Friday, 30 December 2011

Patent wars heating up

Nowhere is intellectual property taking on the characteristics of an end in itself rather than a means to an end than in the mobile phone world. Enforcing patents must be taking as much time and effort as making the phones in the first place. Last week The Guardian reported another development, with IPCom (frequently cast as perhaps the biggest villain of the piece) taking action against retailers selling HTC smartphones in Germany. The report is impressively coherent for a newspaper: the author (Charles Arthur, the paper's technology editor) clearly knows more than a little about patent law. Most journalists would have made this into a story about copyright and trade marks too.

HTC said it knew nothing about any complaints against retailers and that the patent it is alleged to be infringing is in fact invalid. One good reason for having infringement and validity dealt with in the same court? Not in this case, it seems (though the principal remains) because the challenge to the patent takes the form of an opposition in the EPO, the outcome of which is expected on 24 April 2012. By which time an awful lot of HTC handsets will have been sold, or not.

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