bothered to do the research.
          However, I do agree that using non-disclosure agreements on patent violation is detrimental to the industry. Freedom of information would allow more parties to dissect the MS claims and challenge them.
          Little Old Man
    • Google's reputation is damaged as a serial thief.

      What companies hope to gain is money. Google (as owner of MMI) is no different in their lawsuits against Apple.

      Do you see Google as a paragon of virtue in this area?
    • quite agree

      Companies (and their litigators) must by now understand that they don't live in isolation from the rest of the world.
      It's crazy to think that when you try and access some information that is generally expected to be on tap, that when you get a message "blocked by xxxx companies legal proceedings" that there is any long term benefit.
      Especially in wishy washy cases like this.
    • why they do it?

      First, to protect their intellectual property. We do not have to like it, but IP is a company property and they are legally required to protect it.

      Second, this is how one company gains bargaining power with another company. In this case, Microsoft are likely to achieve their goals for Motorola to agree to the "Android license" they offer. They might also gain the reconsideration by Morotola/Google to sue Microsoft over SEPs.

      In the end, the consumer is not losing anything. Google will continue to offer Google Maps in Germany, it just will cost them some more money, which they will give to Microsoft instead of distributing it as shares or CxO's benefits.

      The sad part is, that lots of money go to lawyers hands as well, but then -- they too, have families to feed :)
      • Who pays for the lawyers?

        IF google continue to offer maps in germany. IF the next opponent of MS decides to cave in and pay. IF, IF, IF....

        It's still consumers covering the costs of the legal battles so either way they lose out.
        Little Old Man
  • Depending on Muller for accuracy...

    Is like expecting MS to become a legal and ethical company...

    Or a leopard to change their spots.
    • I know. It's not like Google running to the EU

      asking them to fine MS, and expecting nothing in return.

      But then thinking Google doesn't use patented IP in their products?

      It's like expecting Google to become a legal and ethical company...
      William Farrel
      • Google did not ask the EU to fine Microsoft

        At worst, they may have asked the EU to investigate a contract Microsoft signed and subsequently broke. And even this was after 15 months.

        I don't remember Google losing any cases for IP violation.

        On the other hand,

        Even the supreme court seems to think Microsoft stealing technology from others. This was just the most recent case of blatant IP theft by Microsoft. I could go back further, but I suspect I would be accused of not giving them a second chance so I brought up a recent example. Of course those same shills would probably say the supreme court doesn't understand IP (which implies essentially that IP can't be defended in court as no court understands IP).

        It is surprising a small company like i4i was able to bring the fight all the way to the supreme court. Who knows how many other companies had their IP stolen by Microsoft recently and were unable to match Microsoft's legal team backed by Money they make from 20 year old monopolies.
  • Would be helpful to know . . .

    . . . in a posting like this what exactly is the nature of the patent that Microsoft is holding in this case? I didn't see that anywhere. Is this just another case demonstrating that software patents should be done away with?
    • Not maps exactly...

      But searching for things that are geographically close " local resources". At least from my understanding of the little snippets I've seen. So it's not the maps that are in violation but the fusion of search data with maps.

      So I think it ends up being the following as in violation
      "Select resourceId, resource type, resource location
      Where distanceFrom(resource location) < someDistance"