HTC could suffer a very ill timed sales ban in Germany, after it withdrew its appeal to a patent claim over 3G/UMTS standards won by German firm IPCom in February 2009 in a Mannheim court. HTC said the appeal was redundant as a German court has already questioned the validity of the aforementioned patent, but IPCom sees this as an admission of defeat and intends to enforce an injunction in the shortest possible time.
"Since HTC has never to come up with an offer that adequately reflects the value of these patents, IPCom has been left with no choice – we will use the right awarded by the courts, likely resulting in HTC devices disappearing from shops during the crucial Christmas season," IPCom managing director Bernhard Frohwitter said in a statement.
A verdict on HTC's appeal was due to be decided this week.
Although the Taiwanese handset maker claims IPCom's patents are invalid, patent expert and blogger Florian Mueller points out that if that were the motivation behind the withdrawal then it should have happened earlier. Instead, he claims, HTC is buying time to avoid a decision on two related patents that IPCom dropped into the suit after the original judgment had come out. These additional patents would have been at issue at this week's trial, but now IPCom will have to go back to a first-instance court if it wants to enforce them.
IPCom can still enforce the original patent, however, which is valid until 2020. According to Mueller, chances are not looking good for HTC and it may have to pay up soon if it doesn't want to leave the German market.
IPCom acquired Bosch's mobile telephony patent portfolio in 2007. It develops no products and carries out no research into mobile technologies, but it is determined to get a good return on the money it paid for the patents and legal fees. Besides HTC, the patent holding firm is targeting Nokia in the UK and elsewhere, as well as Germany's two leading carriers T-Mobile and Vodafone.