INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY FIRM Ipcom is suing roughly 100 German retailers for continuing to sell HTC smartphones that it alleges infringe one of its patents.
Ipcom said that it had sent cease and desist letters to the retailers setting a deadline for compliance, but that none of them have agreed to its demands, making lawsuits inevitable. The deadline passed on Tuesday.
"Since the retailers are fully aware of the court decisions of patent infringement against HTC, and continue to sell the handsets despite our request to stop doing so, the retailers risking being held liable themselves for wilfully [sic] infringing our patent #100A, with all consequences under the law," said Bernhard Frohwitter, managing director of Ipcom. "We warned them that we would not stand by and watch HTC disregard German court decisions - they have only themselves to blame for the escalation."
The fact that this case has degenerated into suing retailers suggests that Ipcom is no longer confident that it can get HTC to comply with its requests and is going direct to the shops instead. This might result in some shops, particularly smaller ones, buckling under legal pressure and agreeing to stop selling HTC 3G phones.
The dispute between HTC and Ipcom turned a corner when HTC withdrew its appeal against a 2009 ruling by the District Court of Mannheim, which had found that the company infringed one patent but not the remaining ones that Ipcom claimed. HTC claims that a Federal Patents Court ruling that the patent is invalid renders the 2009 verdict null and void.
HTC has therefore not pulled any of its products, nor made any changes to them. It said it has contingencies in place for any legal eventuality, suggesting it will alter products to get around any ban, like Samsung has done with its Galaxy Tab in Germany.
HTC also obtained a preliminary injunction against Ipcom that forced it to amend parts of future cease and desist letters it sends out to retailers, but Ipcom claims that the legal substance of them remains unchanged. µ