Google embroiled in US$5bn patent suit

3 Jan 2006

It has emerged that a New York-based technology company is suing internet search giant Google for up to US$5bn over an alleged patent violation in the internet telephony software used in the Google Talk service.

New York-based Rates Technology Inc (RTI) has estimated that damages from the suit could reach US$5bn depending on whether the litigation takes four years and the market for voice over IP (VoIP) grows during that time.

RTI claims that it invented the software programming that allows telephone calls to be placed over the internet and that 120 companies – including Cisco, Verizon, IBM, Yahoo and Microsoft – have paid RTI to use the technology for VoIP calls.

The company holds two telecoms patents and takes a one-time fee of up to US$5m to cover companies that provide services or the equipment to support them. As well as suing Google, the company is locked in lawsuits with Cablevision and Vonage.

RTI is currently holding talks with Time Warner AOL and online auction site eBay for its Skype voice offering.

In recent months Google revealed that it would be adding instant messaging and VoIP phone call services to its core web search function.

RTI’s chief executive Jerry Weinberger said he filed the suit in a Long Island federal court against Google two months ago because the internet search giant was using the VoIP technology without authorisation.

By John Kennedy