Google sued in Germany over video streaming patent

The patent was successfully used to obtain sales bans against Android phones and tablets earlier this year

Google and YouTube have been sued in Germany for allegedly infringing on a video streaming patent owned by U.S. software company Max Sound. The case could lead to sales bans on several Google Android products.

Max Sound alleges that Google and YouTube infringe on a patent which describes technology for efficient transport of digital content. All products on the market that use the H.264 video compression format infringe on that patent, Max Sound claimed.

The case was filed with the District Court of Mannheim, Germany, in early December and targets Google's Android operating system which is used on many phones and tablets. The complaint is aimed in particular at the Nexus 5 and Nexus 6 smartphones as well as the Nexus 9 tablet, the Chromebook laptop and the Chromecast, a Wi-Fi device that allows users to stream video to HDMI TVs.

The suit also targets Google's video service YouTube which uses H.264 and also VP8, a codec now owned by Google. Max Sound requested information about profits and damages for each video streamed to Germany in one of the formats, it said.

According to the patent filing, the technology aims to reduce the use of bandwidth when transmitting video or other data with a system that does not require data to be compressed by the sender and decompressed by the receiver. Instead, the invention uses "data optimization" to transmit only the data that is necessary for the application in such a way that decompression of the data is not required on the receiving end.

Data optimization is one of the technologies used in H.264 that, like compression, reduces the amount of data, said Bernhard Arnold, a German intellectual property lawyer whose firm represents Max Sound.

In August, Max Sound said it had filed a similar patent infringement suit against Google in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware -- and also that it was suing Google in the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara, alleging misappropriation of trade secrets, following technical discussions with Google concerning the development of the VP8 codec.

Max Sound has also previously asserted the patent in Germany. It said that in September it was granted preliminary sales bans against two original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) by the Berlin Regional Court to stop the sale of certain Android devices in Germany at the IFA electronics fair in Berlin. The injunctions against Shenzhen KTC Technology and Pact Informatique, a French electronics company resulted in the seizure of all KTC and Pact smartphones and tablets at IFA in September, Max Sound said.

That injunction is still in place and wasn't appealed by the companies, Arnold said.

Max Sound expects a decision in the case against Google within 12 months, and said damages could amount to millions of euros. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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Tags Googlelegalintellectual propertypatentMax Sound

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Loek Essers

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