Nokia's pre-emptive strike against InterDigital's 3G-covering patent portfolio has reached a ruling by the English High Court, reducing an initial pile of 31 patents down to four: one of which has been ruled essential for 3G technology, and three which could, but might not be infringed by a 3G handset.
Nokia launched its action in 2005, in the knowledge that InterDigital would eventually sue it for patent infringement. At that point 31 patents were in dispute, and Nokia sought a ruling that it was possible to create a 3G-compliant handset without infringing them.
During the case Nokia withdrew a claim about one patent, while InterDigital gave up on nine. Two went out of date during the spat, and Interdigital chose not to contend another 15, leaving the court to rule on four patents.
Of those four, the court agreed that one, European Patent (UK) 0,515,610, is essential to the 3G standard. This means it is impossible to design a mobile phone that complies with the 3G standard without infringing on that patent, owned by InterDigital.
Shares in InterDigital leapt 11 per cent on the news, as owning even one patent essential to 3G puts you in the money, but the ruling was also heralded as a victory by Nokia, which noted the vast majority of claims were rejected and that even this ruling is still subject to appeal.
Either party can appeal the ruling. The likelihood of any appeal will probably depend on how InterDigital approaches licensing, and how much Nokia cares. ®
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