Phone.com Sues Geoworks in WAP Patent Dispute

Phone.com, a pioneer in developing the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) for mobile phones, has filed a pre-emptive suit against rival Geoworks Corporation over its ‘529 patent.

The suit, filed in federal court in San Jose, California, asks the court to “put an end to Geoworks’ repeated and unjustified accusations that virtually the entire wireless Internet industry infringes a Geoworks patent.”

Phone.com contends that the Geoworks ‘529 patent is directed to unrelated technology, and wants the court to declare it invalid and unenforceable.

Geoworks’ Deadline

According to the lawsuit, Geoworks announced three months ago that it would request a licensing fee from any company that intended to use its patented technology, issuing a deadline of July 1, 2000 for Phone.com to comply.

Phone.com says in its complaint that it is “continuing to make, use, sell or offer for sale products and services that Geoworks incorrectly claims infringe the ‘529 patent. Because the ‘529 patent is not infringed, is unenforceable and is invalid, Phone.com has no intention to take a license under the ‘529 patent.”

Scope of the Patent

At the heart of the lawsuit is U.S. Patent No. 5,327,529, entitled “Process of Designing User Interfaces for Application Programs,” which was issued to Geoworks in 1994.

Phone.com argues that patent ‘529 “is solely directed to certain object-oriented programming techniques, none of which cover WAP, WML, wireless applications or the Internet.”

Phone.com also contends that the terms “Internet” and “wireless communication” never appear in the patent.

Geoworks says that its patent, issued before Phone.com came into existence, is “for invention of a flexible user interface technology.” Geoworks says its patent applies to “all devices, including mobile phones, which are based on the WAP specification and placed into the stream of commerce in the United States and Japan.”

“We are already in discussions with a number of leading industry participants who have recognized both our good intentions and the validity of our intellectual property rights claims,” said Geoworks president and CEO Dave Grannan.

False Accusations

Geoworks issued a press release calling Phone.com’s claims “completely without merit,” and “an attempt to interfere with Geoworks’ established licensing program.”

Grannan responded by saying, “We are surprised and disappointed that Phone.com has chosen this unprofessional course of action. We have never accused any company, including Phone.com, of infringing our patent.”

He added, “We created a very straightforward licensing program and announced it to the WAP Forum in accordance with the Forum’s rules, which Phone.com helped establish. Now it would seem that Phone.com has decided these rules no longer apply.”

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