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(photo courtesy of Wikipedia and threestooges.net)

(photo courtesy of Wikipedia and threestooges.net)

     The Mannheim Regional Court in Germany has become the rockstar of international patent litigation venues, particularly with regard to all things cell phone. Foss Patents’ Florian Mueller describes the court in Mannheim as having “adjudicated far more wireless patent cases than any other judicial forum on this planet” (Florian’s excellent February 5, 2014 article is here).

     On February 11, all eyes will be on the Court as it presides over the trial of Munich-based IPCom GmbH’s infringement suits against Apple (IPCom v. Apple, case Nos. 2 O 53/12 and 2 O 95/13). IPCom’s suits are based, respectively, on IPCom’s European (EP 1841268; English machine translation here) and German (DE 19910239) patents directed to managing telecommunication channels and access authorization data for subscriber stations (via ‘Random Access Channel’ or RACH).

    Although IPCom has sued other companies (e.g. HTC and Nokia) over these and related patents, of late, Apple is getting all the attention because well, its Apple.  Also, the potential damages Apple will be facing are substantial; what amounts to over 2 billion $U.S. in the EP ‘268 patent litigation alone.

   IPCom has already had some success asserting its patents against other cell phone manufacturers and is likely raring to litigate after prevailing against Ericsson, Apple, Nokia, Vodafone and HTC in their validity challenge with regard to EP patent 1841268. The European Patent Office upheld validity of the patent in January.

    The patents at issue in the Apple lawsuits include Standard-Essential-Patents previously owned by Bosch. Some of the defendants and potential defendants (e.g. Nokia) have complained that IPCom is not honoring Bosch’s prior FRAND (“Fair Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory Terms”) pledge, which IPCom refutes. IPCom also alleges that the defendants have operated outside of the UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications Standard) standard and are, it alleges, using its patented technology without paying royalties.

     For a really excellent overview of both sides of “the FRAND wars”, see Jorge Contreras’ April 17, 2012 article, “The FRAND Wars- Who’s On First?” (posted originally on Dennis Crouch’s PatentlyO).