The German company IPCom GmbH, which has been called Europe’s first “patent troll” by its opponents, lost three big infringement cases on Friday, including one in which it was seeking €1.6 billion ($2.2 billion) from Apple Inc. The law firms claiming victory include Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Hogan Lovells.
A regional court in Mannheim, Germany, dismissed the $2.2 billion Apple case without providing its reasoning, according to FossPatents blogger Florian Mueller, who was in the courtroom. The same court also dismissed a related IPCom case against Apple, as well as a similar case against HTC Corp.
At issue is an IPCom patent known as the “100A” patent, which relates to a method of placing emergency phone calls on a wireless network.
IPCom’s main asset is a portfolio of smartphone-related patents acquired from the manufacturing giant Robert Bosch GmbH when it exited the handset business in 2007. In the years that followed, IPCom brought about 60 patent infringement cases in three different European jurisdictions. An outside lawyer for Nokia Oyj, one of IPCom’s targets, told our columnist Michael Goldhaber that IPCom’s founder and co–CEO Bernhard Frohwitter is “Europe’s first pure, classic patent troll” who “targets the big guys with injunctions.”
Defense lawyers, led by Nokia’s lawyers at Bird & Bird, have succeeded in getting patent examiners and judges to invalidate the vast majority of IPCom’s patents, and IPCom has paid about $12.5 million to cover its opponents’ legal costs.
But IPCom’s targets were unable to convince the European Patent Office to invalidate the 100A patent. Courts in London and Mannheim ruled in 2011 that Nokia’s phones infringed the patent, but by that time Nokia had tweaked its phones so that they no longer infringed.
IPCom also asserted the 100A patent against HTC and Apple. Bench trials in the cases kicked off in Mannheim earlier this month. IPCom’s attorneys include Marcus Grosch of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. Apple is represented by Frank-Erich Hufnagel and Wolrad Prinz zu Waldeck und Pyrmont of Freshfields. HTC’s defense has been led by Martin Chakraborty of Hogan Lovells.
IPCom’s Frohwitter didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment. In a statement Frohwitter provided to Bloomberg News, he said that IPCom will appeal. “We are more than astonished by the dismissal especially because this court, just like other courts in Germany and the U.K., found a myriad of infringements of the 100A patent,” he wrote.