Vodafone fails to pause €508M 3G patent lawsuit in UK

Vodafone has apparently been unsuccessful in its efforts to pause a €508 million (US$617 million) patent dispute over 3G technology brought by Spanish technology company Top Optimized Technologies (TOT) in the UK, while a related dispute is conducted in Madrid.

In November, a Law360 report said Vodafone asked a judge in London to delay the suit in the UK to avoid the risk of inconsistent judgments.

The UK-based operator said that although the Spanish court had dismissed the suit alleging corporate espionage and patent infringement against Huawei and Vodafone, TOT had filed an appeal in Madrid with just Huawei as the respondent.

TOT's case in the UK is solely against Vodafone, Law360 said, and alleges patent infringement, misuse of information and breach of contract.

Thomas Raphael, QC of Twenty Essex and counsel for Vodafone, told Law360 that the core allegation is that "Huawei took this stuff, misused it in breach of confidence ... sold the kit to Vodafone and Vodafone has secondary liability because they know about this."

In January 2021, High Court Judge Marcus Smith nevertheless ruled that it is inappropriate to stay the English proceedings, rejecting Vodafone's arguments that waiting on the Spanish litigation would avoid the risk of inconsistent judgments.

Long-running saga

Founded by Álvaro López Medrano in 2002, TOT comprises two companies. One provides consultancy services and research in the field of mobile communications; the other is TOT Power Control including InToTally, which developed the ToT-OLPC technology with four wireless patents to solve the outer loop power control (OLPC) problem of CDMA and UMTS/HSPA (3G) networks.

The technology was designed to help boost the capacity of congested cells, as explained here in a 2012 report from GigaOm.

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Lopez-Medrano, the CEO of InToTally, said at the time that its patented technology "is the first solution that finally resolves an entrenched faulty power control algorithm to provide up to 40% more user capacity and quality of service in 3G networks and up to 40% more capacity and quality in some LTE services."

According to El Confidencial, InToTally signed a collaboration memorandum with Vodafone in 2010 that included the payment of a fee; In 2012, it signed an agreement with Huawei to apply the technology in the 25 countries where Vodafone operated at the time.

InToTally said Vodafone Group was deploying the technology to gain "critical infrastructure improvements."

In 2012, the startup also said that Vodafone Ventures, the corporate venture capital arm of Vodafone Group, was leading an equity investment in the firm. Indeed, Crunchbase notes that Vodafone Ventures took part in a seed funding round for InToTally on May 4, 2012. In a 2016 report, OK Diario said Vodafone Ventures owned a 6% stake in InToTally.

It seems that the relationship between InToTally and Vodafone began to go sour in 2015. El Confidencial said Vodafone informed TOT it was no longer interested in the technology because Huawei had developed an alternative solution.

TOT then commenced its legal action against Huawei and Vodafone in 2016. Vodafone referenced the initial case in Spain in its 2017 Annual Report.

El Confidencial said TOT has also accused Xiaomi of infringing patents on three mobiles that it presented at Mobile World Congress in 2018.

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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