Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Dutch appeals court sides with Nokia in microphone case involving the HTC One

In April Nokia won an injunction in the Netherlands barring STMicroelectronics from supplying to HTC any dual-membrane microphones that were meant to be built exclusively for Nokia. As I explained then, Nokia holds a patent on the differentiating aspect of this microphone technology in the United States, but the related European patent application had not been granted, which is why the Dutch court did not order a recall. Still, this dispute is relevant in the wider Nokia v. HTC context, especially since HTC rejects in no uncertain terms any allegations of making unauthorized use of Nokia's inventions.

Today the Gerechtshof Amsterdam threw out STMicro's appeal (appellate opinion in Dutch). As a result, the injunction ordered by the lower court remains in effect, and HTC cannot incorporate the relevant STMicroelectronics microphones into its flagship HTC One device.

This is Nokia's statement on the Dutch ruling:

"Today we heard from the Amsterdam Appeals Court that it rejected STMicroelectronics' appeal in the microphone case first brought in April. This means that ST may not supply the High Amplitude Audio Capture (HAAC) technology microphones to other parties than Nokia until March 1, 2014.

Nokia welcomes this decision, which recognises and reinforces the value of our continuing investment in innovation."

In other Nokia-HTC news, the Mannheim Regional Court, Germany's leading smartphone patent venue, today decided (as I predicted) to stay the Nokia v. HTC patent infringement action over EP0882347 on "a radio telephone". HTC was found to infringe, but the court strongly doubts that the patent-in-suit is valid. Nokia issued the following statement on today's Mannheim ruling:

"Nokia is pleased that the court has agreed that HTC has infringed another patent and we look forward to demonstrating its validity at a future date. HTC needs to end its unauthorized use of Nokia’s proprietary innovations."

HTC has already obtained various stays (including a couple of stays to which Nokia stipulated) of German Nokia patent cases. Since parallel nullity (invalidation) proceedings before the Federal Patent Court generally take much longer than infringement actions filed in Mannheim or Munich, HTC has nothing to fear from those patents in the near term. But in the event the Federal Patent Court upholds a patent at issue in a stayed action, an injunction can issue very shortly thereafter.

Yesterday a different civil chamber (panel) of the Mannheim Regional Court dismissed Nokia's second VP8-related patent infringement action against HTC. In my report on the second VP8 trial I explained that the make-it-or-break-it issue in this case is a single claim construction question that could be viewed differently on appeal or in different jurisdictions where the same European patent or any of its non-European equivalents might be asserted. In that post I also said that I've seen the order to reopen the proceedings in Nokia's first VP8 case after a finding of a likely infringement. Recently Nokia brought its third patent assertion against Google's VP8 video codec (part of the WebM Project) in an ITC complaint.

Nokia provided the following statement on the VP8 ruling:

"Nokia respectfully disagrees with the decision of the court and we will consider our options. This is only one case among 50 patents originally asserted against HTC, and Nokia has recently filed further cases. To date, HTC has been found to infringe Nokia patents and an injunction is already in effect in Germany as a result of those decisions. HTC needs to end its unauthorized use of Nokia's proprietary innovations."

In summary, Nokia won a case before a Dutch appeals court, narrowly lost a VP8-related one in Germany (which it may appeal and/or pursue in other jurisdictions), and one other Nokia case was stayed, which benefits HTC for the time being but could still result in an injunction if Nokia defends the patent before the Federal Patent Court of Germany.

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