Does Google's Android System Infringe On British Telecom Patents?

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Android accounts for 40% of all smartphone sales. (Photo: Sanja Gjenero)
Android accounts for 40% of all smartphone sales. (Photo: Sanja Gjenero)

BUSINESS

  • British Telecomm suing Google in the US over Android mobile operating system
  • Case could result in Google paying royalties
  • Other companies also suing Google for infringement

The world’s oldest telecommunications company British Telecommunications is suing Google for patent infringements. The lawsuit was filed in the United States Court District for the district of Delaware.

In the 23-page lawsuit, British Telecomm says Google infringed on six of its patents, all of which are being used as part of the Android smartphone operating system. A company spokesman told the British newspaper The Guardian: “The patents in question relate to technologies that underpin location-based services, navigation and guidance information and personalized access to services and content.”

The services cited in the lawsuit as using the patents include Google Maps, Google Search, Google Music, Google+, Google Docs, AdSense, Gmail and Android Market.

All the patents, except for one, date back to the 1990s. British Telecomm has been in the mobile phone industry since the 1980s, when it became one of the first cell phone providers in the UK.

The company is asking for an undisclosed amount of monetary damages and an injunction, and a Google spokesman told reporters the lawsuit is “without merit.”

British Telecomm may file a similar lawsuit against Google in Europe.

Many of the patents cited in the lawsuit are also used by Apple iPhones and iPads. It is unclear whether litigation against Apple is pending, whether Apple has a licensing agreement or whether it does not infringe on the patents.

Possible Outcomes

British Telecomm is not the only company suing Google. According to Florian Mueller, an independent expert on patent litigation, Google is also being sued for infringement by Microsoft, Apple, eBay, Oracle and Gemalto.

Should the companies win their lawsuits, Google would be forced to pay royalties for each Android currently in use and for each new one produced. Google, in turn, would have to change its licensing models and pass the royalties on to the smartphone manufacturers.

Android accounts for 40% of all smartphone sales. According to Google, more than 500,000 new Androids are activated daily.

While Google has thus far avoided paying royalties, smartphone manufacturers Samsung and HTC are paying a per-handset fee to Microsoft.

This is not British Telecomm’s first time suing for patent infringement. In 2000, the company sued Internet Prodigy over hyperlinking, claiming it had a patent on the technology. The case was dismissed when a judge ruled no jury would consider that hyperlinking is patent infringement.

Key Statistics – Global Wireless Telecommunications Services (source: MarketLine)

  • Globally, in 2010, the wireless telecommunication services market’s revenue totaled $891 billion. This represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 9% from 2006 to 2010.
  • Between 2006-2010, market consumption volumes had a CAGR of 16%. In 2010, there over 4,080 million subscribers.
  • During 2010-2015, the market is predicted to decelerate to a CAGR of 7.5%. By the end of 2015, the market value is expected to be $1.3 triillion.

By Melina Druga for
Melina Druga is an American writer and editor. She is the author of Enterprising Women: Practical Advice for First Time Entrepreneurs.

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