Skyhook Wireless, a maker of software that helps determine the location of cell phones, filed separate patent infringement and tortious interference lawsuits against rival Google.
Skyhook’s software enables cell towers, GPS technologies and WiFi location databases to talk to each other to help pinpoint the location of a mobile device, such as a smartphone.
Google makes similar technology for its location-based services such as Google Maps and Google Latitude.
The search engine also makes the technology available to makers of phones based on Google’s Android operating system. Google believes location-based technologies will fortify its mobile online advertising opportunities.
In the interference suit, filed in Massachusetts Superior Court, Skyhook claimed Google costs it tens of millions of dollars by trying to cut in on its contract with Motorola, which makes smartphones that leverage location services.
Motorola, which makes and sells smartphones based on Google’s Android operating system, agreed to use Skyhook’s XPS location technology in April.
When Google Vice President of Engineering Andy Rubin learned of this, according to the suit, he called Motorola Co-CEO Sanjay Jha to impose a “stop ship” order, preventing Motorola from shipping Android wireless devices featuring Skyhook’s XPS software.
Rubin claimed that using XPS in Android phones would make them incompatible. Motorola ended up shipping its Motorola Droid X smartphone in mid-July using Google’s location software instead of the Skyhook XPS technology.
Skyhook Fighting for Customers
“As none of these devices was preloaded with XPS software, as would have occurred but for Google’s interference, Skyhook lost millions of dollars in royalties provided under the Motorola Contract,” Skyhook claimed.
Skyhook later learned Google was imposing the “stop ship” order and other similar demands on another Skyhook customer, “Company X,” believed to be Samsung.
The company is seeking to enjoin Google from its activities and desires relief for substantial financial damages.
A Skyhook spokesperson told eWEEK that after several conversations with Google to resolve the issue, the company brought its suits.
However, a Google spokesperson told eWEEK Google has not yet been served the papers and would not comment without reviewing the documents.
In the patent infringement lawsuit, which was filed in Massachusetts Federal District Court, Skyhook alleged that Google violated four of Skyhook’s patents related to location databases and associated technologies that optimize data transference in Skyhook’s XPS software.
As with the interference lawsuit, Skyhook is asking for considerable financial relief from Google.
The stakes are high in this market, but are particularly serious for Skyhook, which earlier this year lost Apple as a customer when the company created its own location software.
The fact is that the Web services such as Google Latitude, Foursquare, Twitter and Facebook from mobile phones are signifcantly augmented by, if not outright enabled by, location technology.
Skyhook is fighting for survival in an industry where the multi-billion-dollar giants such as Google and Apple insist on using their location technologies for competitive advantage.