German court invalidates Microsoft mapping patent

Court rules patent that Microsoft asserted against Google and Motorola Mobility lacked an inventive step

The German Federal Patent Court has invalidated a Microsoft mapping patent because it lacked an inventive step, a court spokeswoman said Friday. The company had alleged that Motorola Mobility and Google infringed the patent in the Google Maps app.

The court invalidated the patent within the borders of Germany on Thursday because it lacked an inventive step, said General Federal Patent Court spokeswoman Ariane Mittenberger-Huber in an email. As is custom in Germany, the presiding judge did not explain the details of the decision: those will be revealed in a written decision that takes a few weeks to publish, she added.

Microsoft sued Motorola Mobility and Google in the Regional Court of Munich in October 2011, alleging it infringed on a patent that describes a method of obtaining a map from one database, resource information such as shop locations from a second database, and overlaying the two sets of data. Google Maps, which Motorola installed on its Android phones, uses a technique like this, Microsoft said.

Motorola Mobility was initially the only target in that case, but Microsoft added Google because Motorola maintained that it lacked sufficient information about actions occurring on Google's servers.

Microsoft filed the suit because it wanted Motorola to pay a licensing fee for using Android. Other Android vendors including HTC and Samsung Electronics have already struck such a deal with Microsoft. The company already won three bans on the sale of Motorola devices in Germany.

The Regional Court of Munich postponed a decision in the case scheduled, for late October, until this March at request of Motorola, probably in anticipation of the Federal Patent Court's decision.

Friday's ruling can be appealed with Germany's Federal Court of Justice, Mittenberger-Huber said.

A Microsoft spokesman could not immediately say if the company would appeal. He noted in an email that this decision has no impact on Microsoft's business, adding that this single patent makes up a small fraction of Microsoft's portfolio.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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