Tuesday, November 13, 2012

HTC's biggest patent worry after Apple settlement: 32 Nokia patent assertions in five venues

HTC's settlement with Apple is already the 15th official Android patent license deal, but it's the first license Apple has been known to extend to an Android device maker. HTC was also the first Android OEM to sign up with Microsoft. It will likely become the first one to pay royalties to Apple, Microsoft, and Nokia, which is suing it over 32 different patents in five venues.

I believe in a Nokia-HTC license deal for two reasons. One, Nokia has some really powerful non-standard-essential patents. Its SEPs are broadly licensed, but its non-SEPs account for almost 90% of its portfolio of 10,000 patent families and companies like HTC still need to license it. Two, HTC has proven in the past that it's not interested in endless court fights but quite willing to pay royalties to patent holders. In particular, HTC doesn't have a problem with being the first Android device maker to strike a deal with a given right holder, even though Google is presumably unhappy about the fact that HTC's willingness to enter into royalty-bearing license agreements validates certain infringement allegations against Android and adds pressure on the rest of the Android ecosystem to follow suit and pay up. HTC is simply doing what's best for HTC, just like Google is doing what's best for Google.

In May, Nokia brought an ITC complaint against HTC, federal lawsuits in Delaware against HTC and ViewSonic (a smaller Android device maker), and German lawsuits in three cities (Munich, Mannheim and Düsseldorf) against all three defendants.

HTC and ViewSonic were trying to get Nokia's Delaware lawsuits stayed; ViewSonic was also trying, as a second choice, to have them transferred to California. HTC was previously quite successful with stalling dozens of Apple's patent assertions. It convinced the Delaware-based court to stay all of Apple's offensive cases, not only a companion case to an ITC proceeding. Federal lawsuits mirroring ITC complaints are always stayed pending resolution of the ITC investigation (including appeals) if a defendant so requests. But it's less common that courts also stay other cases involving the same parties only because of some limited overlap in terms of inventors and accused products. HTC tried against Nokia what worked against Apple, but on Friday Judge Leonard P. Stark, the federal judge presiding over Nokia's Delaware actions against HTC and ViewSonic denied all these motions. These actions won't be stayed or transferred, at least at this stage.

The first four Nokia v. HTC court hearings in Germany, three of which are already trials, will be held before the end of the year:

  • On November 21, the Munich I Regional Court will hold a first hearing on Nokia's infringement claims against HTC (and ViewSonic and RIM) over EP1322072 on "a mobile communication system and a method for connecting a remote workstation to a data communication network via a mobile communication network".

  • The Munich I Regional Court will hold a first hearing (I don't knwo yet which patent it relates to) on December 12.

  • Two days later, the Mannheim Regional Court will hold two trials, one over EP1329982 on an "antenna for wireless communications devices" and the other over EP0812120 on a "method for using services offered by a telecommunication network, a telecommunication system and a terminal for it".

These are just four out of 32 different patents Nokia is asserting against HTC. In the United States, Nokia is suing HTC over 18 patents in Delaware, 8 of which are also being asserted at the ITC (where some further streamlining will occur as Nokia confirmed in a recent filing). Nokia is suing HTC over the German parts of 17 European patents (10 in Mannheim, 4 in Düsseldorf, 3 in Munich). Three patents are being asserted on both continents, which is why the total count is 18+17-3 = 32.

Here's a complete list of the 32 Nokia v. HTC patents-in-suit along with the venues in which the assertions were brought:

  1. U.S. Patent No. 5,570,369 and EP0673175 on "reduction of power consumption in a mobile station" (ITC, Delaware, and Mannheim)

  2. U.S. Patent No. 5,884,190 on a "method for making a data transmission connection from a computer to a mobile communication network for transmission of analog and/or digital signals [tethering]" (ITC, Delaware)

  3. U.S. Patent No. 6,393,260 on a "method for attenuating spurious signals and receiver" (ITC and Delaware)

  4. U.S. Patent No. 7,415,247 and EP1133831 on a "method and arrangement for transmitting and receiving RF signals through various radio interfaces of communication systems" (ITC, Delaware, and Düsseldorf)

  5. EP0882375 on a "communication network terminal supporting a plurality of applications" (Mannheim)

  6. EP1439723 on a "communication network terminal supporting a plurality of applications" (Mannheim)

  7. U.S. Patent No. 7,366,529 on a "communication network terminal supporting a plurality of applications" (ITC and Delaware)

  8. U.S. Patent No. 6,728,530 on a "calendar-display apparatus, and associated method, for a mobile terminal" (withdrawn from ITC investigation, still being asserted in Delaware)

  9. U.S. Patent No. 7,106,293 on a "lighting control method and electronic device" and EP1312974 on an "electronic display device and lighting control method of same" (ITC, Delaware, and Mannheim)

  10. U.S. Patent No. 6,141,664 on "synchronisation of databases with date range" (ITC and Delaware)

  11. U.S. Patent No. 7,209,911 on "synchronisation of databases using filters" (ITC and Delaware)

  12. U.S. Patent No. 5,878,351 on "methods and apparatus for providing delayed transmission of SMS delivery acknowledgement, manual acknowledgement and SMS messages" (Delaware)

  13. U.S. Patent No. 6,865,404 on a "handset" (Delaware)

  14. U.S. Patent No. 6,647,370 on a "system and methods for scheduling and tracking events across multiple time zones" (Delaware)

  15. U.S. Patent No. 6,349,263 on an "integrated position and direction system" (Delaware)

  16. U.S. Patent No. 6,587,788 on an "integrated position and direction system with radio communication for updating data" (Delaware)

  17. U.S. Patent No. 7,460,953 on a "method of operating a navigation system using images" (Delaware)

  18. U.S. Patent No. 6,882,870 on a "personal mobile communications device having multiple units" (Delaware)

  19. U.S. Patent No. 6,788,798 on a "method and arrangement for improving leak tolerance of an earpiece" (Delaware))

  20. U.S. Patent No. 5,895,884 on a "shielding device with push fit lid" (Delaware)

  21. EP0998024 on a "modulator structure for a transmitter and a mobile station" (Düsseldorf)

  22. EP1581015 on "a communication network terminal with menus" (Delaware)

  23. EP1516269 on a "system, apparatus, and method for effecting network connections via wireless devices using radio frequency identification" (Düsseldorf)

  24. EP0812120 on a "method for using services offered by a telecommunication network, a telecommunication system and a terminal for it" (Mannheim)

  25. EP1581016 on "a communication network terminal for accessing internet" (Mannheim)

  26. EP0792077 on a "multi-service mobile station" (Mannheim)

  27. EP1329982 on an "antenna for wireless communications devices" (Mannheim)

  28. EP1474750 on a "method and system for storing and transferring multimedia tags" (Mannheim; see this report on a recent Munich court hearing on the assertion of this patent against RIM)

  29. EP0882347 on "a radio telephone" (Mannheim)

  30. EP1246071 on a "method of configuring electronic devices" (Munich)

  31. EP1322072 on "a mobile communication system and a method for connecting a remote workstation to a data communication network via a mobile communication network" (Munich)

  32. EP0982959 on a "mobile telephone user interface for short messages" (Munich)

Based on how both parties fared against Apple, it's easy to see that Nokia will win this and will most likely receive a higher per-unit royalty from HTC than Apple receives from HTC. HTC has to pay Apple, but Apple has to pay Nokia. Nokia has the strongest patent portfolio of those three companies.

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