Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Nokia drops power-saving patent from ITC investigation of HTC -- prevailed on it in Germany

Yesterday Nokia withdrew another patent from the ITC investigation of various HTC devices. U.S. Patent No. 5,570,369 on "reduction of power consumption in a mobile station". This is the U.S. equivalent of EP0673175, over which Nokia recently won a German injunction against HTC. Nokia's unopposed motion for partial termination of the ITC investigation doesn't say (because it doesn't have to) why Nokia concluded, after the trial held earlier this month, that this patent is not necessarily going to be found infringed by the ITC. But it's certainly interesting that a patent which was victorious in the Mannheim Regional Court is dropped from an ITC case.

This is most likely attributable to procedural differences between the U.S. and Germany. In the U.S. there is extensive third-party discovery, and this may have helped HTC there. In Germany HTC's problem was that it couldn't deny Nokia's infringement contentions because it couldn't obtain certain information from its chipset vendors. In a U.S. patent case (including an ITC investigation) third parties, such as chip makers, can be (and routinely are) required to speak out. We'll never know the answer to the question of whether the ITC and the Mannheim Regional Court would have reached identical or different conclusions based on the evidence. The fact of the matter is that the ITC had access to information that wasn't presented to the German court, which had no other choice but to rule in Nokia's favor given HTC's failure to raise a proper defense.

HTC appealed the Mannheim ruling to the Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court. I don't know whether it will be able to leverage in the German appellate proceedings any of the facts discussed at the recent ITC trial. One thing is certain: there won't be an ITC ruling on this patent, which would have some persuasive impact on the German case.

Withdrawals of patents from ITC investigations are expected. That's how the U.S. trade agency can keep its schedules, which are faster than those of most U.S. district courts. Nokia originally asserted nine patents in this action (which I listed in this post). Nokia withdrew the first patent in October 2012; the ITC subsequently referred one patent to arbitration (on debatable grounds); in March, Nokia dropped several claims of one patent (but kept others in the game); it withdrew three patents in April 2013, and now finally the '375 patent. All of the withdrawn patents are still being asserted in a companion lawsuit in federal court in Delaware.

These are Nokia's three patents-in-suit in the ITC case, following the latest (and probably last) withdrawal:

Last month Nokia filed a second ITC complaint against HTC. Across the different fora, Nokia is now asserting 50 different patents against HTC.

The next Nokia v. HTC trial will take place in Mannheim on Friday. This is Nokia's second VP8-related case. In the first one, an infringement has apparently been identified, and the court's focus is now on whether to order an injunction or stay the case pending a parallel nullity action.

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: