Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Nokia's patent assertions against HTC, ViewSonic and RIM in the U.S. and three German courts

Nokia just announced that it takes new steps to protects its intellectual property and today filed patent infringement lawsuits in the U.S. and three German courts against HTC, ViewSonic and RIM. All in all, 45 different Nokia patents are being asserted in one or more of these actions.

Even if Google finally closes its proposed acquisition of Motorola Mobility, it won't be able to use Motorola's patents against Nokia in order to support its Android hardware partners HTC and ViewSonic: Nokia and Motorola have a comprehensive cross-license agreement in place, a fact that was mentioned in some documents in Motorola's ongoing lawsuits against Apple and Microsoft.

By settling with Apple less than a year ago on terms that make the iPhone and iPad maker the net payer, Nokia already proved that its patent portfolio is exceptionally strong. The Nokia v. Apple dispute was bitterly-contested and too almost two years. Nokia demonstrated that it means business when it starts patent lawsuits. Compared to Apple, the defendants in the latest action are not only financially much weaker but they also lack Apple's retaliatory power -- if any of the three brings any somewhat useful wireless-related patents to the table, it's RIM, but the focus of these assertions is on HTC and ViewSonic anyway. I think these disputes won't take as long as the Nokia-Apple battle -- and on a per-device basis, HTC and ViewSonic will likely end up paying significantly higher royalties than Apple, which brought more IP of its own to the negotiating table.

Anyone watching Nokia's dispute with IPCom, a non-practicing entity from Germany, which has been going on for about five years and resulted in the partial or complete invalidation of more than 60 IPCom patents, would probably also acknowledge that Nokia is extremely good at defending itself against patent infringement claims brought by others.

I have obtained a list of the patents Nokia is asserting in the various jurisdictions. It's clear that HTC is the primary target, ViewSonic a secondary one, and the assertions against RIM are less aggressive. Here's a breakdown of the number of patents asserted against each defendant in each jurisdiction:

  • Nokia v. HTC:

    • HTC is the only company of the three against which Nokia brought an ITC complaint. That complaint is based on nine patents.

    • The nine ITC patents as well as nine additional ones are being asserted against HTC in the District of Delaware.

    • In Germany, Nokia is suing HTC over nine patents in Mannheim, four in Düsseldorf, and three in Munich. (At this stage, I plan to attend all of the related hearings and trials.)

  • Nokia v. ViewSonic:

    • In the District of Delaware, Nokia is suing ViewSonic over 15 of the 18 patents it is asserting in the same district against HTC, as well as over two others it's not asserting against HTC at this stage.

    • In Mannheim, ViewSonic has to defend itself against three of the nine patents Nokis is asserting there against HTC, and against four others. In Munich, Nokia is suing ViewSonic over two of the three patents it's asserting there against HTC.

  • Nokia v. RIM:

    • Nokia's lawsuits against RIM are limited to Germany.

    • In Düsseldorf, Nokia is suing RIM over two patents it's not asserting against anyone else. In Mannheim, it's suing RIM over two patents (one that it's not asserting against anyone else, and one that it's asserting against all three defendants (against ViewSonic it's asserting that one only in Delaware). In Munich, ViewSonic faces two of the patents Nokia is also asserting against HTC, and one of those overlaps with the Munich assertions against RIM.

Nokia's press release describes these patents as covering "dual function antennas, power management and multimode radios, as well as [---] software features including application stores, multitasking, navigation, conversational message display, dynamic menus, data encryption and retrieval of email attachments on a mobile device". That's quite a diversity of technologies.

Here's the list of all 45 patents -- a diversity that I attribute to the breadth and depth of Nokia's innovative achievements (though this is only a small selection of patents from Nokia's vast portfolio):

  • U.S. Patent No. 5,570,369 and EP0673175 on "power saving functionality in a GSM device"

  • U.S. Patent No. 5,884,190 on "mobile devices that can act as wireless route with more than one network (tethering)"

  • U.S. Patent No. 6,393,260 on a "method for attenuating spurious signals with a balanced mixer in the receiver"

  • U.S. Patent No. 7,415,247 and EP1133831 on "one radio transceiver that can work with more than one air interface"

  • U.S. Patent No. 6,188,909 and EP1439723 on "push messaging"

  • U.S. Patent No. 7,366,529 on "push messaging"

  • U.S. Patent No. 6,728,530 on "over the air synchronising of mobile device calendar"

  • U.S. Patent No. 7,106,293 and EP1312974 on "integrated light guide for the light sensor which regulates screen brightness"

  • U.S. Patent No. 6,141,664 on "wireless synchronisation of databases (e.g. calendar) with date range"

  • U.S. Patent No. 7,209,911 on "wireless synchronisation of databases (e.g. calendar) using filters"

  • U.S. Patent No. 6,212,529 on "wireless synchronisation of databases"

  • U.S. Patent No. 5,878,351 on a "message queuing technology in mobile devices"

  • U.S. Patent No. 6,865,404 on an "improved user interface for mobile devices"

  • U.S. Patent No. 6,647,370 on "time zone adjustment for calendar events"

  • U.S. Patent No. 6,349,263 on "use of compass and GPS for digital routing"

  • U.S. Patent No. 6,587,788 on "integrated GPS based positioning system with wireless map data"

  • U.S. Patent No. 7,460,953 on an "improved image based navigation system"

  • U.S. Patent No. 6,882,870 on an "improved mobile device that can simultaneously communicate across mutiple networks"

  • U.S. Patent No. 6,788,798 on an "earpiece with two acoustic chambers to improve leak tolerance"

  • U.S. Patent No. 5,895,884 on a "shielding device with push fit lid, electromagnetic shielding in the device"

  • EP0998024 on a "Modulator featuring a low pass filter between two transistors"

  • EP 1581015 on a "mobile phone UI with menus created or changed by data received wirelessly"

  • EP1516269 on "near field communications, signals from another device can trigger applications"

  • EP0966847 on a "system to allow access to mobile services via internet for e.g. application store"

  • EP1075750 on a "three stage method for receiving email content e.g. attachments"

  • EP0812120 on a "terminal with UI to allow choice from a changing service selection e.g. application store"

  • EP1581016 on "two modes for connecting to the Internet"

  • EP0792077 on "storage of background app in non-volatile memory"

  • EP1329982 (asserted in two different versions, including a divisional) on a "dual function component attaching antenna to phone and separating from earth plane"

  • EP1474750 on a "multimedia tag associated with location"

  • EP0882347 on "selectable homescreens with different functionality but all including phone function"

  • EP0879538 on a "feature that allows remote activation of device software by the network"

  • EP0754395, a GSM/GPRS-essential German patent on "additional location management during virtual data connection"

  • DE19815597, a GSM/AMR-essential German patent on "selective puncturing in channel coding to optimise frame error rate"

  • DE19723659, a German patent essential to WiFi/WLAN and GSM/GPRS, on "encryption using variable synchronization data"

  • DE19835427, a German patent essential to WiFi/WLAN and GSM/GPRS, on "adapting higher level data into octets"

  • EP1246071 on a "mobile phone that can also work as a variety of slave devices, e.g. USB storage device"

  • EP1322072 on a "mobile communication system with server that can masquerade as end user"

  • EP0982959 on a "conversational display of incoming and outgoing messages"

  • EP0824813 on a "further encryption method for wireless packet data"

If you'd like to be updated on the smartphone patent disputes and other intellectual property matters I cover, please subscribe to my RSS feed (in the right-hand column) and/or follow me on Twitter @FOSSpatents and Google+.

Share with other professionals via LinkedIn: