Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Presumptive Acacia subsidiary sues HTC, LG, ZTE, BlackBerry over Nokia Siemens Networks patents

Nokia's wireless patents are ubiquitous. In addition to Nokia's direct monetization, a number of ex-Nokia patents have been sold to different licensing firms, who occasionally try to enforce such patents in court. Last week I noted that Intellectual Ventures' second patent infringement lawsuit against Google's Motorola Mobility involves, among other things, two former Nokia patents. Yesterday a handful of lawsuits against wireless device makers and carriers by what appears to be an Acacia subsidiary were filed in the Eastern District of Texas, and they are all about former Nokia Siemens Networks patents. The assignment record of at least one of the patents-in-suit reveals Acacia's involvement. In late December, Nokia Siemens Networks, a telecommunications infrastructure maker, entered into a license agreement with Acacia and a few days later (on December 31, 2012) Acacia announced that "a subsidiary has acquired patents for Wireless Infrastructure and User Equipment Technology from Nokia Siemens Networks relating to second (2G), third (3G) and fourth (4G) generation wireless technologies".

Cellular Communications Equipment LLC, whose name never showed up on the Internet prior to yesterday's patent infringement complaints, brought separate lawsuits targeting HTC, LG, ZTE, BlackBerry (Research In Motion) and Pantech. Each of these complaints also targets wireless carriers who redistribute devices by those companies. Verizon and AT&T are a defendant in each case. T-Mobile as well as Sprint and its Boost Mobile subsidiary are named as defendants in all cases but the Pantech-related one.

This tactic of separate suits per device maker but with significant overlap among co-defendants is interesting in light of the America Invents Act's multi-defendant joinder rule. Each device maker would presumably like to get their lawsuit transferred to the home state of their U.S. subsidiary. But in that case there would be some duplicative discovery effort involving the same carriers in multiple districts.

The sale of those Nokia Siemens Networks patents to Acacia was announced about a week after the BlackBerry company's recent settlement with Nokia. It appears that BlackBerry was not licensed to the Nokia Siemens Networks patents that were subsequently transferred and now asserted against it, or maybe to none at all.

HTC is still embroiled in litigation with Nokia over approximately 50 patents (and countersuing over two patents of its own, with trials taking place in Germany on Thursday and Friday). It will have to sort out licensing issues not only with Nokia itself but also with Acacia.

Acacia is asserting different sets of patents in yesterday's lawsuits. Some were obtained by Nokia Siemens Networks, while others previously belonged to Nokia or Siemens before being assigned to their joint venture. Here's a list of the patents-in-suit and the patent-specific defendants:

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