Nokia saw huge changes in 2013: returning to profitability, buying out Nokia Siemens Networks and selling off its smartphone business to Microsoft. Now, Nokia closed out the year with a major victory in Germany in its ongoing patent fight with Taiwan-based HTC.
On Dec. 30, a Munich judge ruled that HTC devices that use Bluetooth or an NFC connection are infringing on a Nokia patents that covers a method of transferring resource information between devices. The ruling allows Nokia to enforce an injunction that could remove HTC Android devices, including the One series, from shelves throughout Germany.
“HTC’s first New Year’s resolution for 2014 should be to stop this free riding and compete fairly in the market,” the company said in a statement.
The Finnish technology company has been suing HTC since May 2012 and has asserted more than 50 patents against the Taiwanese device maker. Nokia now has a string of seven patent-related victories against HTC in decisions by German and U.K. courts as well as the U.S. International Trade Commission.
Nokia has a huge wealth of patents, by some counts more than 30,000, and it retained rights to those patents even when it sold its device making business to Microsoft in September for $7.2 billion. It’s clear that the company intends to make more money off those patents, but the sale of the smartphone business and the extent of Nokia’s patent portfolio has already brought the attention of regulators. Earlier in December, Joaquin Alumnia, the European commissioner in charge of competition, warned Nokia against behaving “like a patent troll, or to use a more polite phrase, a patent assertion entity.” The commissioner said that he would open an antitrust case if he saw the company taking illegal advantage of its patents.
The HTC fight predates the Microsoft deal, and it doesn’t look like Nokia has any intention of backing off the company that it believes has been free riding on its technologies.
HTC, for its part, issued a statement to investors saying it would appeal the German court’s decision and that the company is “also now looking into modifications for our handsets to avoid infringement of the patent in question.” In October, HTC responded to an ITC judgement that found it had infringed on two Nokia patents by commissioning a redesign from Nokia competitor Qualcomm.