Nokia wins power-saving related patent injunction against HTC in German court

Published by at

In the latest development in an on-going patent battle a German court in Mannheim granted Nokia an injunction against HTC over infringement of a patent related to power saving. The injunction could lead to a sales ban for HTC products in Germany, a recall of products currently in the distribution chain, and damages being paid to Nokia. However, the most likely outcome continues to be that HTC will sign a license agreement with Nokia.

The case in question, written up in more detail here on the FOSS Patents blog, is part of a wider dispute between Nokia and HTC. Nokia is currently asserting 40 different patents against HTC in three jurisdictions (US, UK, and Germany), although two of these were dimissed in Germany earlier this month (subject to appeal).

As Florian Mueller, writing on FOSS Patents, notes Nokia broadly licenses it standard essential patents (SEPs), but they represent only a portion of Nokia's intellectual property portfolio:

While Nokia's standard-essential patents (SEPs) are broadly licensed, its non-SEPs are not. Nokia is apparently willing to license some (but not all) of its non-SEPs. Other Android device makers than HTC and ViewSonic will sooner or later also need to agree with Nokia on a license to its non-standard-essential intellectual property. Apple and BlackBerry already have license agreements in place with Nokia covering SEPs as well as certain non-SEPs.

In the last few years Nokia has become more aggressive in seeking to gain revenue from its patents through licensing agreements with other players in the mobile industry. However, it's important not to forget that the technology underlying the patent may give a competitive advantage that Nokia would prefer to retain exclusively for its own handsets, something that is hinted at in Nokia statement on today's news:

"Nokia is pleased with this decision, which confirms the quality of Nokia’s patent portfolio. Nokia has also patented this power saving invention in the US, UK, France, Italy, Sweden, Austria, Japan and Hong Kong. In addition to this case in Germany, we have asserted the patent against HTC in the UK and in the US International Trade Commission, with a hearing in the US scheduled to start in two months’ time. More than 30 further Nokia patents have been asserted against HTC in other actions brought by Nokia in Germany, the US and the UK. HTC must now respect our intellectual property and compete using its own innovations."

Florian Mueller offers this observation on the Nokia statement:

The last sentence sounds a little bit like Apple. I still believe a license agreement will ultimately be struck, and it may only be a matter of weeks. But there's a strategic dimension to this and I interpret this statement as indicating that a license agreement would come with carve-outs and restrictions. Patent licensing is a key revenue source for Nokia, but at the end of the day it wants to increase its mobile handset market share.

HTC continues to mount a robust defence and says in a statement in response to the ruling that is has already removed the technology in question from devices being sold in Germany:

"The power-saving technology described in this patent is trivial and contributes only a negligible reduction in power-consumption, so HTC has removed any allegedly corresponding functionality from all of its current German handsets as a precaution against any attempt by Nokia to extend the scope of the judgment unfairly. HTC will be appealing the present decision but also believes that this patent is invalid and so will be continuing with the invalidity actions pending before the German Federal Patents Court and the English Patents Court."

This may be sufficient to prevent any direct impact from the latest ruling, but despite HTC's bullishness the weight of Nokia's overall patent portfolio, when compared to HTC's own patent portfolio, almost certainly means that the Finnish company will emerge victorious from the overall battle (HTC paying money to Nokia for some form of license). However, the various court cases around the disputed patents will likely have a significant impact on both the absolute licensing fees of any agreement, one-off payments (i.e. licensing fees for past infringements), and exactly what is included within the license.  

Source / Credit: FOSS Patents