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Skyhook sues Google amid greater federal antitrust scrutiny

Skyhook Wireless sued Google on Wednesday, alleging the Internet giant unfairly pressured Motorola and other Skyhook partners to stop using Skyhook’s location-based mobile software.

The Boston-based firm also filed a separate suit against Google saying the company infringed on Skyhook's patents for the software, a technology that allows advertisers to serve up ads based on a user’s precise location.

The suits come amid growing scrutiny by federal and state antitrust watchdogs over Google's business practices. The Justice Department has recommended a federal judge reject Google's settlement with authors and publishers over digital book searches unless more concessions are made to ensure greater competition in that burgeoning space. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said on Sept. 3 that he had launched a probe into Google business practices for online searching and whether it was manipulating search results in a way that hurts competitors.

In a lawsuit filed at the Massachusetts Superior Court, Skyhook said Google’s business practices were anticompetitive because the firm used its influence on the Android mobile software platform to muscle Motorola into breaking its contract with Skyhook. Android is an open-sourced software platform created by Google.

Skyhook said that after it announced a partnership with Motorola in April, Google’s vice president for engineering, Andy Rubin, called Motorola chief executive Sanjay Jha and asked him “multiple times to impose a ‘stop ship’ order on Motorola devices loaded with Skyhook’s location-based software. Google called for the halt in shipments because it claimed Skyhook’s software was not compatible with the Android platform, according to the suit.

Google declined to comment, saying it had not reviewed the suits.

Google competes with Skyhook with its own location-based software. Skyhook, which uses Wi-Fi hotspot connections to track user locations, said it suffered tens of millions of dollars in lost revenues from Google’s actions.

“Once Google realized its positioning technology was not competitive, it chose other means to undermine Skyhook and damage and attempt to destroy its position in the marketplace for location positioning technology,” Skyhook said in its suit.

The Justice Department is reviewing Google’s proposed merger with online travel company ITA, amid protests by travel sites such as Expedia and Kayak that Google could squash competitors in that space if it pushes its own travel apps over theirs on mobile phones and with its popular search engine.

By Cecilia Kang  |  September 16, 2010; 11:39 AM ET
Categories:  Antitrust , Google , Mobile  
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