If you haven't heard, Germany has pretty much become the hotspot for smartphone and tablet patent litigation. Most recently, HTC has been hitting headlines in its ongoing battle against IPCom, an intellectual property firm. IPCom claims that HTC's smartphones violate a number of its patents in the realm of 3G GSM technology. HTC says that the last time it made a phone which might have violated those patents was in 2009, and that it has since developed a workaround which does not infringe on IPCom's patents.
A court in Mannheim, Germany today held a preliminary hearing in a patent dispute between Motorola Mobility and Apple Sales International (a European Apple distribution subsidiary), and it seems like Apple's on the ropes.
While the hearing didn't discuss the particular merits of Motorola's patent infringement claim against Apple, the presiding judge issued substantial blows to Apple's defense by indicating that he believed the patent-in-suit was ripe for trial. The judge also seemed to agree with Motorola's reading of that patent (also known as "construction claims") in important ways that would allow it a broader scope of applicability at trial.
Who's ready for some Friday morning hotness? Alright, it may not be that hot, but probable new features are always welcome in my book. Looks like the Big Goog has been awarded a new lockscreen patent, which could bring some new features to our good buddy pattern lock.
Pattern lock is no stranger to Android; in fact, it has been part of the mix since the beginning. With this new patent, though, the old dog may be learning a couple of new tricks, like custom gestures to launch specific apps.
Now, this all based on one German online retailer (where imports of the Tab 10.1 were banned), but it's very interesting nonetheless. It appears that a new version of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 has been launched in Germany, called the Tab 10.1N. The difference? So far, all we see is a re-designed bezel and the fact that it's now shipping with Android 3.2. Take a look at this comparison shot from Mobiflip:
The Tab 10.1N is above, and the old Tab 10.1 is below.
OK, before I even get into this post, let me be clear: this is based on old news. However, it was news that no one seemed to pick up at the time, and when we discovered it, we thought it was quite interesting.
If you're unfamiliar with Lodsys, let's start with a history lesson. They're better known as the shell corporation offspring of a company called Intellectual Ventures LLC, a patent clearinghouse owned by a group of, shall we say, enterprising individuals.
Well, it happened - the slide-to-unlock patent Apple has been requesting was granted this morning by the US Patent & Trademark Office, meaning almost any device in America using a sliding unlock mechanism is now infringing on Apple's patent unless otherwise ruled.
While the timing may seem a bit suspicious, Apple originally filed for the patent in 2005. Have a look at this excerpt from the granted patent document:
Yesterday, Microsoft announced its latest Android licensing deal with Taiwanese manufacturer Compal, marking the company's tenth such agreement to date. While such a small manufacturer in terms of market share makes little overall difference in Microsoft's profits derived from Android, its deals with HTC and Samsung, combined with various smaller manufacturers like Compal, means it now receives royalties from over half of all Android smartphones sold in the US (the figure may be even larger on a global scale).
Uh-oh. Sounds like Samsung's lawyers heard about Samsung Mobile President Shin Jong-kyun's little statement that the Galaxy Nexus was designed such that no "known" Apple patents were used or infringed on by the phone. This was probably, to be frank, a very stupid thing to say. Aside from basically challenging Apple to take a closer look at the Galaxy Nexus, there's also the fact that, if Jong-kyun's statement was actually correct and Samsung did design the Galaxy Nexus to avoid Apple patents, that Apple's lawyers would love to quote it at various patent infringement trials around the world.
This could be introduced to a jury as evidence that Samsung had reason to believe, at the point the Galaxy Nexus was designed, that their other products could be infringing on Apple patents.
When Verizon and T-Mobile filed amicus curiae briefs in favor of Samsung in the company's ongoing patent litigation against Apple in the Federal Court for the Northern District of California, we cheered inside a little. It's always nice to see Android and its handset partners have friends in high places.
However, the question of how the court would respond to these briefs remained - as the decision is an entirely discretionary one.
It certainly seems like it. Yesterday, Microsoft announced via blog that it had concluded negotiations with Samsung and reached a licensing deal for the same seven patents it previously licensed to HTC for Android (along with other, smaller Android manufacturers). There were rumblings about just what royalty rate Samsung is paying, but the guess is anywhere from $5 to $15 per handset (it's likely on a percentage-of-MSRP basis - so think about 1-3% per $500 MSRP phone).