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One of the many legal battles involving smartphone manufacturers is Nokia suing HTC over several patent infringements. Nokia filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission (ITC) claiming HTC encroached on several patents with their Android based devices. 

Through the course of the litigation several of the claims were dropped leaving three patent claims to be ruled on. An Administrative Law Judge with the ITC has issued a preliminary ruling against HTC on two of the three remaining patent claims which very well could lead to a U.S. import ban against HTC.

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Today in Germany, the District Court of Mannheim ruled that HTC was not guilty of infringing on two patents owned by Nokia, including one involving the use of Google Play on HTC Android devices. The patent (EP0812120), which nebulously covers a "method for using services offered by a telecommunication network, a telecommunication system and a terminal for it," was one that HTC called the "flagship patent" in the suit that alleges over 45 intellectual property violations by HTC.

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Motorola/Google lost a bit of ground in their patent litigation against Microsoft when the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington invalidated or dismissed thirteen of Motorola's patent infringement claims. The litigation claims that Microsoft infringed on sixteen of Motorola's patents with the Windows Phone and Xbox 360 systems.

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Apple loses patent suit to Nokia, Sony

A Delaware jury has ruled that Apple violated three patents owned by MobileMedia Ideas LLC. (MMI), a patent holding company that was created by Nokia, Sony and MPEG-LA.

The original complaint, filed in March of 2010, alleged that Apple's iPhone used technology protected by fourteen patents held by MobileMedia Ideas. However, all but three patents, 6070068, 6253075, and 6427078, were removed from the suit before it began. MobileMedia Ideas describes these patents as relating to "incoming/current call processing", "incoming call rejection", and "image capture/transfer."

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An angry shareholder has dropped a class-action suit that he filed back in May accusing Nokia of fraud. Robert Chmielinski, a Nokia investor, had claimed that Nokia spokespeople, including CEO Stephen Elop, knowingly made false statements about how its Lumia line of Windows Phones would boost their position in the global mobile phone market. The suit was based declining stock prices.

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The United States International Trade Commission ruled in favor of HTC in a battle over intellectual property with FlashPoint Technology.  FlashPoint filed suit with the ITC earlier this year, claiming that cameras on some HTC Android and Windows Phone devices infringed on patents held by FlashPoint, a former subsidiary of Apple.  A trade commission judge decided back in July that this was not the case, and rest of the commission agrees.  The official ruling on the case said:

"The Commission has determined to affirm the judge’s determination of no violation of Section 337 with respect to the ’769 patent on the bases that (1) the accused HTC Android smartphones and the accused HTC Windows Phone 7 (WP7) smartphones do not infringe the ’769 patent, and (2) respondent has established that it has an implied license to practice the ’769 patent with respect to the accused WP7 smartphones."

FlashPoint Technology has made similar claims against Nokia, RIM and LG under a different patent, but those were settled before a ruling took place.  HTC is no stranger to getting sued over intellectual property, having fought a long battle with Apple, who they in turn filed a countersuit against.  This is just one more intellectual property battle in what has become an ugly and all-too-familar sight.

Source: US International Trade Commission; Via: The Register

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Sprint has hit a snag in their civil suit to prevent the merger of rivals AT&T and T-Mobile on the grounds that such a deal would kill competition, stifle innovation and result in higher prices for consumers .  A US District judge has denied Sprint's request to obtain internal AT&T documents, which are a vital part of the discovery phase of the lawsuit.  While Judge Ellen Huvelle stopped short of AT&T's request of dismissing the case, it dealt a huge blow to Sprint's hopes of suing the merger away. 

Explaining the decision, Huvelle said that Sprint does not "stand in the shoes of the consumer or the Department of Justice," and therefore, access to internal documents would not be "efficient or fair."  The Department of Justice is also suing to prevent the merger and may stand a better chance of obtaining the information that Sprint is after.  Judge Huvelle is presiding over both cases and still has yet to make a decision on whether or not to dismiss them all together.

