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Google Maps Faces German Ban

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Microsoft sued Motorola Mobility – and may now get Google Maps banned in Germany

Google may face a ban on Google Maps in Germany as the result of a patent dispute with Microsoft that initially targeted Google subsidiary Motorola Mobility.

At a hearing at the Munich I Regional Court last week, Judge Dr. Matthias Zigann told Google and Motorola Mobility that the court is likely to hold the companies liable for infringement of Microsoft patent EP0845124. The patent covers a “computer system for identifying local resources and method therefor”, and is the European equivalent of US Patent No. 6,240,360.

Google Maps ban?

Such a decision, which could arrive in about two months, would force Google to take broad measures to block access to Google Maps in Germany, according to patent consultant Florian Mueller, who reported the judge’s comments.

“In order to comply with the injunction that looms large, Google would have to disable access to Google Maps from computers using a German IP address, discontinue shipping the Google Maps Android app in the German market, and distribute web browsers in Germany only if they block access to Google Maps in a way comparable to Internet filters used for the purpose of parental controls,” Mueller wrote in a blog post on Thursday.

Google Maps iOS iPhone LondonMicrosoft initially sued Motorola Mobility as part of a campaign to force manufacturers of Android-based smartphones to take out patent licences. As a result of this strategy, most makers of Android handsets do indeed now pay patent royalties to Microsoft, but to date Motorola Mobility has held out, arguing that Android infringes no Microsoft patents.

At the case’s first hearing in Munich in October, Motorola Mobility denied knowledge of how Google’s mapping servers operate, with the result that Microsoft broadened its complaint to cover Google itself.

That means that if Microsoft is granted a patent injunction, which is now “very likely” according to Mueller, this would cover not only the Google Maps application for Android, but also the Google Maps service itself and web browsers, such as Google’s Chrome, that provide access to Google Maps.

Patent covers ‘big idea’

The patent covers the combination of search results with map data, a “big idea” that must be met with a legal construction “commensurate with said big idea”, said Judge Dr. Zigann, the judge presiding over the panel hearing the case, Mueller reported.

To avoid the ban Google would have to take out a royalty-bearing licence from Microsoft, as Android handset makers including Huawei, Samsung, LG and HTC already have.

Barnes & Noble, targeted by Microsoft over its Android-powered Nook e-reader, in 2011 wrote to the US Justice Department demanding an investigation of Microsoft’s patent campaign against Android.

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