Nokia wins German sales ban on HTC with battery patent injunction

Nokia has blocked the sale of some HTC devices in Germany, but HTC says it has already removed the infringing function from devices currently sold in the country.

Earlier this month two Nokia patent complaints against HTC were dismissed , but the Finnish handset maker came out on top this week, winning the right to ban HTC devices that infringe on its power-saving patent.

Mannheim Regional Court Judge Dr Holger Kircher ruled on Tuesday that HTC had infringed on Nokia's patent EP0673175 for "reduction of power consumption in a mobile station", patent expert Florian Mueller reported today.

The decision comes about two months ahead of Nokia's battle with HTC in the US International Trade Commission over the corresponding US Patents and Trademark Office patent US 5,570,369.

The ruling allows Nokia to post a bond of several million euros in order to ban the sale of and recall HTC's infringing devices, in addition to claiming damages decided through subsequent litigation, according to Mueller.

Nokia may also demand HTC pay a licence for the technology, Mueller notes. However, Nokia, pointing to upcoming litigation in the UK and US over the same patent, said that HTC must "compete using its own innovations".

Nokia emailed the following comment to ZDNet:

"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. 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."

HTC said the German ruling "is of little significance" since it only affects its Wildfire S, Desire S and Rhyme, which it no longer imports to Germany.

HTC also downplayed the necessity of the power-saving function, claiming it had removed the functionality from all its current handsets in Germany to prevent any wider action by Nokia related to its devices.

"This decision cannot be described as a 'win' for Nokia because it only applies to handsets that are no longer imported into Germany, and newer HTC handsets do not use the accused technology.   As Nokia clearly went to great lengths to assert its strongest patents first, we are confident that its non-essential patent portfolio poses little threat to HTC," it said. Nonetheless, it intends to appeal the decision.

However, the impact of the Mannheim Court's ruling may be more significant than HTC is letting on and could affect all HTC devices with a Qualcomm chip, according to Mueller.

"The devices HTC refers to are only exemplary accused devices, but the scope of the injunction at the enforcement stage is not limited to them: the injunction applies to all devices having the same infringement pattern," he writes, pointing to his belief all HTC devices with a Qualcomm chip "fall within scope" of the injunction.

Today's decision is one of 45 patent suits that Nokia brought against BlackBerry (formerly RIM), HTC and ViewSonic last year. While BlackBerry settled, HTC and ViewSonic opted to proceed through the courts.

Nokia is asserting 40 patents against HTC in the US, UK and Germany, according to Mueller.

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