Google is being taken to court over patent infringement charges related to the search giant's nascent Internet calling service, in a case that could put a crimp in the rollout of Google Talk.

In October, Rates Technology filed suit against Google in a New York district court, alleging that Google violated two patents pertaining to technology that minimizes the cost of long-distance VoIP calls.

Rates Technology is seeking an injunction barring Google from using the technology as well as unspecified monetary damages. According to information on a blog posting on searchenginewatch.com by Gary Price, who reported the lawsuit earlier this week, the company, located in Hauppauge, New York, has a history of initiating litigation over its patents.

Burden of Proof

Price cites a blog by TMCnet.com publisher Rich Tehrani, who writes that Rates Technology has sued Nortel, Sharp Electronics, and others, and that the company has agreements with Lucent and Cisco, among others.

While the complaint could cause problems for Google, said IDC analyst Will Stofega, Rates Technology may have a difficult time proving its case. "The technology involved here applies to a lot of different devices and networks, and the accusations are pretty vague," he said.

Stofega said the issue centers on "least cost routing" capabilities that send calls through network channels that are the most cost effective. "It is vital to VoIP services, although to my knowledge the technology is based on open standards," he said.

Google Eyes Messaging Services

Google Talk, which includes both instant messaging and VoIP services, was launched earlier this year and, unlike offerings such as Skype, allows users to make only computer-to-computer voice calls.

Adding messaging services to the Google platform, which serves a vast user base, presents an opportunity for the company to develop more sophisticated products such as applications designed for businesses.

Google Talk is designed to connect with several other messaging clients, but, as with other new Google offerings, the company has not linked the new service with a plan for making money.

"It's unclear how Google violated the patents, but it's not surprising that Rates Technology would go after them, given Google's deep pockets," said Stofega. "Their M.O. seems to be to go after the bigger companies and to ignore the smaller players."