Microsoft patent may block Google Maps in Germany

Microsoft looks like to scoop a ban on Google Maps in Europe's biggest market.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

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.

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