Friday marked an important milestone in Nokia’s war against 3G IPR owners, and the competing efforts of one of the two major IPR licensing companies (InterDigital) to preserve its business model. It was clearly a mixed decision, with each side winning some but not all of what it wanted — as evidenced by both stocks going up.
InterDigital (as it is wont to do) issued a press release to spin the results. The release aptly summarizes the complexity of the particulars:
InterDigital, Inc. ... today announced that the English High Court issued a judgment finding that European Patent (UK) 0,515,610 ... is essential to the 3G UMTS WCDMA European standard promulgated by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute. ...The press release quoted IDCC’s “Chief Legal Officer,” a testament to the importance of litigation in its business model.
In bringing the action in July 2005, Nokia sought a declaration that 31 of InterDigital’s UMTS patents registered in the UK are not essential to the standard. ...
In the course of the litigation, Nokia withdrew its challenge to one InterDigital patent, InterDigital withdrew nine patents as non-essential, and two patents are no longer in force. InterDigital chose not to contend at trial that a further fifteen patents were essential, but considers that these patents may be essential under the second part of the ETSI definition described above. Accordingly, the recent trial and this judgment involved four patents.
The litigation suggests that IDCC has overdeclared its IPR, and in the face of litigation, abandoned most of its claims of essentiality. It made a stand on 4 patents, and managed to win 1 — plus the 1 patent that Nokia conceded up front. Of course, any essential patent means that Nokia has to pay royalties, and (as with the Qualcomm-Broadcom patent dispute) those can be quite significant. (Maybe that’s why Nokia didn’t issue a press release).
What I found most interesting in researching the story was to discover an unfamiliar IP blog called “ipeg”. Its coverage of the Nokia v. InterDigital explained the legal basis on which the competing claims were decided, something I didn’t find anywhere else. The tone suggests that its interest in IP is oriented towards a lay audience — or at least towards a business audience. I quickly added it to my RSS reader.