Google Sued by German Firm Over Space-Imaging Technology

Google Inc. was sued by a German architectural firm over a patent for technology that allows users to provide space-based images of the earth.

Berlin-based Art+Com claims Google infringed on the architectural firm’s patent when the search-engine provider unveiled its Google Earth application in 2005, according to a lawsuit filed today. That technology allows Google users to get images of earth provided by space satellites.

Google infringed by providing Google Earth “for users to download, along with web-accessible tutorials,” Art+Com executives said in the suit filed in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware.

Google Earth’s space-based images help users track weather and other data. Conservationists in Kenya have used the application to combat elephant poachers by outfitting the animals with collars equipped with global-positioning chips and tracking them via the application.

Matt Kallman, a spokesman for Mountain View, California-based Google, said in an e-mailed statement the company wasn’t commenting on the lawsuit.

Terravision System

Art+Com said it owns a patent on space-imaging technology that provides the basis for its Terravision system, according to the complaint.

“Terravision is a networked virtual representation of the earth based on satellite images, aerial shots and altitude and architectural data,” Art+Com said in the complaint. “It provides an environment to organize and access information spatially.”

Google Earth, Google Earth Pro and Google Earth Enterprise incorporate Art+Com’s technology, according to the complaint.

Art+Com executives had discussions with Google officials about selling the patent in 2006, the company said. The German firm accused Google of making a lowball offer.

“A reasonable company in Google’s position in the summer of 2006 would have engaged Art+COM on acceptable terms of sale,” the company said.

The case is Art+Com Innovationpool GmbH v. Google Inc., No. 14-217, U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware (Wilmington).

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.