Today, in a German courtroom, Microsoft told the judge that it plans to amend its patent infringement lawsuit against Motorola Mobility to name Google as a defendant.
German patent blogger Florian Mueller reported on the development after attending the first hearing in Munich I Regional Court on Microsoft’s complaint against Motorola Mobility over European patent EP0845124, covering a "computer system for identifying local resources and method therefor." (The same technology is covered in U.S. Patent No. 6,240,360.)
Mueller notes that the latest German lawsuit, which was filed in April, targets Android's Google Maps app:
At today's three-hour hearing, Motorola Mobility doggedly denied Microsoft's infringement contentions without specifying how Google's server infrastructure operates. Toward the end of the court session, Microsoft's lead counsel [announced that] Microsoft will amend this complaint in order to add Google Inc., Motorola Mobility's parent company and operator of the server infrastructure that powers the Google Maps Android app, as an additional defendant.
Microsoft has been relentless (and successful) in its attempts to get Android handset makers to sign license agreements. LG, Samsung, and HTC, among others, have all signed licensing deals that put up to $15 in Microsoft’s coffers for every Android device they sell.
Google hoped that its acquisition of Motorola Mobility would change the dynamics of the patent fight, but that hope appears to have been misplaced. Motorola is the largest holdout from Microsoft’s patent demands and thus the biggest target of Redmond’s crack legal team.
In an e-mailed statement, a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed the news:
It became necessary to add Google to this particular case because Motorola maintains that it lacks sufficient information about actions occurring on Google’s servers. We continue to hope Motorola will join the vast majority of Android device makers by licensing Microsoft’s patented inventions.
Previous victories in German patent actions by Apple and Microsoft have already led Motorola to pull all of its tablets and virtually all of its smartphones from German store shelves.
Today’s action is a significant escalation in Microsoft’s effort to convince Android handset makers that the Android OS isn’t really free and that maybe Windows Phone would be a worthy alternative. Previously, as Mueller notes, Google has been subpoenaed as a third party in Android lawsuits in the United States. Google’s decision to acquire Motorola makes it a direct party in this case.
I've asked a Google spokesperson for comment and will update when they respond.