Microsoft, Google Join to Challenge GeoTag Mapping Patent

Microsoft Corp. and Google Inc., rivals in the online search market, joined to challenge the validity of a Texas company’s patent on mapping technology.

Closely held GeoTag Inc. has filed patent-infringement suits against 300 entities, many of which use Microsoft or Google technology to show store locations. Microsoft and Google are seeking a ruling that the GeoTag patent is invalid or not infringed.

“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.

The patent, called “Internet Organizer for Accessing Geographically and Topically based Information,” 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 $6.25 each.

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.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, and Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft “also face potentially new demands from additional customers who are currently being sued, or will be sued in the future, by GeoTag,” they said in the complaint.

Microsoft, Netscape

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).

To contact the reporter on this story: Susan Decker in Washington at sdecker1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Allan Holmes at aholmes25@bloomberg.net

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