Nokia and IPCom trade blows over N96 patent infringement suit

In patent rulings, it's generally pretty clear which side is the winner and which the loser, but both Nokia and German company IPCom seem to think they've come out on top in a recent UK IP case covering 3G technologies. Judge Christopher Floyd found in favor of IPCom's allegations, this week, that two Nokia devices infringed on UMTS patents bought by the company from Bosch in 2007; however, he also dismissed claims that a further twelve device variants fell foul of the same patents.Meanwhile, Nokia argued that, since the two devices in question are no longer current, what the ruling really amounts to is validation that the company can continue selling those handsets Judge Floyd said did not infringe IPCom's patents. "We can continue selling those products, now with legal certainty" Nokia told SlashGear, going on to describe IPCom's accusations as "an aggressive tactic to put pressure on Nokia to agree to discriminatory and unrealistic licensing terms."

"Nokia is clearly misleading the public on what the court ruled today" IPCom managing director Bernhard Frohwitter told Bloomberg in a statement, going on to suggest that the two devices found to be infringing the patents were still in use. "IPCom is ready to enforce the UK ruling" he concluded.

The identity of the two phones in question was originally kept confidential, though according to the judgement it seems that two versions of the Nokia N96 are at fault. Nokia modified the original N96 in an attempt to remove any infringement, but the second version was deemed to still use IPCom's technologies.

However, the N96 began shipping back in September 2008, and was effectively succeeded by the N97 in mid-2009. We're not entirely sure where IPCom's suggestion that the handset is still in use comes from. Nokia plans to appeal against the N96 finding in any case, and – in their full statement, below – denies that IPCom's technologies are, in fact, "a mandatory element of the UMTS standard" and used in all phones.

You can download the entire ruling here [PDF link]

Nokia Statement:

"We are pleased that the UK High Court declared that Nokia's current products do not infringe the patent. This means that we can continue selling those products, now with legal certainty, despite claims to the contrary made by IPCom.

IPCom's press release reflects a severe misunderstanding of Justice Floyd's decision. He ruled that Nokia devices, no longer on sale, which had older software versions (A1 & A2) infringed the amended patent but that newer versions B-G, incorporating our workarounds, did not infringe the amended patent (see paragraph 214, the conclusion of the judgment). And as our current products do not infringe the amended patent, there can be no injunction against them and we can continue selling those products.

IPCom's assertion that the patent covers "a mandatory element of the UMTS standard" ... "used in all UMTS phones" is also inaccurate. UK operators provided statements to the Court to confirm that the feature had never been implemented in UK networks. German operators have confirmed that the same is true for networks in Germany.

We respectfully disagree with the Court's view that the patent is valid in amended form, and that some of our older products may have infringed the amended patent. We intend to appeal that part of the decision. Nokia and others have also filed oppositions against this patent at the European Patent Office, which will rule on its validity at a later date.

IPCom's patent infringement allegations are an aggressive tactic to put pressure on Nokia to agree to discriminatory and unrealistic licensing terms, which we will continue to defend vigorously. The UK High Court's decision today continues the trend that, of more than 50 IPCom patents which have so far come to judgment, none have been found valid as granted, suggesting that its claims for the value of its portfolio have been overstated."