Nokia showing patent strenght at ITC, progressing towards an Android tethering ban

Nokia tethering patent - Figure 1It is certainly a good thing Microsoft has Nokia on their side, as having Nokia against you, at least when it comes to patent litigation, does not seem to be a good idea.

The strength of Nokia’s patent profile has already allowed it to extract regular royalty payments from Apple and RIM, and Nokia is currently preparing to do the same to HTC and potentially all Android OEMs selling handsets in USA.

The patent in question is for tethering a phone to a computer to share the data network of the phone, and stretch back to 1995, when the only data our phones could access was SMS.

The patent claims:

“Method for making a data transmission connection from a computer to any one of a plurality of mobile communication networks for transmission of analog and/or digital signals, wherein the computer is connected with one of the mobile communication networks via a telecommunication terminal which is in local data transmission connection with the computer; and wherein the data transmission connection utilises at least a first operation mode for connection with a first of said telecommunication networks and a second operation mode for connection with a second of said telecommunication networks, the method comprising steps of:

  • testing said communication networks to determine which of said plurality of mobile communication networks are available for a connection to be made via the telecommunication terminal;

  • selecting one of the available mobile communication networks;

  • at the telecommunication terminal, setting an operation mode corresponding to the selected one of the mobile communication networks; and

  • setting the data transmission connection for transmission via the selected operation mode.”

HTC and Google has been arguing at the ITC to narrow the scope of the claims so as to reduce their risk of infringement, but according to Fosspatents has been largely unsuccessful, meaning it is very likely when Nokia vs HTC does go to trial at the ITC in 2 months HTC will be found to be infringing Nokia’s patents.  Given that tethering is very widely supported by Android handsets it seems likely after HTC falls other OEMs such as Samsung will be next.

Just two days ago Nokia won a patent infringement case against HTC in Germany for phone power management, part of 22 impending lawsuits Nokia has filed against HTC in Germany.

Nokia could now enforce a sales ban by posting a $6.5 million bond and also possess the right to claim damages. Unfortunately the infringing handsets are now pretty old and no longer in the market.

In both cases Google has attempted to intervene on HTC’s behalf but has largely failed.

Read more at Fosspatents here. Thanks Tom for the tip.