GPS Company Sues Over Blue Dot

Oct 19, 2010

By Kerrie Spencer, staff technology writer – October 19, 2010

Vehicle GPS System While you may not know the name – Skyhook Wireless – you will likely be familiar with their blue dot technology. Every time you see that blue dot that shows your location on phone’s GPS, Skyhook Wireless generates it.

Over the past few years, Google has dealt with several lawsuits for patent infringement. In fact, more than 50 companies have sued them. Not many have won. However, in Skyhook Wireless versus Google, the playing field is a lot more level and the combatants fairly equal in terms of clout.

At issue here is the question of location positioning technology, something you’ll likely find on your smartphone. This technology is highly competitive and some would say cutthroat, because it’s so popular.

There are not many smartphones that don’t use Skyhook’s location services, with the exception of Apple’s iPhone. Skyhooks’ mapping technology allows users to know precisely where they are at any given moment in time. That Is where the blue dot comes in. They built their mapping technology service from the ground up, by creating a map of public Wi-Fi zones across the U.S. and globally. Today, their database includes 250 million Wi-Fi access points, the end result of actually driving 10 million miles around the world.

Google licensed Skyhook’s technology, referred to as XPS, from 2005 to 2007. However, since Google got into the smartphone market with its Android platform, the company set up its own database of Wi-Fi points.

They did this by using the same cars that took pictures for the Street View program. You might recall the Issues when it was discovered Google didn’t just collect location data, but personal Internet data. Of interest is that Spain, Italy, Germany and France are investigating Street View because it may violate European privacy laws.

As part of Skyhook’s lawsuit, there is an allegation that Google Location Service, which is bundled with Android, tracks user’s phones without them knowing. Skyhook feels this creates a closed system in the area of location positioning, an area where there are only two serious competitors – Google and Skyhook.

The lawsuit states Skyhook has lost tens of millions of dollars. If things go in their favor, speculators predict damages may escalate into the hundreds of millions of dollars. This is a serious lawsuit, with a potentially serious outcome. Ultimately, this is an intellectual property issue and how it’s handled may have a significant impact on the industry.

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