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Patent firm sues German retailers for selling HTC phones

IPCom says HTC has not licensed a patent for UMTS technology

IPCom, a German company that licenses technology patents for mobile phones, is suing German retailers for continuing to sell 3G phones from High Tech Computer (HTC) in violation of a court injunction issued in 2009. See also HTC One X review.

IPCom says all HTC phones use one of its patents, #100a, which describes an algorithm for managing bandwidth on UMTS networks in emergency situations. IPCom licenses the patent to other major phone manufacturers, but HTC has not licensed it, IPCom said.

In 2009, the District Court of Mannheim issued an injunction banning the sale of HTC phones using the technology. On Nov. 25, HTC dropped its appeal of the injunction in the Higher Regional Court in Karlsruhe, according to an IPCom spokesman. IPCom is now seeking that the injunction be enforced.

IPCom sent cease-and-desist requests to 100 retailers on Dec. 6, asking them to abide by the injunction by Dec. 20. No retailer complied. IPCom has also filed suit against 30 retailers in regional courts in Mannheim and Munich, the spokesman said.

IPCom has also asked the Mannheim court to begin penalty proceedings against HTC, which could fine the mobile manufacturer.

HTC said its phones do not make use of the teaching of the patent. Further, HTC said the European Patent Office is examining the validity of patent #100a and is scheduled to hold a hearing on April 24. HTC said it is "confident that the patent will be revoked."

"In an initial assessment, the European Patent Office has raised serious concerns as to its validity," HTC said.

IPCom acquired its portfolio, which encompasses about 160 mobile communications patent families, in early 2007 from German engineering company Robert Bosch, which developed the technologies starting in the mid-1980s.

The company is owned by German patent lawyer Bernhard Frohwitter and engineer and entrepreneur Christoph Schoeller, with a stake held by the U.S. private equity firm Fortress Investment.

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