India: Blackberry Sues Nokia For Patent Infringement: An Overview

Last Updated: 7 March 2017
Article by Aditi Tiwari

The once powerful mobile phone companies BlackBerry and Nokia are in the headlines again, not for their new technological developments but because of their legal battle.

The Valentine's Day card for Nokia was in the form of complaint entailing 11 items that Blackberry did not like about it. The complaint listed out the 11 patents of Blackberry infringed by Nokia. The company has not commanded an injunctive relief, i.e. asking Nokia to stop using the patents; instead it has asked for compensation for the unauthorized usage of the said patents. Let's have a brief overview of the case.

Blackberry:

Headquartered in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, Blackberry Limited, formerly known as Research In Motion (RIM), was founded by two engineering students, Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin in 1984. It is a multi-national wireless telecommunications software and mobile hardware company, currently chaired by John S. Chen. It had taken over the smart phone market with its flagship QWERTY keypad range of mobile phones. Blackberry uses its own operating system, and had recently entered the Android arena of smart phones. It had ruled the gadget market with its classy, easy and appealing technology and applications for over two decades until its plunge with the launch of Apple iPhone and other Android phones. It had also developed key innovations that underlie 3G and 4G mobile communication technologies, such as Long-Term Evolution (LTE), including LTE Advanced and Universal Terrestrial Radio Access Network (UTRAN) technologies, and Universal Mobile Telecommunication Systems (UMTS). Blackberry's contribution to innovation, including investment in research and development has exceeded a total of $ 5.5 billion, and has protected the technical innovations by seeking patents from the US office.

Nokia:

In a paper mill in 1865, Nokia was created by Fredrik Idestam and Leo Mechelin in South-west Finland. It is a multinational communications and information technology company, considered to be one of the most important Fortune 500 organizations. Nokia launched Mobira Cityman in 1987, the world's first handheld phone. The most famous Nokia's first GSM handset, Nokia 1101, was a swift hit in the market when it was launched in 1992. The partnership of Nokia with Microsoft It is presently chaired by Rajeev Suri. With the ingression of new companies, Nokia has tumbled down.

Connecting the dots:

Rockstar Consortium Inc. (also Rockstar Bidco) was formed in 2012 to settle and negotiate patent licensing acquired from the bankrupt multinational telecommunications and data networking equipment manufacturer Nortel. It comprises of five members: Apple Inc. Blackberry, Ericsson, Microsoft and Sony.

Rockstar Consortium bought Nortel's IP in 2011 for $ 4.5 Billion, and created a special-purpose-patent-assertion company to use them. The IP consisted of over 6000 patents covering 4G wireless innovations and a range of technologies. Nokia had also made an attempt to buy Nortel's IP in 2009, but was unable to obtain them due to the latter's bankruptcy proceedings. In 2012, Rockstar Consortium was also listed, by the Business Insider, as the 3rd most fearsome (out of 8) "patent trolls" in the industry.

Rockstar initiated a lawsuit against 8 companies in 2013, including Google, Smasung, and other Android phone makers. When the IP was purchased by it, Google anticipated this scenario. The complaint encompassed 6 patents, all from the same patent family. The case was settled on confidential terms.

Blackberry sues Nokia: Case name:

Blackberry Limited [Plaintiff]

Vs.

Nokia Corporation, Nokia Solutions and Networks Oy, Nokia Solutions and Network Holdings USA Inc., and Nokia Solutions and Networks US LLC Defendants]

Case number and Court:

17- 155, United States District Court for the District of Delware (Wilmington). This Court has personal jurisdiction over each of the defendants under the Delware Long-Arm Statue, 10 Del. Code § 3014, and the U.S. Constitution. The Court has jurisdiction over this controversy under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1338(a). The action for patent infringement has arisen under the patent laws of the United States, 35 U.S.C. § 1 et seq., including but not limited to 35 U.S.C. § 271.

