Licensing the Longtail: British Telecom Wants a Cut of Android’s Ecosystem

It seems that patent infringement litigation has become a common thing for Google. After Apple, Oracle, Microsoft, and eBay, British Telecom (BT) is the next to file a case against Google. BT is the fifth largest public traded company that has filed a patent infringement court case against Google, and said that its resulting patents have been infringed by Google’s search engines, Android system, Google+ social network, eBooks, Maps, Offers, Docs, Places, Gmail, Doubleclick advertising management system, AdWords advertisement listing program and other services. Currently, BT has a portfolio of around 5,600 patents and patent applications.

The current patent infringement litigation filed by BT involves 6 patents related to location-based services, navigation and guidance information, and personalized access to services and content.

“BT can confirm that it has commenced legal proceedings against Google by filing a claim with the US District Court of Delaware for patent infringement. This is about protecting BT’s investment in its intellectual property rights and innovation. It is a well-considered claim and we believe there is a strong case of infringement,” a company statement said.

Reportedly, British Telecom is seeking triple damages for this infringement, and that’s more than Google is willing to pay.  Here are the six patents-in-suit and the related infringement allegations:

1. U.S. Patent No. 6,151,309 on a “service provision system for communications networks
2. U.S. Patent No. 6,169,515 on a “navigation information system”
3. U.S. Patent No. 6,397,040 on a “telecommunications apparatus and method”
4. U.S. Patent No. 6,578,079 on a “communications node for providing network based information service”
5. U.S. Patent No. 6,650,284 on an “information system”
6. U.S. Patent No. 6,826,598 on a “storage and retrieval of location based information in a distributed network of data storage devices”

Google says that these claims are without merit, and it will defend vigorously against them. It has also planned to fight the lawsuit.

Drawing out legal woes

Just last month, we heard that Google continues to assist Android partners with their legal issues. During his South Korea visit, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt voiced his dismay on Microsoft’s patent licensing strategy, stating that he believes Microsoft is not telling the truth about patent infringements when pressuring OEM’s into licensing deals, but he was pleased as to how Android is being embraced by local manufacturers and developers. Schmidt also stated that Google plans on making Android available to more devices, like connected TVs. With the conclusion of his tour in Taipei, he discussed another issue involving Android OEMs, who are still facing legal issues from several angles.

“We tell our partners, including the ones here in Taiwan, we will support them. For example we have been supporting HTC in its dispute with Apple because we think that the Apple thing is not correct,” Schmidt told reporters during his first visit to Taipei.