Google Earth’s Patent Infringement Case

\"ID-100188376\"ART+COM Innovationpool GmbH. (“ACI”), Berlin has filed a case against Google Earth (Google Inc), California; regarding Infringing its U.S. Patent No. RE44,550  (‘550 patent), entitled “Method and Device for Pictorial Representation of Space-Related Data”.

The ‘550 patent is a reissue of U.S. Patent No. RE41,428 (‘428 patent), which was filed on December 17th, 1996 with Patent No. 6,100,897 (‘897 patent), which is a patent owned by “ART+COM AG (“ART+COM”).

The patent describes and claims an invention conceived by the inventors and reduced to practice in a medium called “Terravision.” Terravision is a networked virtual representation of the earth based on satellite images, aerial shots, and altitude and architectural data.

Michael Jones, the Chief Technical Officer of Google Earth, and Brian McClendon, in charge of the Google Geo Group and Vice President of Engineering of Google Maps, were employed at SGI during the period that ART+ COM was developing Terravision.

On information and belief, both Mr. Jones and Mr. McClendon were aware of Terravision and generally familiar with its capabilities with SGI and Mr. Jones had access to proprietary information relating to Terravision. On information and belief, both Mr. Jones and Mr. McClendon were employed by Intrinsic Graphics after their employment with SGI. In 2001, a company called Keyhole, Inc., was founded as a spin-off of Intrinsic Graphics to advance work on geospatial data visualization that had started at SGI.

In 2003, a product called Earth Viewer came to the public’s attention during the invasion of Iraq, when CNN and other networks used its flyby imaging capability to illustrate their coverage of the war. In April of 2004, Google acquired Keyhole and Earth Viewer, which was integrated with Google’s business and released in 2005 as an application called Google Earth. This provided the users of Google Earth a similar technology by Terravision a decade in advance of Google.

After several email conversations between both the companies; On December 31, 2007, ART+COM filed an application for reissue of the ‘897 patent and for the pendency of that application ceased its communications with Google. On July 13, 2010, the ‘897 patent was reissued as the ‘428 patent, and on August 18, 2010, Mr. Mayer sent Mr. Jones, Mr. Hanke and others at Google a copy of the patent and a presentation relating to it.

Currently, Google directly infringes the ‘550 patent by providing, for example, Google Earth, Google Earth Pro, and Google Earth Enterprise to its customers and by operating or controlling the hardware (such as servers) and software that support the operation of those applications.

ACI hereby demands:

  • A judgment that Google has infringed one or more claims of the ‘550 patent;
  • A judgment that Google’s infringement of the ‘550 patent has been willful;
  • An award of damages for Google’s infringement;
  • An injunction against further infringement by Google;
  • An award of enhanced damages under 35 U.S.C. § 284;
  • An award of pre-judgment and post-judgment interest on the damages assessed, together with all costs and expenses;
  • An award of reasonable attorney fees under to 35 U.S.C. § 285; and
  • Such other and further relief as the Court may deem just and proper.

By Akshatha Karthik

Image Courtesy of cooldesign/