e-Patents (Dec 09): Top US patent holders, Nokia’s iPhone suit and more
This update focuses on recent intellectual property decisions and developments impacting the field of information and communications technology.
Patent infringement over Barens & Noble e-reader
Spring Design has recently taken legal action against Barnes & Noble asserting patent infringement of its patents relating to the ‘Alex’ e-book. Spring Design is asserting that Barnes & Noble’s ‘Nook’ e-book, which was recently released, is an infringement of its patent rights.
Nokia’s patent claim against Apple iPhone
Nokia sued Apple in October 2009 asserting Apple’s iPhone breaches various patents held by Nokia. The patents relate to wireless transmission technologies that Nokia assisted in developing as part of a group of telecommunications companies, of which Apple is not a member. Apple’s iPhone uses GSM and UMTS wireless communications standards which are purportedly protected by Nokia’s patent rights. It has been reported that Apple has sold more than 34 million iPhones but refuses to pay patent licence fees to Nokia. In the lawsuit, Nokia has not specified an amount of damages sought.
Microsoft wins date-picker patent suit against Lucent
In a case that illustrates that a 20 year patent term is a very significant length of time for technology changes in business, Microsoft had an effective win in an appeal decision against Lucent. Lucent filed a patent in 1986 related to an on-screen keyboard to enter information in a computer. Microsoft was sued by Lucent in 2002 for patent infringement. The patent expired in 2006, but the lawsuit is ongoing over the calculation of past damages. The dispute is centred around the “date picker” function found in the Microsoft Office calendar. On appeal, although infringement was confirmed, Microsoft was successful in having the calculation of US$350 million damages vacated. The appeal court found the “date picker” function is not a substantial driver of Microsoft Office sales. This meant that damages should not have been based upon the “entire market value” of the product (in this case 8% of the sales revenue for Microsoft Office). The case was remitted for a new trial solely on the calculation of damages. Microsoft had argued the correct calculation should result in only US$6 million in damages.
The top US patent holders in 2008: IBM, Samsung, Canon
IFI Patent Intelligence earlier this year released its annual compilation of top-ranked US patent holders for 2008. The US Patent and Trademark Office issued a total of 157,774 patents in 2008. Although IBM still tops the list as receiving the highest number of US patents, a shift away from US companies to Asian companies was noted. Top US patent receiving companies in 2008 were IBM (4,186 patents), Samsung (3,515 patents), Cannon (2,114 patents), Microsoft (2,030 patents), Intel (1,776 patents), Matsushita (1,745 patents), Toshiba (1,609 patents), Fujitsu (1,494 patents), Sony (1,485 patents) and Hewlett-Packard (1,424 patents). Although US companies collectively hold 26% of US patents granted in 2008, Japanese companies are a close second with 23%, followed in a distant third place by German companies with 6%.
Other recent news
In other recent news:
- Nintendo v Fenner Investments – alleged patent infringement by Nintendo game controllers – case dismissed by court.
- TiVo v Echo Star – Echo Star ordered to pay US$104.6 million in damages for patent infringement relating to allowing users to record a program and watch another program at the same time.
- i4i v Microsoft – US$200 million damages awarded against Microsoft for patent infringement for XML editing tool.
- Deep Nines v McAfee – US$25 million awarded against McAfee for patent infringement relating to anti-virus software and network security technology.