Skyhook wins early round in lawsuit against Google

Judge's ruling lets business interference suit go forward

Skyhook Wireless will be allowed to go forward with its Massachusetts lawsuit against Google, charging the search giant with trying to muscle Skyhook's Wi-Fi location technology out of the Android market. A state judge this week denied Google's request to either dismiss the case or grant a summary judgment.

Skyhook is a Boston-based company which developed, and patented, a way to use radio signals from Wi-Fi access points to pinpoint the location of Wi-Fi devices such as smartphones. The Wi-Fi data is synthesized with GPS and cell tower locations. The access point locations are kept in a database, which is used to confirm the client's location. It can be faster, more reliable, and more accurate than relying on cell phone towers or GPS alone. The technology was included in the original Apple iPhone.

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The company has filed two lawsuits against Google. One, a federal suit filed in September 2010, says Google is infringing four Skyhook patents. The second is a state suit, filed in Suffolk County Superior Court. This suit claims that Google used its relationship with handset makers, specifically Motorola, to keep the Skyhook client software off their phones.

"Google and Skyhook were partners in the location-based services, after the companies signed a deal in April for Google's Android operating system to use software made by Skyhook to pinpoint users for location-based apps on the Droid line of phones made by Motorola Inc.," according to a MassHighTech.com story on this week's ruling.

Skyhook CEO Ted Morgan was quoted in the article as saying, "I think this is a big milestone in the overall time line because Google has really resisted going into the next phase of full discovery. They have been holding back on providing the documentation the court has been asking for and they have asked to dismiss the case outright."

In its state court filings, Skyhook alleges that Andy Rubin, a Google vice president who oversees Android, called Motorola Co-CEO Sanjay Jha "multiple times" to stop the company from shipping Android-based devices running the Skyhook client, according to MassHighTech.

Skyhook has had a string of customer wins so far this year: Priceline and CitySearch are integrating the software into their Android apps; Intel will use it on its upcoming MeeGo mobile device products; and Sony is incorporating it into its next-generation gaming system, due out by year-end.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

Email: john_cox@nww.com

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