This could be a rather difficult fight for Google. Nokia is starting to flex its patent muscles in the mapping arena. And at least some of its patents predate the existence of Google itself, meaning that Google is going to find it difficult to claim priority. The big question will be not about this first case though: it’ll be about what Nokia has in reserve for later on:
The patent Nokia is asserting in that German lawsuit is EP0766811 on an “electronic navigation system and method”. The patent has a June 1994 priority date, proving that Nokia was working on mapping and navigation software years before Google was even founded.
1. A method of transmitting route directions in a compact form, comprising the steps of:
(a) generating a first set of maneuver arms for providing a graphical representation of a calculated route to be taken by a vehicle through an intersection and geometric representations of a plurality of segments of roads to be traveled about an intersection along the route, wherein the intersection is an origin, and said representations of each of said plurality of segments of roads starts at the origin and radiates outward to an endpoint Xi, Yi to approximate the angles at which the roads approach the intersection, to depict a first intersection on a display, each maneuver arm of the first set of maneuver arms being represented by at least one endpoint;
There’s more at Florian Mueller’s of course.
That does indeed look like they’re claiming a patent over the electronic method of providing directions from stored maps. And assuming that the patent is valid that would put rather a crimp on Google’s ambitions in this field.
This is also rather more important to Google than the average patent case (say, over Microsoft’s FAT stack or something). For the real import of maps and all things associated with them is not that we look at maps and this gives Google more time with us, a greater share of our attention. It is, rather, that Google Maps are a crucial part of monetising mobile ads and access. For that positional data is allied with Maps in order to serve up the ads that concern whatever location we are currently in. That’s a very large revenue stream in the future and Nokia would obviously like to get a piece of it: as Google is similarly interested in not letting them have much of it.