Source: Reuters; Via: Electronista

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California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington have all jumped on the Department of Justice's bandwagon to prevent the acquisition of T-Mobile by AT&T. Echoing the concerns expressed in the DOJ's lawsuit about the deal killing compettion, New York Attorney General, Eric T. Schneidermen explained in a statement how his state would be affected: "This proposed merger would stifle competition in markets that are crucial to New York's consumers and businesses, while reducing access to low-cost options and the newest broadband-based technologies."

AT&T responded to the news of the new plaintiffs in a statement of their own:

It is not unusual for state attorneys general to participate in DOJ merger review proceedings or court filings. At the same time, we appreciate that 11 state attorneys general and hundreds of other local, state and federal officials are publicly supportive of our merger. We will continue to seek an expedited hearing on the DOJ’s complaint. On a parallel path, we have been and remain interested in a solution that addresses the DOJ’s issues with the T-Mobile merger.

We remain confident that we’ll reach a successful conclusion and look forward to delivering the merger benefits of additional wireless network capacity to improve customer service, expanded LTE deployment to 55 million more Americans, $8 billion in additional investment, and a commitment to bring 5,000 wireless call center jobs back to the United States.

Though AT&T may be hoping to settle with the Department of Justice, it will be more difficult now that the seven states have joined in. An initial scheduling hearing has been set for September 21 where a date for the trial will be set. The DOJ is pushing for a March 19 start, while AT&T is looking to begin January 16.

Source: Reuters; Via: PhoneScoop

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AT&T has filed lawsuits in eight different jurisdictions to defend itself against a wave of arbitration cases filed by Bursor & Fisher on behalf of over 1000 AT&T customers.  The New York law firm started a website called to find a horde of AT&T users to file individual arbitration cases against Ma Bell, in order to prevent the acquisition of T-Mobile.  The method of attack was chosen because AT&T's terms of service bar customers from filing lawsuits against them, instead offering the option of third-party arbitration.

AT&T issued a statement to each court claiming that Bursor & Fisher intend to proceed with each case individually, that they are actually launching a thinly-veiled class-action suit, which is prohibited by the terms of service as well.

“This merger will provide tremendous benefits for customers and unleash billions of dollars in badly needed investment, creating many thousands of well-paying jobs that are vitally needed given our weakened economy — a fact that’s been recognized by consumers, public officials, and groups of all types. However, the bottom line here is an arbitrator has no authority to block the merger or affect the merger process in any way. AT&T’s arbitration agreement with our customers — recently upheld by the Supreme Court — allows individual relief for individual claims. Bursor & Fisher is seeking class-wide relief wrapped in the guise of individual arbitration proceedings, which is specifically prohibited by AT&T;s arbitration agreement. Accordingly, the claims are completely without merit. We have filed suit in order to stop this abusive action.”

So it looks like a battle of semantics versus loopholes that will ultimately be decided in the courts.  But even if AT&T prevails in this matter, there is still a long road ahead.  A seemingly wary FCC still needs to approve the deal, and there is a long list of other challengers as well, including advocacy groups, politicians and other carriers. 

Source: AllThingsD; Via: TechCrunch

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A New York law firm, Bursor & Fisher, has filed arbitration against ATT in a bid to prevent the purchase of T-Mobile.  The eleven separate cases come on behalf of ATT custromers who claim that the acquisition violates the Clayton Antitrust Act and will negatively affect consumers.

The merger still needs to make it through the Department of Justice and FCC gauntlets, but attorney Steve Brusor sees this as one more measure that can be taken to prevent it:

“Government enforcement is an important part of the antitrust laws, but the Clayton Act also permits private parties who may be adversely affected to challenge a proposed merger. That means any AT&T cellphone, data or iPad customer who will suffer higher prices and diminished service because of this merger can sue to stop it from happening.”

