Apple is facing off with another patent troll. The German company IPCom is seeking damages of over $2 billion (€1.57 billion) for Apple's alleged infringement of a European patent it owns and says is essential to 3G and LTE devices. Apple and a group of other major companies — including Nokia, HTC, and Vodafone — previously challenged the patent's validity, but the European Patent Office ultimately held up a narrower version of it last month.
IPCom is suing Nokia over the same patent
Though IPCom has agreed to license its patents on FRAND (fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory) terms, it's been a courtroom regular in recent years. This same patent, EP 1 841 268, has been used to sue Nokia, among others, too. The patent covers a technology that allows a device to receive priority on a network in the event of an emergency, even if the network is congested. Like many of its patents, IPCom acquired this one from another company. Its primary business is licensing these mobile communication patents to manufacturers in the industry. Companies like this, colloquially referred to as patent trolls, have become a major point of contention in the tech industry, with many — the US Congress included — working toward reform over concerns that they might stifle innovation. Another patent holding entity filed suit against Apple over its processor designs just last week.
IPCom is also alleging infringement of a German patent that involves cell network communications as well, however it hasn't stated how much it's looking for in damages yet. With the European patent's validity already upheld, Apple may ultimately end up licensing at least one of the two patents under contention here, should it be found to have infringed them. There may be another option though: IPCom says that Nokia and HTC have actually found a way around using the European patent in some cases, but it argues that doing so could pose a security and stability risk to the connected network.