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HTC faces Xmas sales ban misery in Germany

3G patent surrender could send Santa packing

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HTC has withdrawn its appeal against a decision in favour of patent-hoarder IPCom, which is now pitching to get HTC handsets off the shelves in Germany by Christmas.

HTC claims it has withdrawn the appeal because of last December's ruling that one of the contested patents was invalid. Both sides are appealing that ruling (HTC reckons it didn't go far enough), but patent-watcher Florian Mueller points out that if that were the motivation behind the withdrawal then it should have happened earlier, and suggests that HTC is instead trying to avoid a defeat that would encompass additional patents.

There are three patents at the heart of this matter, all concerned with how a network is able to prioritise calls from a specific groups of users, such as when the New World Order rises up to take over the planet. IPCom has long argued that it's impossible to make a phone comply with the 3G (GSM) standard without infringing its patents, so it expects licence fees from everyone involved.

The patents came from Bosch, when Bosch had aspirations in mobile telephony, but were bought up in 2007 as an investment that is now being realised by IPCom. IPCom makes nothing, develops nothing, and carries out no research into technologies or techniques; the company's sole objective is to get a decent return on the money it paid for the patents and the ongoing legal fees.

Nokia has been dancing with IPCom in the UK and elsewhere, creating workarounds that IPCom claims don't really work around, while repeatedly trying to have IPCom's patents invalidated as being obvious, evolutionary and/or insufficiently detailed.

In Germany, where IPCom is based, HTC has been a prime target, with HTC's appeal being the latest round of litigation, but with that appeal now being dropped IPCom reckons the way is clear to get an injunction: "IPCom has been left with no choice – we will use the right awarded by the courts, likely resulting in HTC devices disappearing from shops during the crucial Christmas season," says the company's statement.

HTC will, no doubt, fight that injunction, but might decide that the time has come to settle. Mueller points out that by pulling out of the appeal HTC has made itself liable (under German law) for IPCom's legal costs, money which can now be used to pursue the rest of the mobile industry. ®

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