Last week I talked about the intellectual property battle going on in the downtown San Jose courtroom, specifically the hearing about the motion to stay for the injunction on the sale in the United States of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone. Since writing about the hearing I have been posting to Twitter news stories related to the various intellectual property wars going on around the globe. One story refers to the Oracle v. Google case, which I have covered in more detail in previous posts. Some of the other stories deal with smartphone patent infringement. I think it may be helpful to aggregate and summarize all the news pieces in one post, so read on for my take on the reports.
Oracle sued a German company UsedSoft because UsedSoft acquired software licenses from Oracle customers and resold the licenses digitally. The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that a copyright holder’s sale of a license granting a customer use of the copyright holder’s software for an unlimited period is equivalent to the copyright holder selling the actual software. The doctrine of copyright exhaustion provides that the first sale of a copyrighted work is a transfer of ownership that allows the new owner to distribute the copy of the work as he or she sees fit. Since Oracle already sold the software licenses, Oracle could not stop its customers from selling the licenses to a third party that could then resell the software license and allow a new customer to simply download Oracle’s software without paying Oracle for the license.
The Court ruling has several restrictions. First, the license reseller cannot divide up the license if the used license applies to multiple users. Second, the customer reselling the license must delete or otherwise make unusable the licensed software from the customer’s computer to which the resold license applies. Furthermore, the Court is merely responding to the German court’s request for assistance, so the final judgment in the Oracle v. UsedSoft GmbH case is pending. The German court’s decision should be based on the EU court ruling, and the CJEU will provide a legal basis for the sale and resale of software licenses in the European Union.
Apple has been petitioning the International Trade Commission (ITC) to stop the importation and eventual sale of HTC devices because the devices infringe Apple’s patents. About a month ago the ITC cleared two of HTC’s smartphones for sale in the United States as the ITC investigated Apple’s claims against HTC. Apple tried to get the phones banned again for noncompliance with ITC orders, but the ITC refused to ban the importation of HTC products until the ITC has further investigated Apple’s claims of patent infringement against HTC.
In HTC Europe Co. v. Apple, Inc., Apple sued HTC in Britain over HTC devices violating four Apple smartphone technology patents. Judge Christopher Floyd of the High Court of Justice held that three of the four patents, including a patent on the slide-to-unlock feature, are invalid. While the slide-to-unlock feature is part of Apple’s patent infringement suit against Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus smartphone, the feature was not the basis of the preliminary injunction Judge Koh issued banning the sale of the Nexus. The judge also found that HTC did not violate any of the four Apple patents, the fourth one relating to photo management.
A few months ago Yahoo sued Facebook over patent infringement over twelve of Yahoo’s patents. Facebook responded by countersuing Yahoo over Yahoo’s infringement of Facebook-owned patents and by buying 750 patents from IBM. Now that Yahoo has a new interim CEO, Yahoo has decided to drop the lawsuit and expand the partnership the two companies shared before the litigation and the Facebook IPO. The Silicon Valley community welcomes the end of the lawsuit, but the court conflict still reflects the problem of patent infringement suits potentially restricting innovation in the digital technology domain.
During Monday’s hearing, Apple counsel mentioned that the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) would either outright deny a motion for a stay or grant a short stay while the CAFC considers the appeal. On Friday, the CAFC rejected Samsung’s appeal for a stay of the injunction against the sale of the Galaxy Tab tablet. The CAFC ordered Apple to respond to Samsung’s appeals by July 12. Furthermore, a temporary stay of the injunction against Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus smartphone is active until the CAFC properly rules on the smartphone-related appeal.
With the Oracle v. Google jury trial done, Oracle filed a stipulation stating that Google owes Oracle no money in damages. At the same hearing the stipulation was filed, Google counsel mentioned that Google would be asking Oracle to pay Google for Google’s court costs and legal expenses. This week, Google filed its petition for its bill of costs amounting to about four million dollars. Judge Alsup will rule on the petition later.
Reuters has assembled a brief summary of the patent battles that have been waged over the past few years over mobile technology. It starts by mentioning Nokia’s suit against Apple and how that was settled a year ago. The article also summarizes each way Apple is attacking companies whose products use the Android operating system. Lastly the article notes that Microsoft and Motorola are fighting over patents in the ITC.
I hope this inaugural feature has been helpful in understanding some of the intellectual property news stories of the past week. Remember to follow me on Twitter at SimonHLinder for the most recent stories I find to share and for case overage when I am attending court.