Nokia and IPCom: more fun before the EPO, but what's going on?

What a week it has been for Nokia! First, on Monday the IPKat reported that the mobile telecomms giant had triumphed in its battle with IPCom in proceedings before the Patents Court, England and Wales. "You can't infringe an invalid patent!, chortled Nokia, who pointed out that it had won all its cases against the German licensing company [cf penalty shoot-outs, which the Germans generally win]. The IPKat was also rapped on the paws for quoting Reuters to the effect that "back in December a district court in Mannheim, Germany, put on hold an application by IPCom for injunctions to ban the sale and distribution of Nokia handsets in Germany, pending final decisions on the validity of the patents by the European Patent Office". No such patents were before the EPO, but their German equivalents were before the Federal Patent Court, the Kat was told.

Today, just three short days later, the Kat has just received this missive from his friend Stephanie Bodoni (Bloomberg):
"Nokia Loses Bid to Annul IPCom European Mobile-Phone Patent

Nokia Oyj lost a European-wide bid to annul a mobile-communications patent held by German licensing company IPCom GmbH & Co. that may force the world s biggest maker of mobile phones and European network providers to pay licensing fees. The final appeals board of the European Patent Office in Munich today upheld an amended version of IPCom's patent, which covers the process by which mobile phone calls are transmitted through landlines. The patent covers 12 countries, including Finland, where Nokia is based.
This patent gives us an enormous economic advantage, said Bernhard Frohwitter, IPCom's managing director, in an interview. It protects a process that is used in each mobile-to-mobile-phone call.
IPCom and Nokia are entangled in a global battle that started in 2007 when IPCom acquired Robert Bosch GmbH's mobile-communications patents. At the European Patent Office alone, some 15 cases are pending. The disputes there and at the German patent court concern more than 60 IPCom patents. Further cases are pending in the US, Japan, Italy and the UK, where Nokia this week succeeded in overturning some IPCom patents.
We'e not being sued over this patent, said Mark Durrant, a Nokia spokesman, in a telephone interview about today's decision. It isn't the subject of any infringement actions right now [Well that's good news -- it's presumably a warm, furry little patent that causes no-one any problems ... so why go to the trouble of contesting its validity?].

Nokia has since 2003 sought to block the patent in today's case, ... This was Nokia's last chance to annul the patent in one go. While the company didn t succeed in cancelling the patent, its challenge managed to have only a narrowed-down version of the patent upheld today. Durrant said Espoo, Finland-based Nokia would challenge the patent's validity nationally if it is sued for an infringement.
IPCom is suing Nokia in Germany to stop it from using technology covered by 11 of the 160 patents the German patent licensing company had acquired from Bosch. A court in Mannheim, Germany, in December put on hold an infringement suit until German and European patent officials decided on validity.
Today's case concerns a totally different patent than the one being disputed at the Mannheim court, said Frohwitter [If it's a totally different patent, why would the Mannheim court have put the infringement case on hold, wonders the Kat]".
What a shame it is that the life of a patent is so short, mewses Merpel -- imagine what might happen if the degree of commitment and endeavour shown by the litigants here was reflected in a battle over potentially eternal IP rights, as in the well-documented Bud(weiser) trade mark saga. Adds the Kat, readers might like to contemplate an alternative outcome to this dispute, based on the assumptions that (i) each of the patents concerned covered the entirety of the territory of EPC-friendly Europe, (ii) the Unified Patent Litigation System was in operation and (iii) each party would make rational decisions based on sound commercial judgment ...
Nokia and IPCom: more fun before the EPO, but what's going on? Nokia and IPCom: more fun before the EPO, but what's going on? Reviewed by Jeremy on Thursday, January 21, 2010 Rating: 5

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