Mobile IPR to Be Auctioned
Mikko Vaananen has two lots for sale in the auction. Lot 23 comprises patents and applications related to a roaming call setup technology and is priced at €500,000 (US$672,000). And Lot 24 offers patents for a multimedia messaging technology that allows multimedia messages to be sent as files, which is priced at €675,000 ($908,000).
But bidders may get more than what they bargained for with these patents because they are both subjects of legal disputes.
The roaming technology, which allows operators to change subscribers' preferred roaming partners on their SIM cards by a radio update, is the subject of a €1 million ($1.3 million) court case against Finnish operator Elisa Corp. Vaananen's company that owns the IPR, Ladybird Innovations Oy, sued Elisa a year ago for patent infringement. Vaananen claims that Elisa has not paid any license fees to his company Ladybird, which would be valued at more than €1 million ($1.3 million). The case has not yet been resolved.
And Vaananen says Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) is trying to invalidate the patents in Finland for his multimedia message technology, which is owned by his other company Suinno Oy. The disagreement with Nokia is currently at the Finnish patent and trademark office, but Vaananen would not say whether the case will eventually end up in court. More than 100 million devices which use this technology have already shipped, according to Vaananen.
"We haven't sued Nokia yet," he says.
Nokia has certainly flexed its litigating muscle lately in its ongoing dispute with Qualcomm, and one intellectual property rights lawyer says the case is indicative of a general increase in intellectual property litigation in telecom. (See Nokia Files Suit Against Q'comm, Q'comm Files Suit Against Nokia, Nokia Pays Qualcomm, and Nokia Reponds to Q'comm.)
But Vaananen says the patent infringement disputes are good for him because they show that the technology is being used and that there is licensing potential.
"There's not much sense in acquiring intellectual property that's not used by anyone," he says. "There's an identification of use of the technology that should encourage interest into the intellectual property."
Jennifer Pierce, intellectual property rights partner at law firm Charles Russell, agrees. "If [a patent] is subject to a dispute, that means someone wants it and that's a good thing. Some people would take that as a good sign provided that they had calibrated the risk involved in the dispute."
"It's very natural for companies of asymmetrical sizes to get into disputes," says Vaananen. "The big company will see an opportunity of the smaller company going out of business before the dispute is resolved."
— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Unstrung