Nokia, HTC Overturn Two-Thirds of IPCom Phone Patent

Nokia Oyj and HTC Corp. said they won part of a bid to overturn a mobile-phone patent that intellectual property holding company IPCom GmbH & Co. relies on in litigation against the two device makers.

Germany’s Federal Patent Court in Munich today struck down about two-thirds of the patent, upholding one portion. Nokia and HTC had asked the court to totally void the patent in the country.

IPCom, based in Pullach, Germany, is seeking to force Nokia and HTC to pay royalties for a portfolio of mobile technology patents it acquired from Robert Bosch GmbH in 2007. Nokia overturned some IPCom patents in a U.K. court and lost a bid to invalidate another patent at the European Patent Office.

“This is a great victory for us,” HTC’s German lawyer, Martin Chakraborty, said after the ruling. “The part that’s left for IPCom now won’t help them much in the case pending in civil court against us.”

The court said in the ruling about the cost of litigation that IPCom lost two thirds of the case and prevailed in one third. The ruling can be appealed.

“I can say now that our only task here was to determine who will appeal,” presiding Judge Wolfgang Gutermuth said after the delivering the ruling. “We know that this case will move up to Germany’s top civil court.”

Patent Protection

IPCom changed its strategy during the case and had given up some claims about what the patent protects. At a hearing today before the ruling, the court said it was unlikely to uphold the protection IPCom had sought at an Oct. 27 session. After IPCom lawyers narrowed the patent claims, the court backed that part.

“It’s a very positive ruling for IPCom because the patent is now valid,” IPCom Managing Director Christoph Schoeller said in an e-mailed statement. “We hope the civil litigation based on that patent will now come to a conclusion we’ve been fighting for years. Nokia and HTC haven’t paid a cent for using the patents for years.”

The court agreed with Nokia’s view that the patent was invalid as granted and found most of IPCom’s amended claims also to be invalid, Nokia spokesman Mark Durrant said in a e-mailed statement. The one patent claim which has survived so narrows the patent as to require the re-examination of any alleged infringement, he said.

Nokia rose 3.3 percent, or 23.5 euro cents, to 7.35 euros at the close of trading in Helsinki.

IPCom has filed separate infringement suits in German courts to stop the handset makers from selling products in that country. Some of the suits were put on hold while patent authorities and patent courts rule on the validity of the intellectual property.

IPCom won an infringement case against HTC in a Mannheim court based on the patent in today’s case. That suit is on appeal. Chakraborty said he is now optimistic he will win the appeals case.

Today’s cases are: BPatG, 5 Ni 67/09 (EU) and 5 Ni 77/09 (EU). The patent is: EP 1186189 (DE 500 14321).

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