Allegations:

Blackberry has filed this complaint against Nokia due to the latter's unauthorized usage of the former's contributions to innovation technologies. Blackberry holds the following 11 patents, known as "Asserted Patents" (enforcement of patent by the owner who believes that his patent has been infringed) which are the subject matter of the case:

  1. '418 Patent: United States Patent No. 6,996,418 is entitled "Apparatus and Method for PFDM Data Communications" and was issued on February 6, 2006.
  2. '246 Patent: United States Patent No. 8,254,246 is entitled "Scattered Pilot Pattern and Channel Estimation Method for MIMO-OFDM Systems and was issued on August 28, 2012.
  3. '090 Patent: United States Patent No. 8,494,090 is entitled "Detecting the Number of Transmit Antennas in a Base Station" and was issued on July 23, 2013.
  4. '305 Patent: United States Patent No. 7,529,305 is entitled "Combination of Space-Time Coding and Spatial Multiplexing, and the Use of Orthogonal Transformation in Space-Time Coding" and was issued on May 5, 2009.
  5. '433 Patent: United States Patent No. 8,861,433 is entitled "Method for Accessing a Service Unavailable through and Network Cell" and was issued on October 14, 2014.
  6. '697 Patent: United States Patent No. 9,426,697 is entitled "Method for Accessing a Service Unavailable through and Network Cell" and was issued on August 23, 2016.
  7. '772 Patent: United States Patent No. 9,253,772 is entitled "System and Method for Multi-Carrier Network Operation" and was issued on February 2, 2016.
  8. '192 Patent: United States Patent No. 8,897,192 is entitled "System and Method for Discontinuous Reception Control Start Time" and was issued on November 25, 2014.
  9. '202 Patent: United States Patent No. 9,125,202 is entitled "Multi-Beam Cellular Communication System" and was issued on September 1, 2015.
  10. '683 Patent: United States Patent No. 8,243,683 is entitled "Method and Apparatus for State/Mode Transitioning" and was issued on August 14, 2012.
  11. '829 Patent: United States Patent No. 8, 644,829 is entitled "Method and Apparatus for Signaling Release Cause Indication in a UMTS Network" and was issued on February 4, 2014.

Blackberry is the owner of all rights, title and interest in the aforementioned patents, with the full and exclusive right to bring suit to enforce them, including the right to recover for past infringement. Blackberry and RIM have publicly declared to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), an industry organization that promulgates wireless telecommunication standards specified by 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project), that the Asserted Patents may be or may become essential to LTE Standards and/or UMTS/UTRAN Standards [practising wireless telecommunication standards], and the declaration is in public domain, accessible on a search engine provided and maintained by ETSI (https://ipr.etsi.org/).

Nokia has taken action intending to cause others to directly infringe the patents, including by selling or offering for sale the Infringing Products to third parties in the United States while expressly promoting these products' capability to practice the LTE Standards, knowing that using these products to practice the LTE Standards would constitute direct infringement of the '418 patent.

Infringing Products:

The 3GPP specifications that enumerate LTE and UMTS/UTRAN Standards are and have been implemented in Nokia's products like Nokia's Flexi line of products, alone or in combination with Nokia software such as the Nokia Liquid Radio Software Suite (collectively, the "Infringing Products").  The Infringing Products include, without limitation, the following products, alone or in combination:  Nokia's Flexi Multiradio and Multiradio 10 base stations, the Flexi Zone (small cell) Micro and Pico base stations, Femtocell base stations, Flexi Network Server, the Flexi Radio Antenna System, Nokia radio network controllers, and Nokia Liquid Radio Software Suite.

Knowledge:

Blackberry alleges that Nokia had knowledge of the existence of the applications for or the family members of the Asserted Patents as it had used the same in various patent prosecutions of its own.

