Mobile Market Patent War Lawsuits Increase

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Openwave has joined battle with Apple and RIM over IP infringements while WiLan sues the world again

We are entering a period of frantic patent litigation. Against a backdrop of just about every phone maker suing every other phone maker, Apple, Dell, HP, HTC, Kyocera, Alcatel-Lucent, Novatel and Sierra Wireless America are being collectively bashed over the head by patent troll WiLan with its wireless networking patents.

And Openwave is tackling Apple and RIM over the push technology it has been honing since it started business in 1996 as Libris.

Broad-Sweeping Claims

Apple and Research In Motion (RIM) have both had complaints filed against them by Openwave. The company is disputing ownership of the intellectual property (IP) that governs the way the two companies connect their products to the Internet.

The complaint requests that the International Trade Commission (ITC) in Washington DC and the federal district court in Delaware bar the import of smartphones, tablets and other devices, which Openwave contends infringes its patents. Products nominated by Openwave include Apple’s iPhones, the iPod Touch, and iPads; plus RIM’s Blackberry Curve 9330 and PlayBook.

The patents are very broad in scope, such as the use of email applications on a mobile device when a server is not available, or the access and sharing of data by different devices.

It will be interesting to track these complaints through courts because the data sharing and access patent is at the heart of cloud computing and there is hardly a remote access system that does not apparently impinge on this concept.

“As it became clear that these large companies would not substantively cooperate with us, the company carefully evaluated its legal position and litigation prospects,” said Ken Denman, CEO of Openwave. “We believe that our legal position is strong and our prospects of prevailing are very good. In our analysis, this is our best option to unlock the substantial value of our intellectual property.”

Patent Trolls

Meanwhile WiLan’s claims relate to patents it holds for CDMA, HSPA, LTE and Wi-Fi.

The company has a history of naming multiple companies in its lawsuits. The litigations are based on a library of 800 patents but this may be substantially boosted if its take-over of fellow patent troll (a company that makes its main income from patent litigation) Mosaid is successful.

Mosaid has a portfolio of 2,822 patents and it has recently acquired a further 2,000 from Nokia. On top of this a consortium headed by Microsoft and Apple has just acquired bankrupt Nortel’s patents and Google is negotiating to take over Motorola Mobility and its rich portfolio of shares.

There is legislation being pushed through Congress in the US to try to streamline the patents system and courts are being swamped with patent litigation. In the short-term, this does not seem to be a situation that is likely to ease in the coming year.

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