A few days ago a visitor posted a link to a news story about a patent infringement case involving a successful real estate agent making use of a computer mapping system without acquiring a license for it first. The mapping system wasn't the same as Google Maps but does hold a patent and royalties are owed for those who profit from it. In the story it states that "an average residential real estate agent may owe royalties of as much as $50,000 before the company's patent expires in 2008." Check for the full story here.
The case raises some important questions when considering the possible actions that could be taken for those not making use of a sanctioned API (such as the Google Maps API), thereby licensing the application or mashup you are creating. I found a discussion surrounding this in the Google-Maps-API Google Group where the following question was posed:
> What about for intranet use?
> Say we wanted to use the Google API to plot all the points where our
> company inspects drainage ditches. We're a government agency, and it
> would be on our intranet and of no use to the public (and obviously
The Google Maps product manager Bret Taylor referred the user to the following link which contains this Q&A:
Is the Maps API available for commercial websites?
However, not all commercial uses are allowed. For example,
* Premium websites - If your site is only available to paying customers, you cannot use the Maps API.
* Enterprise websites - The Maps API is not available for use within enterprise or intranet applications.
This is just something to consider as you're building your Google Maps mashups using the Google Maps API, or not using the Google Maps API as the case may be. Otherwise, you might end up like this guy's friend.