Microsoft have lost the first round in a fight over software used in Google Maps to locate businesses etc. on the maps. A patent explains a method of storing map data on a server, and attaching it to other data, and making it accessible by client devices.
They own a European patent, Computer system for identifying local resources and method therefor, which dates back to 1995 when Sean Phelan of London, UK filed a World Patent application. There is also an American patent for the technology, US 6240360. Below is an image from the patent specification.
The European patent in question is really a bundle of national patents. Following grant by the European Patent Office in Munich, there is an opposition period, when the patent, covering all EU countries, can be challenged in a single legal procedure. If it survives that, or is not challenged, it can only be stopped by attacking the patent in each national court. That would mean, if successful, that the patent would fail for that country (only). In this instance, the attack was in Germany.
Michael Filtz reported, 5 March, on the case in the German Federal Court, where it was ruled that Google and Motorola had not infringed the patent, as that was found invalid for lack of inventive step. His post is titled Microsoft loses mapping patent tussle in German fight with Google and Motorola.
Microsoft has already said it will appeal. The patent in question, EP845124, is due to expire in August 2016 anyway, 20 years after application at the Munich office, as that is the normal maximum term.
There is an interesting article on Sean Phelan's career.