Thursday, January 10, 2013

Nokia's federal lawsuits against HTC and ViewSonic won't go to trial before 2015

Judge Leonard P. Stark, the federal judge presiding over half a dozen Nokia patent infringement lawsuits against HTC and ViewSonic in the District of Delaware, just signed a scheduling order for two Nokia v. HTC lawsuits and three Nokia v. ViewSonic actions. The sixth Delaware case is not affected by this order. It was stayed last year because it mirrors an ongoing ITC investigation of HTC's Android-based products.

Nokia brought the related U.S. complaints as well as a larger number of German lawsuits in May 2012. It simultaneously sued BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (only in Germany), but RIM has already recognized the strength of Nokia's patent portfolio and taken a royalty-bearing license, which apparently contributed (alongside Lumia 920 sales and other factors) to Nokia's better-than-expected quarterly results.

Today's scheduling order in Delaware follows a scheduling conference held a week ago (on January 3) and reflects rulings that apparently came down at the hearing. The schedule that has just been ordered is fairly slow. A claim construction hearing will take place on November 8, 2013. Summary judgment motions will be briefed between October 10 and December 5, 2014. Yes, that's almost two years off. And the order doesn't even set a trial date yet, but given that summary judgment will be ruled on after December 5, 2014, it's practically impossible for these cases to go to trial before 2015. After the trial, there'll be Rule 50 and similar motions, and (if any liability is identified, which probably will be the case) permanent injunction motions -- and by the time those would be ruled on, three years or more would have passed since the filing of the complaints.

It's unlikely that these Delaware cases will ever be adjudged. Between now and 2015, a large number of decisions will come down in Germany, and Nokia also has the aforementioned ITC case going against HTC. Google takes that ITC investigation seriously enough to participate as an intervenor.

The slowness of U.S. federal courts (Delaware also slowed down Apple's patent assertions against HTC), coupled with a growing reluctance to grant injunctions, leads more and more patent holders to bring parallel lawsuits in faster and more rigid jurisdictions, particularly Germany. This week, reported on the Mannheim Regional Court's growing worldwide popularity and its role as a global patent litigation hotspot. The article also mentions two other German venues, Munich and Dusseldorf, that are considerably faster than United States district courts. Nokia has already had its first German trial against HTC (over the Google Play client app), and a second one will be held tomorrow, also in Mannheim. Additional Nokia v. HTC Mannheim trials have been scheduled for February 5 (three in a row), February 22, March 8, March 22, and some more in the second quarter. On March 12, 2013, the Mannheim court will also hold three Nokia v. ViewSonic trials for a starter. That's about eight months before the Delaware court holds its claim construction hearing, and about two years before a Delaware trial can realistically take place...

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