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Google Sued Over Street View Patent By Pasadena-Based Vederi

Paresh Dave |
October 19, 2010 | 7:23 p.m. PDT

Executive Producer

A Google Street View car caught in action two years ago in England. (Creative Commons)
A Google Street View car caught in action two years ago in England. (Creative Commons)
Technology giant Google faces a pair of fresh lawsuits relating to its Street View application, representing the latest in a string of legal troubles the feature within Google Maps and Google Earth that allows user to see street-level, panoramic images of neighborhoods throughout the world.

Spain's national data protection agency sued Google on Monday, alleging the company illegally collected data from Internet users through Wi-Fi networks encountered by vehicles designed capture images for Street View. The cars are mounted with special cameras and sensors to both record the streetscape and the location of the captured images. Google could be fined up to $4 million, if convicted by Spanish authorities.

Vederi, a company located in Pasadena, Calif., is alleging that Google infringed on its patent for technology allowing users to visually navigate streets online. It's unclear what business Vederi is in. The company's attorneys were not available for comment late Tuesday.

In a suit filed Oct. 15 in U.S. District Court in L.A., Verderi co-founders Enrico Di Bernardo and Luis Goncalves say they filed a provisional patent for the technology behind their creation, Street Browser, in 2000. Google's Street View was launched seven years later on May 25, 2007. Vederi didn't file for a formal patent until June 11, 2007, according to Google Patent Search. The U.S. government issued a patent to Vederi in Aug. 2009.

StreetBrowser, which the lawsuit claims was featured on the City of Pasadena's website for several years, allowed Internet users to view panoramas of streets in the city. The lawsuit says the pair believed that their service could be ported to travel, real estate and mapping websites.

They drove around Pasadena during July 2000 in Di Bernardo's car, with a camera atop it, to collect the images and corresponding GPS coordinates. The system they developed was dubbed ScoutTool and later changed to StreetBrowser.

We are confident that Vederi has strong patent rights that are directly infringed by Street View,'' said Vederi attorney David Dillard in a press release. “It's stunning how closely Google's Street View tracks the Vederi patented technology, down to the integration of advertising directly within the Street View product through branded icons.”

Google is regularly sued for patent infringement, and few plaintiffs have succeeded in those suits. Google has even asked a judge to throw out a $5.6-billion patent lawsuit filed by Oracle.

Japan, Italy, Canada, France, Germany and the Czech Republic have also complained about Google's Wi-Fi data collection efforts. Google maintains the privacy breaches were inadvertent and any collected information has not been used in any way.

Google had been charting the locations of Wi-Fi networks to boost its offering of location-based services, but accidentally captured data more than it should have. CNET reported Tuesday that Google would begin tracking Wi-Fi network locations through Android handsets instead of Street View cars.

Reach executive producer Paresh Dave here. Follow him on Twitter: @peard33.



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