Apple's iPhone found to infringe Sony, Nokia patents

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A federal jury in Delaware has found Apple’s iPhone infringes on three patents held by MobileMedia, a patent-holding company formed by Sony, Nokia and MPEG LA.

The jury’s verdict in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware was announced on Thursday and came after a seven-day trial and just a day of deliberations.

The jury found that the iPhone 3G, 3GS and 4 directly infringed claims in U.S. patent 6,070,068, which was issued to Sony and covers a method for controlling the connecting state of a call, U.S. patent 6,253,075, issued to Nokia and which covers call rejection, and U.S. patent 6,427,078, also issued to Nokia and which covers a data processing device.

A copy of the completed jury verdict form was seen by IDG News Service.

Apple had argued that all three patents were invalid, but the jury disagreed.

“We’re pleased that the court found infringement on all three patents and we think that it’s justified,” a spokesman for MobileMedia said by phone. He said the company plans to make a more detailed statement later.

Apple did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

"What you've got here is a patent licensing company squeezing the last juice out of patents that have dates going back to the mid-nineties," said Christopher Carani, a shareholder at the law firm McAndrews, Held & Malloy, who specializes in design patents.

Patent rights on U.S. patents last 20 years from the date of filing. Two of the patents in the case were filed in 1997 and one in 1998.

"When you have patent infringement there are basically two remedies," Carani said. "Damages and injunction."

Carani said he thinks MobileMedia stands a chance of being awarded damages, but only for reasonable patent royalties. An injunction or damages on lost sales are unlikely because the phones in question are old, and MobileMedia doesn't sell phones so can't claim lost sales.


The dispute dates back to March 2010, when MobileMedia filed its lawsuit against Apple.

The original complaint included 14 patents, including some claims against iPod media players, but most of those claims were dropped as the case progressed towards a trial. MobileMedia originally asked the court for an injunction against sales of infringing products and damages.

MobileMedia Ideas was formed in January 2010 when Sony and Nokia teamed with MPEG LA, a patent licensing organization, to better exploit some of the patents held by each company. A listing on MobileMedia's website of patents managed by the company includes around 125 current U.S. patents.

Carani thinks the victory against Apple could help MobileMedia in the future. The win could persuade other companies approached by MobileMedia to negotiate a patent license rather than risk a court case.

"Having a finding like this will fill the coffers of a company like MobileMedia, and they will continue their campaign. In the past, they've gone against RIM and HTC. This is their M.O. (modus operandi)," Carani said.

The case is MobileMedia Ideas v. Apple, 10-cv-258, at the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.

Updated at 10:35 a.m. PT and again at 1:30 p.m. PT with more details about the ruling and  comments from MobileMedia and analysts.

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