Friday, July 12, 2013

Google intervenes in ITC investigation of second Nokia complaint against HTC to defend VP8, Android

At yesterday's "zoom reinvented" Lumia 1020 launch, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop mentioned that Nokia filed for its first imaging patent in 1994 and holds 450 imaging patents today. Other industry players -- including Google -- probably understood this to mean that Nokia would vigorously enforce its intellectual property should the differentiating features of the Lumia 1020 be copied. The focus at yesterday's event was on still images, but Nokia also holds many video codec patents, some of which it claims are infringed by Google's WebM/VP8. A likely infringement has already been identified in Mannheim, Germany, where a second VP8 case has meanwhile gone to trial (the outcome of that one will probably be more favorable to Google, but Nokia is so close to obtaining an infringement finding that an appeals court, or courts in other jurisdictions, could arrive at a different conclusion).

Just like in the two German VP8 cases (and other German Nokia lawsuits targeting core Android technologies), Google wants to participate in the proceedings relating to Nokia's third patent assertion against VP8. Yesterday Google brought a motion (which Nokia does not oppose) to intervene in the United States International Trade Commission's (USITC, or just ITC) ongoing investigation of Nokia's second complaint against HTC, filed in May 2013. This time around, Google asks only for intervenor status. A year ago Google preferably wanted to be named as a co-defendant in the investigation of Nokia's first complaint against HTC but, despite support from HTC, had to content itself with the role of an intervenor. Google's intervention in the first investigation related to five patents, four of which have dropped out by now (a fact that Google presumably regards as a s very significant defensive achievement). The sole remaining patent with respect to which Google is intervening in that investigation relates to tethering. An evidentiary hearing (trial) in that investigation was held in late May/early June, and a preliminary ruling by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is scheduled to come down on or before September 23, 2013.

In the investigation of Nokia's second complaint, Google will intervene with respect to three of the six patents-in-suit:

  1. U.S. Patent No. 6,035,189 on a "method for using services offered by a telecommunication network, a telecommunication system and a terminal for it"

    Nokia's infringement allegation relates to the ability of HTC Android devices to install new features on the phone, such as through the Google Play store, which I predicted to trigger an intervention by Google.

  2. U.S. Patent No. 6,711,211 on a "method for encoding and decoding video information, a motion compensated video encoder and a corresponding decoder"

    This is the VP8 patent, and I predicted Google's related intervention.

  3. U.S. Patent No. 8,140,650 on "use of configurations in device with multiple configurations"

    Nokia alleges that HTC uses the claimed invention to manage app-specific permissions in a convenient and secure manner.

Google's motion says the accused HTC devices "use the Android operating system and/or include Google-proprietary Android applications and Google services such as Gmail, Google Play, Google Contacts, Google Calendar, Google accounts, and the Android Security Architecture".

The current deadline for HTC's answer to Nokia's complaint is July 18, 2013. Simultaneously with Google's motion to intervene, HTC requested an extension of time until July 24, 2013, which Nokia does not oppose. The ALJ has not yet set a case schedule (not even a target date) for this new investigation.

Finally, here's the full text of Google's motion:

13-07-11 Google Motion to Intervene in ITC Investigation of Nokia's Second Complaint Against HTC

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: