Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Nokia steps up pressure on HTC with French patent lawsuit, now suing in seven countries

HTC can run but it can't hide from Nokia's patent assertions on three continents. Originally, Nokia sued in two countries -- the United States and Germany -- in late April and early May 2012. More than 19 months later, HTC still hasn't taken a royalty-bearing patent license to any of Nokia's non-standard-essential patents (it does have a SEP license). Instead, it continues to defend itself and to emphasize its efforts to work around any Nokia non-SEPs it is found to infringe. Most recently, HTC obtained a stay from the England and Wales Court of Appeal, enabling it to ship all of its products into the UK market during the appellate proceedings following Nokia's recent win of an injunction over a hardware patent the court found various HTC devices incorporating Qualcomm and Broadcom chips to infringe.

Over time Nokia asserted an increasing number of patents against HTC, and it brought lawsuits in additional jurisdictions. In the UK, HTC was actually first to sue because it wanted to obtain declaratory judgments in order to influence various German courts, but Nokia counterclaimed for infringement (hence the aforementioned injunction). Subsequently, lawsuits in Italy, Japan and the Netherlands also became known. And the latest venue in which Nokia is suing HTC over one or more patents is Paris, France. I don't follow French patent lawsuits on a regular basis (though I attended a Samsung v. Apple preliminary injunction hearing before the Tribunal de Grande Instance in 2011), but I learned about this from a statement issued by Nokia on the stay of the UK action:

"Nokia was pleased that the UK High Court imposed an injunction on certain HTC products which it found in October to infringe a Nokia patent. The UK Court of Appeal has stayed the injunction until a full appeal hearing next year and Nokia welcomes the Court's invitation for the parties to expedite this. It is unfortunate that the stay means that HTC can continue to benefit from its unauthorized and uncompensated use of Nokia innovations. We look forward to the Court of Appeal confirming that the patent is valid and infringed, lifting the stay on the injunction and awarding Nokia financial compensation for HTC's infringement.

The same patent comes to trial in Dusseldorf, Germany next month and is also in suit in Paris, France; Rome, Italy[;] and its US counterpart is in Nokia's second complaint against HTC at the US International Trade Commission. Nokia began its actions against HTC in 2012, with the aim of ending HTC's unauthorised use of Nokia's proprietary innovations and has asserted more than 50 patents against HTC in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, UK and US. During 2013, HTC has been found to infringe Nokia patents in venues including the Regional Court in Mannheim, Germany, the UK High Court and the US International Trade Commission."

Last week the ITC decided to conduct (as usual) a review Nokia's preliminary win over HTC. In my post on that decision I already mentioned that a key Nokia v. HTC ruling is scheduled to be announced by the Munich I Regional Court this coming Friday (December 20) and explained that European Commission Vice President JoaquĆ­n Almunia's warning against Nokia's potential "patent trolling" after the sale of its wireless devices business doesn't mean much in practical terms. For SEPs, there are some key ongoing investigations (Samsung, Motorola Mobility) that will provide clarity for everyone (including, but not limited to, Nokia); and for non-SEPs, it's going to be a long shot for anyone trying to build an antitrust abuse theory. No antitrust regulator in the world has the authority to require Nokia to give away licenses to its patents for free, or to tolerate infringement. In principle, Nokia can sue until HTC pays. That's what it's doing and what it will continue to do. And the day will come when HTC will agree to pay.

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