Judge Lets Google Earth's Virtual Tours Continue

June 12, 2006

Fenwick & West lawyers successfully staved off a preliminary injunction today in a patent lawsuit over Mountain View-based Google Inc.'s popular Google Earth software. The program allows users to combine Google searches with virtual tours of landscapes using images and data collected from satellites and aircraft.

Google acquired Keyhole Corp., the originator of the software behind Google Earth, in October 2004 while a lawsuit brought by Skyline Software Systems Inc. of Chantilly, Va. was pending in Boston, Mass. Skyline quickly added Google as a defendant, and despite claiming that it was harmed when Google soon reduced prices to consumers and offered a basic version of Google Earth for free, Skyline waited more than a year to bring its injunction motion.

Fenwick & West trial lawyer Darryl Woo persuasively argued that Skyline could not credibly claim irreparable harm because of its delays, and that the proprietary Google Earth software operates in a fundamentally different way than Skyline's software "underneath the hood." The court issued a June 12, 2006 order denying Skyline's motion.

Ultimately, the court's order means that Google Earth can continue to be enjoyed by users worldwide. Interestingly, Skyline's papers lauded the popularity of Google Earth, and cited it as one of the top downloads of 2005.