updated 07:10 pm EDT, Wed May 30, 2012
Patent withdrawn in Germany, all injunctions denied
In June 2011, IPCom won a legal dispute versus Nokia over a patent that covers implementation of priority access to cell networks for first responders and other designated users, typically law enforcement and government. Nokia was found to be using the intellectual property, without proper licensing, in its implementation of 3G. The parties have since been negotiating for a licensing agreement. A UK judge indicated to IPCom last week that an injunction wasn't possible based on Nokia's good-faith effort to negotiate a license.
IPCom is a non-practicing entity (NPE), also sometimes referred to as a "patent troll." A NPE is a patent owner that does not manufacture or use a patented invention. Rather than abandoning or opening the patent up for use, however, the company enforces its rights through licenses and litigation. IPCom has no products, but owns several patents, mostly related to 3G communication methods.
The UK court recalled IPCom's NPE status, and enforced its obligation to issue a license for the technology. Nokia has acknowledged since last year's decision that they do in fact need a license and have been making an effort to obtain one from IPCom. Based on these factors, the judge is refusing to issue an injunction against Nokia's products for violating IPCom's patents.
This isn't a victory per se for Nokia, as the company still has to negotiate and pay a license for the essential technology, but the Finnish handset maker welcomed it just the same. A spokesperson said "Nokia is pleased that the UK High Court has finally dismissed IPCom's attempts to obtain an injunction. Mr Justice Roth has confirmed that IPCom must abide by the commitments that it made to the European Commission, and cannot seek injunctions under standard-essential patents against companies such as Nokia who are prepared to take a licence on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms."
German courts historically side with NPEs in patent suits, however UK courts have been less willing to enforce such demands in certain instances. In a break in trends, a Munich court revoked IPCom's patent in April. IPCom and Nokia have more suits pending in both German and UK courts.