Google Finally Hits Back And Countersues BT

It has taken over a year, but Google has finally counter-sued British telecoms giant BT with its own lawsuit.

BT had originally sued Google way back in December 2011 for patent infringements, when it filed documents in a Delaware court concerning the Android operating system, Google Maps and other Google services.

Google Hits Back

BT alleged at the time that Google had infringed six of its patents – covering issues such as location-based services, as well as personal preferences (when for example Google Books is able to recommend similar books based on previous reading habits).

“BT can confirm that it has commenced legal proceedings against Google, Inc. by filing a claim with the US District Court of Delaware for patent infringement,” said BT back in 2011. “The patents in question relate to technologies which underpin location-based services, navigation and guidance information and personalised access to services and content. BT’s constant investment in innovation has seen it develop a large portfolio of patents which are valuable corporate assets.”

And now, over a year later, Google has finally responded. In its lawsuit filed with a Central District California federal court, it alleges that BT infringes four of Google’s patents, three of which it bought from IBM.

Google purchased 1,023 patents from IBM in September 2011, in an effort to shore up Android against ongoing legal actions, by increasing its patent portfolio – and now it looks to be using that investment.

Patent Troll?

Meanwhile, Google also took a surprising turn and apparently also filed a lawsuit in the United Kingdom. Google has accused BT of working with patent trolls (by selling patents to litigious third parties).

“We have always seen litigation as a last resort, and we work hard to avoid lawsuits,” Google spokeswoman Niki Fenwick told Reuters in an email.  “But BT has brought several meritless patent claims against Google and our customers – and they’ve also been arming patent trolls.”

Google’s lawsuit is understood to accuse BT of patent infringements for transfering files over a network, and making VoIP calls over the internet.

BT meanwhile told TechweekEurope that is cannot comment on legal actions. “BT’s policy is not to comment on pending litigation,” BT said.

Puzzling Delay

Countersuits such as the Google one are a predictable legal tactic nowadays in today’s patent minefields.

What is somewhat puzzling however is how long it has taken Google to sue BT (over a year) – as usually counterlawsuits are filed within a couple of months of the original lawsuit.

TechweekEurope understands that a mediation meeting to advert a courtroom battle between BT and Google had been planned for July this year to discuss BT’s 2011 lawsuit. However it remains to be seen whether this meeting will still go ahead, bearing in mind Google’s latest legal broadside.

“Considering that Google complained about BT ‘arming patent trolls’ it would have been more appropriate for Google to sue BT, or have third parties sue BT, over homegrown Google patents,” stated patent expert Florian Mueller. “But Google is asserting three former IBM patents and one former Fujitsu patent. Google’s statement does not explain why it’s fine for IBM and Fujitsu to arm Google but unacceptable that BT sells some of its intellectual property to third parties (no matter what the intentions behind such transactions may be).”

“Credibility is a lesser concern here,” said Mueller. “The biggest problem Google’s first offensive patent lawsuit in its own name faces is a tactical one called asymmetric exposure. Google is suing BT in the US and the UK. In the US there are some parts of BT’s global multiprotocol network and it’s selling certain services there, but it’s not its largest market, while the US is the largest market for Google.”

“Google is also suing BT in the UK, which is obviously BT’s number one market, but the UK is a jurisdiction in which patent holders rarely win, and if they win at all, it’s not a country where you have juries that render billion-dollar damages verdicts,” said Mueller.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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