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“Vintage Telephone” by David St. Pierre courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

     A little while back, the Court in Mannheim Germany dismissed IPCom’s multi-billion dollar case against Apple (the Court apparently did not publish the reasoning for its decision).

    Readers will recall that IPCom’s case was enormous and filed against many different companies in the mobile/cell phone industry (or the “handy” or “cep” industry for our German and Turkish friends, respectively..).  IPCom was seeking over $2 billion in its German case against Apple alone.

     The Court found that Apple did not infringe two  patents asserted by IPCom, both of which IPCom had purchased  from Bosch in about 2007.  According to Bloomberg, the patents are key parts of IPCom’s patent portfolio.  In light of IPCom’s business model, the dismissal must be devastating for IPCom. IPCom itself doesn’t itself produce products covered by its patents, but instead uses the patents to obtain licensing fees (or as in this case, patent damages) from cell phone makers.  So… is  IPCom a patent troll? Well, we’ll leave that up to you to decide.  But, we do absolutely love the UK Register’s headline summing up the outcome of the German case: “Apple Beats Off Troll in German Patent Fracas.”

     The Court’s decision to reject IPCom’s infringement claims came shortly after IPCom’s appeal at the European Patent Office regarding EPO Patent No. 1841268. While the EPO upheld validity of the patent, it also  narrowed its scope. To oversimplify a bit, the EPO focused on the scope of the claims in relation to the number of digital bits used to determine priority of a mobile calling device in relation to an accessed network.  In the IPCom litigation, Apple had argued that its devices use a system requiring at least three bits, whereas IPCom’s patent, it was alleged, covered only single-bit priority systems.

    While Apple and other cell phone makers prevailed in this latest litigation, IPCom’s story may not be over. Although IPFrontline published its article before Apple’s win in Mannheim, it makes many thought-provoking points regarding the ‘268 EPO patent (see “European Patent Office Confirms Validity of IPCom’s Patent”).  First, while narrowed, the patent is still valid. Also, it is considered standards essential with regard to UMTS (“Universal Mobile Telecommunications System”) and LTE (“Long-Term Evolution”) standards.  While its not clear whether, as IPFrontline claims, that cell phone makers’ deviation from the standard covered by the ‘268 EPO patent is a “security risk”, this is an issue that IPCom may press later in its litigation battles.

     IPCom has vowed that it will appeal the Mannheim Court’s decision. As they say, “its not over ’til its over.”