Google Settles Litigation with Skyhook Wireless over Wi-Fi Technology

Google has recently settled with Skyhook Wireless its 5 years old dispute over patents on Wi-Fi location and “interference with business relations,“ we learned. The financial terms of the settlement was not disclosed.

This business and IP litigation started in 2010 when Skyhook sued Google (read our story here) after Android licensees Motorola and Samsung were forced to used Google technology instead of Skyhook’s which had signed deals with the two companies. Another complaint was filed by Skyhook in 2012.

In its 2010 lawsuit Skyhook explained the following “In 2005, Google expressed interest in licensing Skyhook’s XPS technology. In2007, after the expiration of an evaluation license between the parties, Google asked Skyhook to provide Google with data from Skyhook’s confidential and proprietary database of known Wi-Fiaccess points. Growing skeptical of Google’s motives, Skyhook declined to provide this highlyconfidential information to Google. Ultimately, Google elected not to license Skyhook’stechnology for commercial use. Instead, shortly thereafter Google began offering Google Location Service in competition with Skyhook’s XPS positioning system.“

Later on, while Skyhook had signed a contract with Motorola where the device maker was to use Skyhook XPS technology, but shortly after the deal was publicly announced (April 2010) Google forced Motorola to used its own geo-location technology threatening its licensee to not give them access to the Android App Store.

“Andy Rubin (Google’s VicePresident of Engineering overseeing development of Android) called Sanjay Jha (Co-Chief Executive Officer of Motorola, Inc. and Chief Executive Officer of Motorola’s Mobile Devicesbusiness) multiple times to impose a "stop ship" order on Motorola preventing Motorola fromshipping Android wireless devices featuring Skyhook’s XPS client software.

As one means of cloaking its improper "stop ship" order with an air of legitimacy,Google unreasonably and without justification claimed that embedding Skyhook’s XPS client software in the Android wireless devices would render the devices no longer Android compatible,“ Skyhook explained to the court.

In July 2010 the exact same problem happened with Samsung. The Korean phone maker had signed a deal with Skyhook but Google – this time pushed by Motorola which saw a competitive problem in Samsung using Skyhook – forced them to drop the technology, and Samsung continued the launch of its Android device with Google Location Service.

Obviously being barred from shipping on Android smartphones did cost millions of dollars in revenue to Skyhook Wireless and also banned them to access tens of millions phones to further improve their database with crowdsourced data.

Documents exposed during the litigation also demonstrated with tangible facts (most notably emails from Google executives) that the Android platform was not “open“, but a vector to Google services, excluding the competition to be pre-installed on such smartphones.

Skyhook Wireless was finally acquired by TruePosition, (a wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty Media) in February 2014 (read here). Nowadays Skyhook is looking for growth in “context“ data, rather than location per se. The company is indeed leveraging its treasure trove of location data to build a contextual layer around it and sell it to mobile advertising companies.

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