His firm has created a website, in hopes of finding more ATT users who want to join the fight.  The strategy is simple, yet brilliant.  Ma Bell requires customers to agree to a contract that prohibits them from filing class-action lawsuits, instead forcing them into mediated arbitration, at ATT's expense nonetheless.  The plan is to bring as many arbitration cases against ATT as possible, in hopes of getting at least one mediator to rule in favor of the plaintiff.  If that happens, Bursor thinks there is a strong case to shoot down the deal. 

Despite this, as well as the joint efforts of consumer advocate groups and wireless carriers like Sprint, it's still an uphill battle.  ATT is a huge company and has gained the support of countless politicians, lobbyists and other corporations.  And although ATT was not available to comment on the arbitration cases directly, they seemed confident during an earnings call yesterday that the deal would go through as early as Q1 2012.

Source: AllThingsD

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Apple is on a fight against the world it seems (albeit Microsoft is no angel) when it comes to smartphone patents (and insane term trademarks). I must admit that I find it strange, not to mention anyone who's not familiar with the ins and outs of smartphone technology who could wonder "wouldn't this be the same if Sony were to sue Microsoft over competing with the PlayStation?" The fruit company is after HTC again with their products running the Android OS.

What has this got to do with our platform? Well, there's no touching OEMs on Windows Phone since everything's protected (if you will) by Microsoft so HTC is comfortably wrapped in Ballmer Bubblewrap. Google, on the other hand, offers no protection (or indemnification) for OEMs and partners with their platform. HTC is a loved WP7 manufacturer, so we hate to see anything negative happen to them.

Affected products include the HTC Droid Incredible, Droid Incredible 2, Wildfire, T-Mobile mytouch 3G, T-Mobile myTouch 3G Slide, T-Mobile G1, T-Mobile G2, Evo 4G, Aria, Desire, Hero, Merge, Inspire 4G, Evo 4G, Thunderbolt, Thunderbolt 4G, and the HTC Flyer tablet

The ITC () is looking into Apple's request for an investigation be started under section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 against HTC imports. They will provide a conclusion as to whether an investigation is to be undertaken within 30 days. Peter Chou, CEO of HTC, defended the company against Apple's claims:

HTC disagrees with Apple’s actions and will fully defend itself. HTC strongly advocates intellectual property protection and will continue to respect other innovators and their technologies as we have always done, but we will continue to embrace competition through our own innovation as a healthy way for consumers to get the best mobile experience possible.

From day one, HTC has focused on creating cutting-edge innovations that deliver unique value for people looking for a smartphone. In 1999 we started designing the XDA(i) and T-Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition(ii), our first touch-screen smartphones, and they both shipped in 2002 with more than 50 additional HTC smartphone models shipping since then.

Source: TheNextWeb

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An attempt by Apple to impose an injunction to stop Amazon from using the term "app store" has been shot down by a federal judge.  Amazon recently launched their Amazon Appstore for Android and Apple pounced, filing a lawsuit that claims that the name violates a trademark initially denied to Apple in 2008, but more recently granted in a 2010 appeal.  They also contend that Amazon is diluting and tarnishing the Apple brand.  U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton denied the motion for injunction because she saw no evidence of dilution or tarnishment, and only a slight case for trademark infringement. 

As for Amazon, they argue that "app store" is too broad of a term to be trademarked, as it is widely used to describe any such marketplace designed to let consumers purchase software applications for their devices.  Microsoft, who is also challenging Apple's claim to the name, used a similar line of reasoning in their motion for summary judgment with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  Amazon further contends that the "for Android" part of the name draws a clear line between Apple's iOS-only store and theirs.

While the full case has yet to be decided by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, a denial of injunction like this is usually a sign that the will not end the way Apple hopes. 

Source: Ars Technica

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Federal Court Vacates Qualcomm Ban

We avoided the last turning of the Qualcomm vs. Broadcom screw because, well, it's just becoming so darn tiring. If you missed that last month, what happened is a US Appeals court affirmed that Qualcomm infringed on two Broadcomm patents and therefore needed to pay up [via Engadget]. These were related to EVDO, QChat, and video processing. Now leave that stewing in the back of your mind.

