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Mobile phone door surveillance inventor loses out to Nokia

Lodges appeal with Patents Court

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An inventor who wrote his patent from scratch and conducted a legal campaign against Nokia himself has lost his claim for patent infringement against the mobile giant.

Frank Cunningham must pay £1,500 in costs to Nokia, having lost a review hearing related to an earlier ruling by a hearing officer of the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). That opinion, and the review hearing that supported it, said that Cunningham's patent was not infringed by Nokia and that one of the claims he made for his patent was invalid.

Cunningham invented a system which connected a house's door entry system to a mobile telephone. His brief application, accompanied by a page of hand-drawn illustrations, was granted. According to his patent, Cunningham's system comprised a camera built into a house door with a motion detector attached.

When motion is detected or the doorbell pressed, the system connects the camera in the system to the house owner's mobile phone, allowing the owner to see who is at the door.

Nokia has a system called the PT-6 which is a remote camera and motion sensor that sends the owner of a property a photograph of what it sees when it detects motion.

Cunningham alleged that Nokia's technology infringed his patent and asked the IPO to issue an opinion. That opinion was issued last year and turned on the scope of Cunningham's patent. It said that Nokia did not infringe that patent.

Cunningham asked for a review of the opinion, which has only a small number of specific grounds on which it can overturn an original opinion. Opinions are not legally binding and Cunningham can sue Nokia for infringement in the courts.

Hearing Officer Phil Thorpe said that the original opinion had not been an error, and that Nokia has not infringed Cunningham's patent. He found that there was enough difference between the two systems, principally that Nokia's cannot be activated by a doorbell, for there to have been no infringement.

Cunningham represented himself in the case. Thorpe said that his arguments were passionate but not always relevant.

"[Cunningham] has represented himself with no little conviction and has clearly thrown himself into the legal aspects of the case," said Thorpe's ruling. "Unfortunately much of his argument was based on misunderstandings.

"In particular he based his arguments mainly on a false assumption that the scope of his patent extended well beyond the words that he had actually used in his claims, even when read in the light of the description and drawings, to cover aspects of his invention that he seems to have thought of yet not specified or else specified in a way that was clear only to him," he said.

There is a scale on which costs are awarded in IPO hearings, and Nokia applied to have greater costs awarded to them than were allowed on the scale. Thorpe declined, and ordered £1,500 in costs to be paid to Nokia.

Thorpe also ruled that the original opinion was correct when it said that one of the patent's claims, related to a security system for vehicles, was invalid because a previous patent had covered similar ground.

Cunningham has lodged an appeal with the Patents Court.

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