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Court tosses Skyhook’s suit against Google

The Massachusetts Appeals Court has upheld a summary judgment tossing out a lawsuit filed by Boston-based Skyhook Wireless Inc. against Internet search titan Google Inc.

In the suit, first filed in 2010, Skyhook alleged that Google had illegally interfered in Skyhook’s business dealings with cellphone makers Samsung Corp. and Motorola Mobility.

Skyhook invented a navigation system that uses signals from Wi-Fi Internet hotspots to calculate the user’s location. The technique is almost as accurate as the better-known GPS satellite navigation technology and is used in millions of smartphones as a supplement to GPS. One of the company’s first customers was Apple Inc., which incorporated the technology into early versions of the iPhone.

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Skyhook also signed deals with Samsung and Motorola to include its technology in their smartphones, which use Google’s Android operating system. But Google objected, saying that Skyhook’s system would interfere with the proper functioning of Android. Both Samsung and Motorola backed out of their deals with Skyhook, leading Skyhook to assert that Google had bullied the two companies to break their contracts.

In 2012, a Suffolk Superior Court judge granted Google a summary judgment and dismissed Skyhook’s complaint. Skyhook appealed. In a ruling issued on Thursday, associate justices Cynthia J. Cohen, R. Marc Kantrowitz, and Peter W. Agnes Jr. affirmed the lower court’s judgment.

The court ruled that Google was within its rights to demand that Samsung and Motorola break their deals with Skyhook, because of the two companies’ pre-existing contracts with Google. The court also noted that of all the companies involved in the Skyhook lawsuit, only Skyhook was based in Massachusetts. As a result, the court found that Skyhook was not entitled to file its lawsuit in a Massachusetts court. Skyhook could appeal to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Skyhook has a separate fight with Google in federal court in Boston that is still pending, a patent infringement lawsuit filed in 2010. The basis of that lawsuit is Skyhook’s unsuccessful negotiations to get Google to license its Wi-Fi navigation technology. Skyhook asserts that after the negotiations broke down, Google misappropriated Skyhook’s patented technologies to build its own Wi-Fi navigation system.

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Skyhook filed a separate patent suit in Delaware in 2012, but the two cases have been consolidated. A hearing is scheduled for January, but no trial date has been set.

Mike Schneider, Skyhook’s vice president of marketing, said the company would not comment on the state court ruling. “We’re looking forward to our patent trial early next year,” he said. “And as always, we’re continuing to grow our business.”

Skyhook was founded in Boston and is still located here. In February, the company was acquired by TruePosition Inc., a Pennsylvania maker of navigation systems for mobile devices. TruePosition, in turn, is owned by Liberty Media Corp., which also owns the Sirius XM satellite radio service and the Atlanta Braves baseball team.


Hiawatha Bray can be reached at hiawatha.bray@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.