Nokia has delivered a major blow to HTC, as a High Court judge has ruled that the phones infringe on a patent held by the Finnish firm. The HTC One will remain on sale, although the judge leaked that a replacement for the device is due in early 2014.
The patent wars between smartphone manufacturers has heated up in recent months and years. Apple, Samsung, and Nokia, in particular, have gone head-to-head in a number of court cases. The aim of the cases is almost certainly to protect the patents that each company owns, but delivering a potentially harmful blow to the opposition is almost certainly seen as a positive by-product of the move.
Nokia and HTC may not be the most popular smartphone manufacturers in the UK but do account for nearly 10% of all sales when their sales figures are combined.
The most recent casualty of the war is HTC, as Nokia successfully contested that the company were unlawfully using a modulator structure in many of their phones. Although HTC argued that they couldn’t be held accountable, due to the fact that the modulator was supplied by Qualcomm, the judge ruled that the Taiwanese manufacturer should have still paid licence fees for the use of the component.
The modulator is used in an extensive range of HTC One phones, including the flagship HTC One. As a result of the order, Judge Richard Arnold placed a theoretical ban on a number of HTC devices but did stop short of banning the original HTC One. He stated that although the phone did infringe on the same patent law, preventing the sale of HTC’s biggest seller at a time of year when they make a majority of sales would prove more damaging to HTC than it would be prove to Nokia if the phones remained on sale.
During the case, Nokia stated that HTC would be releasing an update to the HTC One in February or March of 2014. In ruling, Judge Arnold noted that HTC’s lawyers did not contradict this and so he believes that this is the case. He went on to say that it cannot be assumed that the so called HTC One Two would infringe on the same patents, and it cannot therefore be assumed that the phone would also need to be banned.
HTC have been prevented from importing new handsets to the UK, although existing stock will be allowed to be sold, but this will come as a major blow to the company as the UK represents their largest European market, and the Christmas rush has started.
Who will be the next scalp in the smartphone patent wars?