TechCrunch apparently quoted a first-rate (unnamed) source more than six months ago, which told the popular blog that "Nokia has held off on a suit against Nokia for Google Maps for several years just waiting for the right time to approach with an overall suit covering Android and Maps". Nokia has recently begun to attack Google Maps and Google Navigation in Germany, a filing by Google with the ITC reveals.
Google will have to sort out patent licensing issues with Nokia at some point. That is also the opinion of an Administrative Law Judge at the ITC, who recently suggested that Google participate in Nokia-HTC settlement talks. At this stage I'm still unaware of a Nokia v. Google lawsuit per se, but if the licensing situation remains unresolved, then I agree with the anonymous source quoted by TechCrunch that such confrontation will be inevitable.
One of dozens of exhibits to a filing Google made this week with the ITC is a U.S. discovery application (for use in foreign proceedings) that Nokia filed on October 15, 2013 with the United States District Court for the Northern District of California (Google's home court). It states specifically that Nokia filed a new patent lawsuit against HTC in Dusseldorf, Germany, between an earlier U.S. discovery application (filed on August 8, 2013) and that new application, and that this new lawsuits "relates to navigation technology [...] including the use of Google Maps and Google Navigation in HTC devices sold in Germany" (click on the image to enlarge):
The patent Nokia is asserting in that German lawsuit is EP0766811 on an "electronic navigation system and method". The patent has a June 1994 priority date, proving that Nokia was working on mapping and navigation software years before Google was even founded.
Claim 1 covers the following basic concept:
1. A method of transmitting route directions in a compact form, comprising the steps of:
(a) generating a first set of maneuver arms for providing a graphical representation of a calculated route to be taken by a vehicle through an intersection and geometric representations of a plurality of segments of roads to be traveled about an intersection along the route, wherein the intersection is an origin, and said representations of each of said plurality of segments of roads starts at the origin and radiates outward to an endpoint Xi, Yi to approximate the angles at which the roads approach the intersection, to depict a first intersection on a display, each maneuver arm of the first set of maneuver arms being represented by at least one endpoint;
(b) generating a second set of maneuver arms to depict a second intersection on a display, each maneuver arm of the second set of maneuver arms being represented by at least one endpoint;
(c) comparing the proximity of the first intersection and the second intersection and, if the first intersection and the second intersection are within a predetermined range of each other, combining the first set of maneuver arms with the second set of maneuver arms to produce a combined set of endpoints to depict the first set of maneuver arms and the second set of maneuver arms on a common display; and
(d) transmitting the combined set of endpoints to a remote unit in electromagnetic form.
Nokia obviously has many more patents in this area, and especially patents that have a longer remaining life span. This Dusseldorf action over a patent that will expire relatively soon looks like a warning shot for Google. Nokia is already targeting various Google technologies in many of its lawsuits against HTC. Some of the HTC cases are about hardware patents while others cover Android operating system functionality, features that Android device makers typically add to Android to make their gadgets attractive to consumers, and several Nokia patent assertions prior to this one already related to Google's closed-source Android apps and related services as well as Google's VP8 video codec format.
In the California discovery case, Nokia is seeking source code and other documents relating to the accused functionalities, i.e., Google Maps and Navigation. Google is probably afraid that such discovery will enable Nokia to develop additional infringement theories to bring more lawsuits.
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