Thursday, February 20, 2014

Gave keynote at settlement party of HTC and Nokia's German lawyers, patent attorneys

It's a well-known fact that (good) lawyers treat each other as colleagues, not adversaries, despite their best efforts to defend their clients' interests vigorously. The relationship between Nokia and HTC's German outside patent litigators and patent attorneys stands out nonetheless. After roughly six years of jointly defending against patent licensing firm IPCom, they are on unusually friendly terms, and this did not change in the slightest as a result of the dispute between Nokia and HTC that lasted almost two years (April 2012 - February 2014) and had its center of gravity, in terms of the number of asserted patents and decisions handed down, in Germany.

This evening, approximately 30 of the 50 attorneys-at-law and patent attorneys involved with the German part of the Nokia-HTC dispute gathered for a drink in a spacious conference room in the Dusseldorf office of Hogan Lovells, at the invitation of HTC's lead outside attorney in Germany, Dr. Martin Chakraborty. I had the pleasure and the honor of making a surprise appearance as a keynote speaker. Dr. Chakraborty had this idea, I accepted the invitation, and we had not told anyone about it beforehand.

Since I had attended most of the German hearings and trials in this dispute over these past two years, I was uniquely positioned to provide an anecdotal recap and share certain observations on the occasion of this unusual celebration. I did this for two reasons. One, I have the greatest respect for both camps' legal work. In absolute numbers, this dispute produced various records with respect to the smartphone IP matters I monitor and even beyond. Offensively and defensively. It was a clash of Titans. Two -- and this was no less important to me personally --, I know that HTC and its lawyers found themselves in disagreement with my commentary more frequently than Nokia did, but I do respect both companies (over the years I've taken increasingly favorable positions on HTC's approach to patent litigation) and appreciated this opportunity to show it.

Now that the dust has settled and a deal has been struck, I sincerely hope that the deal terms (which are entirely unknown to me) will help both parties as they pursue their (now-divergent) business models. They face challenges without a doubt, but they also have opportunities.

It was the first invitation to give a speech outside the Munich area that I accepted in almost three years. (By the way, I have no compensation for my time to disclose in this context.)

In my (relatively short) address I mentioned that one of the intriguing aspects of this spat was the diversity of the patents-in-suit: pretty much everything patentable in the mobile devices industry from A as in "antenna" to U as in "USB" -- only to be reminded that V as in "VP8" (Google's video codec) had also been at issue.

For the sake of a complete record of who was involved with this massive effort I'm now going to list both parties' law firms in alphabetical order (firstly Nokia's since this was also the party that started it).

Nokia's law firms:

HTC's (including S3 Graphics') law firms:

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