Patent troll demands HTC ban enforcement

HTC is trying to stop a patent troll from banning it from selling its smartphones in Germany.

After Apple was successful in getting an injunction banning Samsung from flogging its tablet in Germany because it was flat, black and square, patent trolls have started to see Germany as the East Texas of the EU.

Basically, all a patent troll has to do is show up at the Mannheim Court and ask for an injuction which would take a product off the shelves until the outfit agrees to a licence agreement. The other alternative is to wait, with the product in a warehouse, until the Mannheim Court can actually hear the case. By then the product will be so out of date it would have been better to pay off the patent troll.

However, this case is slightly different. In 2009 IPCom, which has never made anything in its life, managed to get a Mannheim court to slap an injunction on HTC which should stop it selling smartphones. HTC appealed and while everyone was waiting for the case to happen the injunction was lifted. HTC withdrew its appeal which meant that it could be enforced.

Retailers are still selling the phones on the basis that their customers want them and IPCom is now threatening them and HTC for not complying with a court ruling on injunction of its sales.

It seems strange to us that HTC is flogging a phone which is the same as one made in 2009. Three years to develop a phone that did not infringe IPCom patents is a doddle. If the current batch of phones do not infringe patents then IPCom is using a court ruling on an old product as an enforcement tool for new gear.

HTC said that it has come up with a work around and modified its implementation of the UMTS standards so it did not infringe the patents. HTC says the injunction covers only one HTC handset which is no longer sold in Germany.

Mannheim court ruled in February 2009 against HTC in a patent fight with IPCom, allowing an injunction against sales of HTC phones using UMTS technology, and setting a penalty of up to $335,000 each time the injunction was contravened.

Reuters says that the fines from the German court could cost millions of euros and hurt HTC’s position in one of its key markets. The company sells around 2 million smartphones a year in Germany, some five percent of the group’s total.

HTC also faces a ban in the US where the US ITC has confirmed that the outfit has infringed on two patents belonging to Apple. This would be that the HTC Android phones are flat and black.

Patent expert Florian Mueller said  it could take months before the court in Mannheim decides on the request for sanctions.