UK-based communications giant British Telecom has filed a law suit alleging that almost every Google product infringes at least one of six of their patents. But should we really care?
I know what you're thinking: what has BT got on Google and why should we care? There are two reasons why this is actually interesting.
First, BT is an important player, not just in the UK. It's one of the largest telecoms companies in the world, with operations in over 170 countries. It has a long — if now declining — history in mobile phone services, and during the boom of the 80s and 90s churned out an insane number patents from its R&D division. In total, their patent portfolio tops 10,000.
Second, the six patents that it suggests are being infringed are broad, generic — and actually seem like legitimate claims. Patent #6,397,040, for example, describes systems that use your location to tailor a list of options or sources to be made available to you, something that Google applications, both on phones and online, do all the time. In fact, BT is homing in on what it calls "ongoing and pervasive" patent infringement in Google's core web products and services.
Some of the alleged infringements also seem to apply to Apple, too. In particular the "Busuioc Patent", which describes how a device can detect if it is connected to a mobile or Wi-Fi network and then stream data depending on the situation. It's currently unclear if BT is pursuing legal claims against Apple.
What is clear is that BT actually has at least some basis for its dispute, which can't be said for much of the legal crap we see flying around these days. If BT are successful, it could be in line for billions of pounds in royalties. Let's wait and see. [The Guardian and The Verge]
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