updated 05:45 pm EST, Thu March 3, 2011
Google and Microsoft team to sue patent troll
Google and Microsoft showed a rare instance of cooperation this week in a newly discovered lawsuit launched in an attempt to shut down patent troll GeoTag. The Delaware-based suit asks the court to invalidate GeoTag's lone patent, a 1996 claim to an "Internet organizer for accessing geographically and topically based information," based on the existence of prior art. GeoTag has sued 397 different companies across ten different complaints covering the online store locators of many retailers, most of which aren't technology firms but do include AT&T, GameStop and Radio Shack.
The two launching the countersuit are hoping to shut down the patent to prevent GeoTag from suing them over their own Bing Maps and Google Maps services. Both let site visitors search for local stores and could fit under the patent description if it was upheld.
GeoTag has claimed to be based in Texas for the sake of improving its interaction with local courts, which are historically more likely to side with the company asserting a patent. It nonetheless exhibits the classic signs of a patent troll since it was previously owned in three different tax havens around the world and was bought for $119 million with the aim of profiting solely off of the patent. GeoTag has no actual products or services of its own.
The lawsuit is potentially critical to those who use either Google or Microsoft for map data beyond just the two companies, including the engines built into Apple's Maps on iOS devices or webOS. GeoTag has made filings to go public and, with capital raised from an initial public offering, could have the financial base to sue Google, Microsoft and other companies. [via Florian Mueller]