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Skyhook and Google settle a long-running lawsuit

2010 case centered on Wi-Fi location technology for phones

A long-running patent lawsuit filed by Skyhook Wireless Inc., a Boston Wi-Fi technology company, against the Internet search giant Google Inc. has ended in a settlement, court documents show.

Skyhook filed the lawsuit in 2010, alleging that Google had illegally used its cellphone location technology, which relies on Wi-Fi stations instead of GPS satellites. The case was scheduled to go to trial in US District Court in Boston on Monday. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

Pressure to settle was increasing on both sides as the trial approached, said Steven Bauer, an intellectual property attorney with Proskauer Rose LLP in Boston. The stakes were raised after the court rejected Google’s arguments that Skyhook’s case was blatantly unreasonable, said Bauer, who was not involved in the case.


“It’s a lot like playing seven-card poker and deciding do you want to settle after the first two, or wait until the seventh card?” he said. “It’s not a gamble. If you’re playing poker, there’s a lot of skill in that. But no matter how much skill you have, it’s a gamble on what’s the last card.”

Google declined to comment. Skyhook and its attorneys did not reply to requests for comment.

Skyhook, based in the Seaport District, was acquired last year by a unit of Liberty Media of Englewood, Colo. Founded in 2003, Skyhook was an early entrant to the field of Wi-Fi mapping, which triangulates a phone’s position using three Wi-Fi signals whose addresses are kept in a directory.

Wi-Fi signals tend to be more reliable than GPS signals when a cellphone user is inside a building or in a built-up area, where satellite signals tend to bounce around. Skyhook holds dozens of patents on Wi-Fi location technology.

In 2009, Apple founder Steve Jobs declared Skyhook “really cool” when he announced a partnership with the Boston company.


But the company’s business took a turn for the worse in 2010. By that point, Apple had developed its own Wi-Fi location technology.

The cellphone makers Motorola and Samsung backed out of contracts to use the Boston company’s location software in their phones after Google said that its Android operating system would not work with Skyhook’s technology.

Skyhook sued in Massachusetts state court, arguing that Google had bullied the smartphone manufacturers into backing out of the deal, but that case was dismissed late last year.

The company’s efforts against Google continued in federal court.

Skyhook claimed that Google violated its patents after the search company rolled out its own Wi-Fi mapping technology in late 2010. Google had offered it to companies that made Android phones.

The case was settled last week, according to a four-line order dated March 5.

Although the case has not been formally closed, the order said attorneys from both Google and Skyhook had notified the court about the settlement.

Unless the agreement goes awry, a court clerk wrote, the suit will be dismissed within 45 days.

Jack Newsham can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TheNewsHam.