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Microsoft, Google team up against GeoTag patent

US: Microsoft and Google, rivals in online search market, have teamed up to challenge the validity of GeoTag’s patent on mapping technology, “Internet Organizer for Accessing Geographically and Topically based Information.” The patent was issued in 1999. It “has changed ownership at least five times,” with the current owner, GeoTag, headed by one of the patent inventors, according to the complaint. GeoTag is planning an initial public offering and has filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission to sell shares at USD 6.25 each.

“The suits have placed a cloud” on Microsoft’s Bing Maps and Google Maps, the companies said in the complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware.

GeoTag has filed at least eight lawsuits in federal court in Marshall, Texas, against 300 companies. Some companies are demanding that Microsoft and Google defend them and cover any losses, according to the complaint filed yesterday.

In addition to a ruling that the patent is invalid or that the technology is not used in Google Maps or Bing Maps, Google and Microsoft want a judge to order GeoTag to stop suing its customers over store locator services.

A lawyer who represents GeoTag in the civil suits didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment. Microsoft joined a competitor in 2002, AOL Time Warner Inc.’s Netscape search engine, to successfully invalidate a patent owned by a University of California scientist who was suing their customers over ways to access remote databases.

The case is Microsoft Corp. v. GeoTag Inc., 11cv175, U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware (Wilmington).

Source: www.bloomberg.com