In the front of your mind, recall that we had ourselves a little panic last year as courts told Qualcomm they weren't allowed to import certain chips into the US. This was pretty bad, but Verizon decided to pony up licensing fees so they could continue to use the chips, Sprint tried to insert themselves into the conversation, and President Bush declined to stop the International Trade Commission's (ITC) ban.

All clear? Good -- Next up, from Patently-O: the ITC's decision has been vacated by a Federal Circuit court because the original ITC decision didn't find “inducement of infringement” and also found that the ITC didn't really have the authority to exclude imports in the exact method that they used. In short, the Qualcomm chip ban has been lifted (for now)

The upshot is that Broadcom still can collect the damages you read about in the first paragraph, the ban you read about in the second paragraph has been lifted, but the court finding in the third paragraph can probably be appealed and the ban reinstated at some future date. ...and you were starting to suspect that patent lawsuits were adding uncertainty to the marketplace -- for shame!

Thanks to Dave for the tip!

(p.s. The above has nothing to do with the US not getting the Touch HD. Seriously, everybody, you have to let that one go and dream of the 'other cool stuff.')

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If you have ever been Jamstered and have AT&T, then now might be a good time to call them up for a credit. AT&T is offering credits due to third party charges that occurred spuriously between Jan 1st 2004 to may 30 2008. AT&T has learned its lesson and will now require customers to confirm monthly subscriptions by text and have third party companies send reminders on how to unsubscribe. AT&T should be notifying customers in the coming weeks, but if its anything like a mail in rebate, well, you know... Instead you might be better off simply downloading the credit form from the AT&T website.

In my opinion its kind of sad that it took a lawsuit to help a company like AT&T realize there was a problem in this area. I can't tell you how many times I have looked at a bill and seen a ridiculous amount of ring tones and game charges from 3rd party companies. Just a helpful reminder that your Windows Mobile phones are packed full of features that we love and don't require you to pay some janky 3rd party service to use. If you have been janked, however, hit up the lawsuit link there and get the deets on your potential compensation.

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RIM and Samsung Settle "BlackJack" suit

RIM sued Samsung because they called their new smartphone BlackJack and, you know, people might get it confused with BlackBerry. Now they've settled, apparently. I thought the suit was pretty darn silly myself - nobody gets to use the word "Black" anymore? - but apparently Samsung did not. Sometimes it's easier to just get the lawsuit out of the way rather than fight the good fight. Me, I like a good fight, oh well. The terms of the settlement are confidential (though some folks have noticed that RIM wants to spell "BlackJack" with a lower-cased 'j' now), so who knows what Samsung gave to RIM. Let's hope it wasn't much.

Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM said in a statement that the settlement of the lawsuit it filed in December includes "immediate provisions for the protection of RIM's valuable trademarks," but that the companies had agreed to keep specific terms of the deal confidential.

Read: BlackBerry Maker Reaches Settlement With BlackJack Maker

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RIM Sues Samsung over Blackjack

Maybe RIM has a point when they claim that people would get the Samsung Blackjack confused with the Blackberry, but it's a stretch. I'd also like to think that after all their problems with litigation in the past, RIM might be a little more forgiving than most companies. I suppose not.

Also in danger of getting sued: Black Keys, Black Mamba, and Black Panthers.

Research in Motion (RIM) has sued Samsung Telecommunications America, claiming that Samsung's BlackJack smart phone violates the BlackBerry trademark.
RIM is asking that Samsung be stopped from selling the BlackJack and Black Carbon mobile phones and is seeking unspecified damages, according to court filings. The lawsuit was filed Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
"Samsung is misleading the public into falsely believing that Samsung's goods and services are connected with RIM's business," the filing states.

Read: Today @ PC World RIM Sues Samsung over BlackJack Phone Name

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