  • The family members of the '246 patent were cited in an international search report and were also cited by Nokia and by an examiner during prosecution of a number of patent applications assigned to Nokia. Hence, it had notice of this patent before the filing of this action.
  • The publication of parent application of the '090 patent was cited in an international search report, and was also cited by Nokia during prosecution of a number of patent applications assigned to it. Hence, it had notice of this patent before the filing of this action.
  • The publication of parent application of the '772 patent was cited by examiners during prosecution of a number of patent applications assigned to it. Hence, it had notice of this patent long before the filing of this action.
  • The publication of parent application of the '192 patent was cited by the examiner during prosecution of at least one patent application that was assigned to Alcatel-Lucent, which was acquired by Nokia. Hence, Nokia had notice of this patent long before the filing of this action.
  • The publication of the priority application of the '202 patent was cited by examiners during prosecution of a number of applications that were assigned to Alcatel entities, which were acquired by Nokia. Hence, it had notice of this patent long before the filing of this action.
  • Long before the filing of this action, Nokia knew or should have known from the prosecution of its own patent applications and those of Alcatel-Lucent that the asserted '246, '090, '772, '192, and '202 patents covered LTE features used by their Infringing Products.
  • The publication of the application that resulted in the issuance of the '683 patent was cited by the examiner during prosecution of a Nokia patent application. Hence, Nokia had notice of this patent long before the filing of this action.
  • The publication of the application that resulted in the issuance of the '829 patent was cited by Nokia during prosecution of a Nokia patent application. Hence, Nokia had notice of this patent long before the filing of this action.
  • Long before the filing of this action, Nokia knew or should have known from the prosecution of its own patent applications that the asserted '683 and '829 patents covered UMTS/UTRAN features used by their Infringing Products.
  • By April 10, 2012, RIM had acquired the '418, '246, and '305 patents and had caused to be recorded at the USPTO the assignments of ownership of these patents to RIM. Currently, the assignment of these patents to Blackberry has been recorded in the USPTO. Nokia has knowledge of the same through its due diligence of Nortel U.S. patents.

Infringement Claims:

Nokia knowingly and intentionally encourages and aids at least its end-users to directly infringe the asserted patents. Nokia has been, and currently is, an active inducer of infringement of these patents under 35 U.S.C. § 271(b) and a contributory infringer under 35 U.S.C. § 271(c). It has been willfully blind to the existence of the patents. Nokia's infringement has been, and continues to be, willful and deliberate, and has caused substantial damage to BlackBerry. Nokia developed, commercialized, demonstrated, and/or tested the Infringing Products despite its evaluation and knowledge of the Nortel patent portfolio, including the application that led to the issuance of some patents, and its knowledge of family members of a few of the 11 patents from prosecution of its own patent applications. In spite of Nokia's knowledge of the patents, Nokia has continued making, using, offering for sale/lease, and/or selling or leasing in the United States, and/or importing into the United States, the Infringing Products that are compliant with the LTE Standards, without a license from BlackBerry.  Nokia's egregious infringement behavior warrants an award of enhanced damages.

Prayer for relief:

Blackberry prays that the Court:

  • Render judgment declaring that Nokia directly infringed, induced others to infringe, and/or contributed to the infringement of the asserted patents.
  • Award BlackBerry damages adequate to compensate it for Nokia's infringement of the asserted patents.
  • Award an ongoing royalty for Nokia's ongoing infringement of the asserted patents.
  • Render judgment declaring Nokia's infringement of the asserted patents willful and deliberate, and award BlackBerry enhanced damages pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 284.
  • Award BlackBerry pre-judgment and post-judgment interest to the full extent allowed under the law, as well as BlackBerry's costs and disbursements.
  • Enter an order finding that this is an exceptional case and awarding Blackberry its reasonable attorneys' fees pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 285.
  • Award any other relief as the Court deems fit.

Conclusion:

Both the companies are having a downfall in their sales. Blackberry has stopped making smart phones, and Nokia has had a huge decrease in sales of its one-of-a-kind Lumia phones, manufactured in collaboration with Microsoft. Blackberry has started licensing its software and brand assets to others so that its name in the market continues. Also, it pledged to license these patents as they form essential elements for mobile telecommunication standard.  As is evident from the prayer of the complaint, no injunction has been claimed for. Instead, Blackberry has claimed damages and royalty for the unauthorized use of its patents. This is a smart move by the smart phone maker to commercialize on its leftover assets. Nokia has not responded to this complaint as of now, and is looking into the matter, as per a news article. Nokia's counter is acutely awaited.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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