I was reading an article today on the BBC about the latest in the Oracle vs. Google copyright trial.

It seems it’s proving hard to prove if Google are at fault – and it’s a tricky situation when something is released for common use… but within certain boundaries.

A story I’ve found more interesting however, is that BT are also suing Google as Android uses technology (or “ideas”) which BT had already patented. The BBC gives 2 examples of where Google have apparently infringed BT’s patents; Android’s ability to allow a music download if a smartphone is connected to a wi-fi network, but not when it’s only on a 3G connection; and the ability in Google Maps for different information to show at different levels of zoom.

Oh my goodness! How are those 2 “technologies” not just natural evolutions of an idea? Where’s “BT Maps”? I’ve used Google Maps for years and I’m not at all surprised that at some point the developers thought it would be handy to show different things at a close up level. And I’ve used Skype on my iPhone for ages and it won’t let me make a call over 3G, only when I’m on a wifi network, so I’m not surprised that Android had the same plan with regards to large downloads.

I guess, with legal battles I think it has to be considered if anyone meant to infringe copyright – because that does happen plenty enough. Someone sees a website and decides to make another that does the same thing. But in the web world, to come up with an idea, just a relatively small step forward for your existing (market leading in the case of Google) product and have to check if anyone else has ever had the idea and “bagsied” it first seems a little ridiculous. OK, Google have got the legal teams to check things like this, but Internet start ups haven’t. We’re a small web development company – if you came to us with a unique idea that we’d never heard of before and we made it for you, we can’t be responsible if BT or someone then claim that actually they had that idea in 2006 and patented it. And if we had to be responsible for that, we’d have to charge you for the time it took to do the checks before we could even start work on the project.

Maybe I’m missing the point – and maybe it was more than an idea; maybe Google actually got hold of BT programming code and had a play. But that’s not the impression I get in this instance. And maybe in some ways it’s good that there are companies out there big enough to stand up against Google – because if I had an idea and Google acted on it, I don’t think I’d stand much of a chance in a law suit against them! It’s already happening that starts ups are folding because the big boys can do the same thing, but better, and make it free.

The icing on the hyperlink cake:

I then though, continued my “related articles” journey through the BBC archives and came across a belter from June 2000, where BT actually claimed to own the concept of hyperlinks! Every link on a website – every time you “click” – that would be use of a BT technology! The article discusses how BT would have enforced this patent – which stood until 2006 – maybe by charging Internet Service Providers a license fee!

As the web gets ever more popular, the legal battles get ever more frequent – and harder to prove.