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Frenchies' rash cache clash dashed: US courts trash Android patent bid

Gemalto suit against Google, Moto, Sammy and HTC dismissed on appeal

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A US Appeals Court has rejected a patent case brought by French digital security biz Gemalto against Google's Android operating system.

The court upheld [PDF] the decision of the lower courts that the Android platform did not infringe three Gemalto patents that cover technology in the firm's smartcards.

The three patents in question – 6,308,317, 7,117,485, and 7,818,727 – describe "using a high-level programming language with a microcontroller"

The company said in a statement that it was disappointed by the appeals court decision.

“Gemalto has consistently patented and broadly licensed its innovation so we are certainly disappointed by this judgment with regards to the scope of use of some of our intellectual property,” said CEO Olivier Piou.

The company argued that its technology helped software, such as apps written in Java, run on weedy processors found in less powerful Android devices. It thus filed suits against Google, Motorola, Samsung and HTC.

However, the courts disagreed because Gemalto’s patented tech described software stored in the same chip as the processor – as is often the case with microcontrollers – whereas the Android gadgets held code in separate storage.

A district court in Texas that heard the original case said the Android devices didn’t infringe Gemalto's patented tech because they “store program instructions off-chip and access those off-chip instructions to run the accused applications”.

Gemalto appealed, saying that although the devices didn’t literally infringe, they were infringing under the “doctrine of equivalents” – in other words, it was the same difference whether the patents acted all on-chip, as in its own products, or on- and off-chip, as in smartphones.

The French firm said the accused devices temporarily loaded program instructions from off-chip memory into on-chip cache memory, making them equivalent to all on-chip. But the appeals court in Washington DC saw it differently.

“Because cache memory cannot store applications (or any content) when a device is turned off, the court concluded that cache memory is substantially different from permanent memory and not equivalent for infringement purposes,” Judge Leonard Davis said in his ruling.

Piou said that the ruling wouldn’t affect the firm or its patents’ validity.

“This decision has no impact on our historical patents licensing activity, nor on the Company’s 2017 long-term objectives,” he said.

Analysts at ING however, said that the court’s dismissal of the case would cut off a nice little revenue stream for the firm.

"We had estimated that if Gemalto had won the case the company could have been entitled to either a one-off payment in damages, or higher royalty receipts that could amount to €30m to €50m per annum," they said in a note, seen by Reuters.

“It thus erodes a three per cent earnings increase potential.” ®

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