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If You Needed Any More Proof That The Patent System Is Totally Out Of Control… (GOOG, BT)

December 19, 2011   ·   0 Comments


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One of the biggest telecommunications companies in the U.K. has just sued Google in a U.S. court for six counts of patent infringement, claiming that just about every Google product of importance violates one of its patents.

Google’s Android smartphone platform has already been the target of lawsuits by Microsoft, Apple, and Oracle (along with many other smaller companies) in the last two years.

That’s not completely surprising — hot new industries (like smartphones) often see a tangle of intellectual property litigation in their early years, as all the incumbents negotiate for position with new players. Usually, these disputes worked out behind closed doors with a bunch of cross-licensing deals, with occasional litigation bringing the whole ugly mess into the spotlight.

But BT isn’t stopping at Android. It’s also naming a whole bunch of other Google products beyond Android, including Search, Maps, Music, Offers, Books, and the Google+ social network.

The patents in question were granted between 2000 and 2004, so it’s a little odd that BT didn’t notice that Google violated them until now.

Perhaps the timing has something to do with BT’s financial performance — revenues have been declining for the last two years — and the fact that Google is trying to buy Motorola, which could conceivably give it more leverage when negotiating with carriers.

At any rate, BT seeks triple damages for “willful and deliberate infringement,” which suggests BT approached the company to try and get a licensing deal first, but was rejected.

This looks like negotiations in public, with a settlement soon to follow.

BT earned about $3.2 billion in pre-tax profit on about $31 billion in sales in its last fiscal year, which ended March 31.

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