Microsoft targets Android’s Google Maps app in German patent lawsuit

Google’s pricey $12.5 acquisition of handset maker Motorola Mobility didn’t change the dynamics of patent wars as Google hoped it would. Recently, Microsoft and Apple scored a major win in a patent dispute in Germany, forcing Google’s Motorola subsidiary to pull all of its Android-based smartphones and tablets from store shelves in the country.

Luck continues to be in short supply at Mountain View, California. Today, the Windows maker has expanded the Motorola patent case to include Google Maps for Android, specifically naming Google as a defendant.

As the public fight between Google and Microsoft gets uglier, Google faces a real possibility of Google Maps becoming unavailable in Germany as early as next spring. Ouch!

In question: Google’s unwillingness to sign with Microsoft for patent protection, like virtually every Android vendor has already done or is considering doing, netting the Windows maker up to fifteen bucks per each Android device vendors sell.

Microsoft’s complaint stems from European patent EP0845124, covering a “computer system for identifying local resources and method therefor”, also covered in U.S. Patent No. 6,240,360.

Patent expert Florian Müeller explains on his FOSS Patents blog:

At today’s three-hour hearing, Motorola Mobility doggedly denied Microsoft’s infringement contentions without specifying how Google’s server infrastructure operates.

Toward the end of the court session, Microsoft’s lead counsel [announced that] Microsoft will amend this complaint in order to add Google Inc., Motorola Mobility’s parent company and operator of the server infrastructure that powers the Google Maps Android app, as an additional defendant.

Interestingly, Motorola was represented by Karen Robinson, an in-house litigation counsel at Google, Inc. To date, Google’s Android software has been found of infringing upon 17 valid Apple and Microsoft patents.

Given that Google Maps is the differentiating feature of all Android handsets, things could  get tricky for the search giant if the search giant is found guilty of infringement because “Google Maps may become unavailable in Germany next spring as collateral damage of Google’s unwillingness to address Android’s massive, court-validated patent infringement issues”.

Google may be friends with Apple and Samsung, but Microsoft is a different beast.

Whereas iOS and Android form a smartphone duopoly across the globe, Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform faces an uphill battle to become a viable alternative. If recent Windows Phone 8 devices from Nokia and HTC are an indication, Microsoft is in it for the long haul and will not be deterred.

Android is a patent bomb, one proven to infringe upon other people’s work, but Google continues to be in a state of IP denial, which could cost the company dearly down the road. Microsoft has a treasure trove of its own patents and has been buying or signing pacts with other patent holders left and right.

Faced with legal pressure to sign with Microsoft for patent protection and Apple’s relentless thermonuclear war on Android, Google has little maneuvering space but to accept the realities and simply admit that Android contains a bunch of unlicensed technologies from other companies.

There may be signs that Google is tiring of patent wars.

The company now argues that people should not be able to get a software patent. Google also met with other technology giants yesterday to discuss FRAND licensing and determine whether the key principal of patent licensing is preventing products from coming to market.

To me, all of this just shows that Google’s getting nervous.

If you ask me, Google should just do the right thing and pay for the patented technology Android relies on.