A German patent-holding firm is suing Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) for around $2 billion in damages on allegations that the U.S. tech giant infringed on cell-phone technology it owns, a German court announced Wednesday, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
The patented technology in question, owned by German company IPCom GmbH, gives emergency calls priority on mobile networks; when two calls are placed at the same time, for instance, the emergency call will take precedence. The company specified that its demand for more than 1.57 euros in damages only covers Apple’s alleged infringement on devices sold within Germany, although its unknown whether the company will file the suit in other countries as well.
Presiding Judge Holger Kircher says in order to win the suit, IPCOm must prove to the court that the patent isn’t limited to technology that uses just one bit — “bit” being a contraction of “binary digit” — for coding information, according to Bloomberg. “One or three bits, that’s the key issue here,” said Kircher. “We will issue a separate ruling on this — which means we won’t even touch today the question of what amount of damages would be warranted in case of an infringement finding,” he added.
Last month, a myriad of smartphone tech companies requested that the patent in question be declared invalid by the European Patent Office; Apple, Nokia, HTC, Vodafone, and Ericsson all put in requests, and all of them were rejected. IPCom has said it is suing other companies besides Apple for infringement on the same patent, including Nokia, although Nokia hasn’t confirmed that such a lawsuit exists.
Smartphone tech patents have been the subject of dozens of lawsuits recently; Samsung, Apple, and Motorola Mobility have all lodged multiple claims in patent courts in several different countries. The fighting, which often comes down to staving off competition or claiming licensing fees, is often referred to as the “patent wars,” due to its seemingly endless back-and-forth frivolous nature.
Patent-buying firms, often disparagingly called “patent trolls,” like IPCom have come under scrutiny by some, who argue that they interfere with product development, while others say that ensuring that patents are properly paid for encourages inventors and therefore, the innovation of new technologies and products.
IPCom currently owns more than 1,200 mobile-communications patents and has licensing agreements with several smartphone carriers, including Deutsche Telekom, which paid IPCom a hefty multi-million euro fee as part of one such agreement, per the Wall Street Journal.