British Telecom Countersued By Google Over Patent Infringement
February 14, 2013

British Telecom Countersued By Google Over Patent Infringement

Peter Suciu for — Your Universe Online

On Thursday search engine giant Google filed suit against BT, the British telecom giant, in both the United States and the United Kingdom over alleged patent infringement. Google has accused BT of “arming patent trolls” to take on the Android operating system.

This is just the latest round in litigation that has seen the two tech giants square off in court. BT had filed its own lawsuit against Google in December of 2011, when the telecom claimed Google Maps, Google+ and other products infringed on as many as six BT patents.

Google´s current suit against BT appears to be based around patents that the search engine giant acquired from IBM including two that are related to the reservation of system resources for assuring quality of service, and one dealing with assigning connection capacity in multi-tiered data-processing networking; while a fourth patent, originally obtained from Fujitsu, reportedly was for a “gateway for Internet telephone.”

Google reportedly acquired the IBM patents in 2010.

“We have always seen litigation as a last resort, and we work hard to avoid lawsuits,” Niki Fenwick, spokeswoman for Google, said to the BBC. “But BT has brought several meritless patent claims against Google and our customers - and they´ve also been arming patent trolls.”

The choice of words from Google — namely the pejorative term “patent troll” — shows that the search giant may look to not only stand its ground but go on a serious offensive. The term is usually used to refer to a company that purchases a patent, often from a bankrupt or otherwise cash-strapped firm, and then sues another company by claiming that a product or technology infringes on that newly acquired patent.

In this case it appears that BT has actually been the one selling the patents to firms that Google reportedly claims are nothing more than front companies. Google now has alleged that BT sold off its intellectual property with the understanding that those new owners would in turn file suit against Google, with BT then getting a portion of any royalties won.

One such example could include New Jersey-based intellectual property owner Suffolk Technologies, which sued Google along with AOL last year over two patents that the IP firm acquired from BT.

The Suffolk lawsuit alleged that Google and AOL were infringing on a patent for “Internet server and method of controlling an Internet server.” BT had reportedly obtained approval for that patent in 2000, before later assigning the rights to it to Suffolk.

Another firm, Steelhead Licensing, also filed a case against 14 handset makers and mobile networks, including Google´s Motorola Mobility unit, claiming infringement over wireless technology that had previously been owned by BT. It is worth noting that in the case of Steelhead, the company actually owns patents but does not produce any products.

Google was not the only company in Steelhead´s infringement suits. Last month the non-practicing entity filed several simultaneous lawsuits in the District of Delaware over “a foundational wireless patent” that until only recently had belonged to BT.

The firms named in the suit included handset makers Apple, HTC, Kyocera, LG, Google´s Motorola Mobility, NEC, Pantech, RIM, Sony, ZTE, and five carriers AT&T, MetroPCS, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile.

For its part BT maintains that it has “no involvement” with the Steelhead suit.