Microsoft and Google team up against geotagging patent

Archrivals Microsoft and Google have teamed up to sue a company called GeoTag, claiming the company improperly used a patent to file lawsuits against several hundred organizations.

"Google and Microsoft have joined forces to take down a Texas company's geotagging patent that they claim has been used in lawsuits against more than 300 entities, many of which are customers of the two companies," NoSoftwarePatents campaign founder Florian Mueller reported Wednesday. "Microsoft and Google want to protect Google Maps and Bing Maps against this kind of activity."

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The complaint, which lists only Microsoft as Google as plaintiffs, was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Delaware, and seeks to invalidate a patent granted in 1999 that GeoTag has used to sue at least 397 entities in the last year.

"Microsoft and Google say there was prior art at the time of filing that the USPTO [U.S. Patent and Trademark Office] didn't take into account," Mueller writes. The new lawsuit from the two tech titans "asks for declaration of invalidity of the patent asserted, judgment that Google's and Microsoft's customers do not infringe any valid claim of the patent, and a preliminary and permanent injunction precluding GeoTag [and affiliated persons and entities] from suing for infringement or otherwise asserting infringement of the [patent in question] against customers of [Microsoft's and Google's] Mapping Services for store locators or other locators on websites."

Microsoft and Google are not among the 397 entities sued by GeoTag, according to Mueller's list. But big names such as, Gap and Home Depot have been targeted by GeoTag.

The patent in question has changed hands several times, according to Mueller. "Some of the previous owners were based in tax havens like Liechtenstein, the West Indies, and the British Virgin Islands. Approximately two years ago, one entity paid another 'an aggregate consideration of nearly $119M for the Patent and some other intellectual property,' and it seems that it set up a subsidiary to which it assigned the patent. That subsidiary assumed the name of GeoTag, Inc. last summer," he writes.

Google has previously written a brief in support of Microsoft in a patent case involving i4i, which targets Microsoft Word versions 2003 and 2007, in which Microsoft is appealing a judgment in favor of i4i. So this isn't the first time Microsoft and Google have found themselves on the same side of a patent case.

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