Huawei brings global patent battle to Aus

Chinese telecoms manufacturer Huawei Technologies will next month take on a Dubai-based inventor in the Federal Court of Australia as part of a worldwide crackdown on a video system patent he has held since 2003.
Written by David Braue, Contributor

Chinese telecoms manufacturer Huawei Technologies will next month take on a Dubai-based inventor in the Federal Court of Australia as part of a worldwide crackdown on a video system patent he has held since 2003.

Australian patent No. 2004288303, entitled "System and method to broadcast video with clear sound and picture using the internet", was awarded to United Arab Emirates resident Moosa Eisa al Amri with an effective date of 2 November 2004. The patent was first registered in Egypt on 5 November 2003 with the reference number 2003111021.

Detailed WIPO patent documents say the system in question enables "video contents to be selected by a user via the internet and distributed via a multi-channel video broadcasting system, for the selected video content to be displayed at the user's location on a TV monitor or on a PC provided with a TV display card, immediately or with a delay in correspondence with a user command". The system comprises of a main video server storing video content, an authorisation server, a "multi-channel cable or satellite broadcasting apparatus" and a "distribution server" that transfers content from the main video server to the "broadcasting apparatus".

The patent appears to describe an IPTV broadcasting service not dissimilar to those currently being offered by FetchTV, Telstra, Foxtel and others. Al Amri's patent, however, is optimised to support users on 56Kbps modems by allowing them to select programming via the internet and its delivery by fast broadcasting methods such as satellite broadcasting or cable, rather than transmitting the actual video content over the internet.

Al Amri is chairman of Amricon, a Dubai-based company that produces a range of "smart" products that embed RFID chips into title deeds, bank cheques, university certificates and other documents to allow verification of their authenticity. Al Amri holds several related US patents, including a July 2002 patent on "boarding passes with encoded data and systems for issuing and processing them", an October 2002 patent on "smart documents", a December 2003 system for improving luggage collection with RFID-enabled tags, and a 2008 "system for checking the payment of vehicle parking charges".

These patents are reflected in Amricon products including its Smart Document, Smart Cheque, Smart Boarding Pass and Smart Parking offerings. Amricon also offers a solution called Smart Video Broadcast (PDF), which is likely to be the product to which the patent in question relates. The company is based in Dubai but expanded into the Malaysian and Singapore markets with an August 2007 distribution partnership with local reseller Plusxpert.

A hearing this month resulted in the case being deferred to mid March. Huawei's Australian representative, Allens Arthur Robinson partner Richard Hamer, will return to conduct a 13-part argument contending that al Amri's patent "is not a patentable invention ... in that the alleged invention is not a matter of manufacture". The term "matter of manufacture" refers to the question of whether an alleged invention is inventive enough to be considered more than a new use of something already existing.

Al Amri's patent "relates only to the use of well-known computer networks and broadcast networks for the purpose for which they were designed, namely to respectively communicate data and audiovisual content", Hamer argued in the brief. "The invention ... is not a manner of manufacture... No physical phenomenon or effect results from the working of the claimed method or system."

The brief also alleged that al Amri's system relies on "common general knowledge" and cites a number of earlier patents from which it is suggested the patent in question was created. Hamer also argued that the patent is "not fully described" and that its claims "are not clear and succinct".

Amri's patent is also registered in dozens of other countries including Canada, the Philippines, European Union member states and New Zealand.

Huawei is pursuing global action to invalidate the patent in all jurisdictions where it has been approved, but company representatives declined to comment on the case, or to explain why Huawei has an interest in the invalidation of this particular patent.

Al Amri was also approached for comment on the case, but had not responded at the time of writing.

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