Apple Loses One...or Three

By Tony Rizzo December 14, 2012

Those pesky patent lawsuits can cut both ways, or so Apple has been finding out of late. Yesterday, a Delaware District Court jury delivered a unanimous guilty verdict on Apple, infringing three patents held by a little company by the name of MobileMedia Ideas.

MobileMedia Ideas is a little entity owned by Nokia, Sony and MPEG LA (actually, it’s owned by Tagivan, a subsidiary of MPEG LA). The campaign was specifically set up to help its owners monetize a variety of patents.

Does that mean MobileMedia Ideas is nothing more than a “patent troll” along the lines of Wi-LAN, a company we’ve labeled as such in an article covering a patent lawsuit it has filed against Research in Motion (RIM)? Well no. The company exists to help monetize patents owned by the original patent creators and inventors, and only exists to make money for them. It doesn’t acquire patents from other sources that it then tries to monetize for itself, as Wi-LAN does. There is a distinct difference.

The three patents make up an interesting little collection:

  • US 6,427,078 covers camera phones and was originally filed by Nokia back in 1997.
  • US 6,070,068 covers call handling and setup and was originally filed by Sony, also in 1997.
  • US 6,253,075 covers call rejection and was filed by Nokia in 1998.

They may sound old, but all three have been deemed valid and infringed by Apple's iPhones.

MobileMedia Ideas has a portfolio of inventions and more than 300 patents that cover technology that is widely used not only in smartphones and feature phones, but in numerous other mobile and portable devices as well. These include personal computers, laptops, netbooks, personal media players, eBook readers, cameras and hand-held game consoles. The overall portfolio covers a range of features such as call handling, speed dial, database searches, audio download and playback, and still picture and video processing.

MobileMedia Ideas’ primary goal is to make access to these important inventions easily available to everyone “on reasonable terms.”

Besides Apple, the company also currently has patent cases pending against RIM in the U.S. District court for the Northern District of Texas and against HTC in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

Judging from the results of the Apple case, it likely has strong cases against RIM and HTC as well.

MobileMedia Ideas president and CEO, Larry Horn, said that, "MobileMedia Ideas is pleased that the jury confirmed Apple's iPhones use our patented technology. MobileMedia Ideas' objective is to make these important technologies and others used in mobile phone and other portable devices widely available. We welcome Apple and others to enter into licenses for the use of these technologies."

Apple, of course, can certainly try to appeal the verdict and can try to continue the fight, but it’s hard to see how Apple can possibly make the case to do so. The infringement verdict in this case is based on six claims in total that were upheld from all three patents, which strongly suggests the patents have already proven themselves sufficient to withstand any other legal scrutiny.

The best thing here is for Apple to move quickly to sign a licensing agreement with MobileMedia Ideas. What this means is that ultimately Nokia and Sony will end up collecting the licensing fees. Fair and reasonable certainly doesn’t put any billion dollar number on these, and in fact it is likely to provide little in terms of any real revenue. In good part it is a moral victory.

It’s worth noting that Apple already shells out licensing royalties to Nokia under an earlier settlement between the two companies.

The jury’s decision will likely have an impact on MobileMedia’s suits against HTC and RIM. And that impact is not likely to be a positive one for either HTC or RIM.

Edited by Braden Becker

TechZone360 Senior Editor

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