Nokia Looks Back in Time

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Patent wars between telecom giants Nokia and HTC refuse to die down, as recent developments in the case only hint at a long battle ahead. The dispute between the otherwise amicable parties started in May 2012 after Nokia filed an infringement case against HTC over nine key patents. This law suit springs a surprise as Nokia and HTC have been defending themselves jointly, in close collaboration, against IPCom, a patent monetization entity from Germany, for more than five years.

Facing a strong opponent such as Nokia, HTC has three options to consider in this scenario:

The first and the most natural course of action for HTC would be to continue with the litigation proceedings, and try to get a favorable judgment by proving invalidity of Nokia’s patents. But considering Nokia’s expertise at defending itself against invalidity claims, this doesn’t seem like the best to-go option.

The second and slightly risky alternative for HTC would be to counter sue Nokia with some of its own patents. This will also give HTC more time to defend itself from Nokia’s infringement claims. However, the extensiveness and intensity of Nokia’s patent portfolio is well recognized in the industry, hence it may not be very wise to do so. In recent years, Nokia has filed suits around the world against competitors to protect its more than 10,000 mobile-communications patents.

The third and the simplest solution to pacify the legal battle is to enter into a licensing agreement with Nokia. This will definitely give Nokia what it wanted, as the company had estimated it would receive around $675 million this year in royalties.

This case has taken an interesting turn even since HTC’s recent invalidity claim against Nokia’s U.S. Patent No. 6,647,370 on a “system and methods for scheduling and tracking events across multiple time zones”. Pointing to a Wired article (“Nov. 18, 1883: Railroad Time Goes Coast to Coast”), HTC believes that time zone-dependent schedules are 130 years old. It claimed that the concept of time zones and scheduling according to different time zones can be dated back to 1883, when North American railroads adopted five standardized time zones to end the confusion of dealing with thousands of local times.

While we too believe, that the patent claim is slightly broad and vague in some aspects, on the other hand, there are details in the following claims which are more specific and precise, containing high level source codes.

The debate continues on whether a detailed description of a technical element is sufficient to turn an abstract real world concept into a patentable technical invention. Although the verdict of the court is yet to be out, HTC will be hoping to find more evidence in the meanwhile, to prove the invalidity of this patent.

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Prerna Kakkar

A champion swimmer, Prerna's blogs reflect a sporty style. She is fascinated by new technologies and she showcases her analyses on patented technologies in interesting ways.

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