Delaware court rules that Apple is infringing on Nokia and Sony patents

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The latest news in the mobile patent world is that a US court in Delaware has reached a unanimous verdict that Apple infringed on three patents owned by MobileMedia Idea. MobileMedia Idea is a non-practising entity (NPE) set up by Nokia, Sony and MPEG LA to monetise their intellectual property portfolio. Of the three patents, two were originally filed by Nokia (US 6,254,075 and US 6,427,078), and one by Sony (US 6,070,068). They cover, respectively, a method for call rejection, device implementation, and a method for controlling the connecting state of a call.

The patents, filed in the period 1997-1998, are a good example of how far back in time patents disputes around smartphones can reach, but also the depth and breadth of Nokia's patent portfolio in the mobile space. As Florian Mueller, writing on FOSS patents, notes, Apple can try and fight the verdict, but the chances are they will have to take a license from MobileMedia Ideas and means "Nokia, which is already receiving royalties from Apple under a settlement, is going to get even more money from Cupertino".

From the press release:

MobileMedia Ideas LLC announced that a jury in the United States District Court in Delaware today reached a unanimous verdict finding that three patents owned by MobileMedia Ideas – US 6,427,078 covering camera phones, US 6,070,068 covering call handling and US 6,253,075 covering call rejection – are valid and infringed by Apple's iPhones. "MobileMedia Ideas is pleased that the jury confirmed Apple's iPhones use our patented technology," said MobileMedia Ideas President and CEO Larry Horn.  

"MobileMedia Ideas' objective is to make these important technologies and others used in mobile phone and other portable devices widely available.  We welcome Apple and others to enter into licenses for the use of these technologies." 

As an example of the issues involved, here the specifics of one portion of the patent (US 6,427,078 covering camera phones) that has been ruled as being infringed by Apple:

A portable cellular mobile phone comprising: a built in camera unit for obtaining image information; a user interface for enabling a user to input signals to operate the camera unit; a display for presenting image information obtained by the camera unit; a microprocessor adapted to control the operations of the camera unit in response to input signals from the user interface, and to process image information received by the camera unit; and means, coupled to said microprocessor, for transmitting image information processed by said microprocessor to another location using a radio frequency channel;and wherein the camera unit comprises: optics for obtaining image information; an image sensor for obtaining image information; and means for processing and for storing at least a portion of the image information obtained by the camera unit for later recall and processing. 


And here's an illustration from US 6,253,075 covering call rejection:


Both these patents may seem fairly obvious today, but you have to consider them in the context of the time. For example, the patent related to camera phone functionality was filed in 1997, a full 5 years before the Nokia 7650 hit the market. 

Source / Credit: MobileMedia Ideas