MobileMedia Patent Loss Unlikely to Ding Apple Much
It's never a good day in court for Apple when it's found to have infringed another company's patents, but MobileMedia's win on Thursday isn't likely to hurt it much. It appears MobileMedia won't be asking for an injunction, and given that Apple will most likely appeal the decision, it probably won't have to fork over any damages for quite some time.
12/14/12 4:58 PM PT
Apple has lost a patent infringement case that was brought by MobileMedia Ideas. The company alleged that Apple misappropriated its technology for mobile devices -- and the federal jury that heard the case agreed.
MobileMedia Ideas -- a patent licensing firm owned by Nokia, Sony and MPEG LA -- has a portfolio of hundreds of patents ranging from call handling to speed dial functions, database searches, audio download and playback, and still picture and video processing.
3 Patents Infringed
MobileMedia originally sued Apple in 2010, accusing it of infringing as many as 18 patents. By the time the case reached Judge Sue L. Robinson in the U.S. District Court of Delaware, the number of patents at issue had been reduced to three.
Those three, originally owned by Sony and Nokia, cover the display of certain call functions, such as hold or mute, and allow users to reject incoming calls.
The judge has yet to schedule a hearing for damages. MobileMedia's goal was to secure licensing fees, it has said in the past. In arguing its case, it maintained it would suffer "irreparable injury" if Apple didn't pay the royalties it believed it was owed.
More than likely, that means the company will not seek an injunction, according to Mark B. Mizrahi, a partner with Wolf Rifkin Shapiro Schulman & Rabkin.
"Apple will almost surely appeal," he said.
However, because it is unlikely to result in an injunction, this decision probably won't hurt Apple much, he told MacNewsWorld.
"They will probably have to pay damages," said Mizrahi, "but even that day is far off, given the appeals process."
The Business of Patent Law
The general nature of the patents in dispute illustrates how complicated patent law and device manufacturing has become, Mizrahi added.
Mobile devices could be affected by hundreds of thousands of patents in the world.
"There are so many operations and processes and pieces of hardware involved that there are any number of patents that could apply," Mizrahi pointed out.
Apple has used this against other device makers; however, as this case shows, the tables can be turned. "Apple is actually very vulnerable to these suits," noted Mizrahi, who is involved in separate patent litigation against the company. "Even a slight [questionable] feature of the iPhone can be asserted against Apple."