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Apple Gets Partial Fed. Circ. Win In Sony-Nokia Patent Case

The Federal Circuit recently cleared Apple Inc. of infringing three smartphone patents held by a company formed by Sony Corp. of America and Nokia Corp., but sent the case back to the district court for further proceedings on another patent.

In a complex, mixed ruling, the appeals court sided with Apple on some issues, while agreeing on other issues with plaintiff MobileMedia Ideas LLC, a patent licensing firm formed by Sony, Nokia and MPEG LA LLC.

MobileMedia accused Apple’s iPhone of infringing four patents related to camera phone and phone call technology. The Federal Circuit reversed both of the district court’s findings that Apple infringed and affirmed that the third patent was invalid. However, it agreed with MobileMedia that the district court’s noninfringement finding on the fourth patent was based on an incorrect claim construction and vacated that ruling.

The Federal Circuit said that the district court wrongly found infringement of two patents. The two patents are U.S. Patent Numbers 6,427,078, which covers a notebook computer that includes a camera unit, and 6,070,068, which covers the display of call handling options like “hold” and “disconnect” on a mobile phone display.

With regard to the ’078 camera phone patent, the appeals court said that because the iPhone’s camera module has no internal memory for storing data, it does not infringe the patent, which describes a “means for processing and for storing” information.

“Although MobileMedia contends that the ‘main memory of the iPhone’ is the camera unit’s means for storing, this ‘main memory’ is not located within the iPhone camera module, which is what [the patent] requires,” the Federal Circuit wrote. “Therefore, we reverse the district court’s judgment that Apple infringes.”

With regard to the ’068 call handling patent, the appeals court held that it was invalid as obvious and reversed the finding that Apple infringed.

The two patents that the district court found Apple did not infringe are U.S. Patent Numbers 6,253,075, which covers a way of rejecting an incoming call when the user is already on a call, and RE 39,231, which covers a way of permitting a user to stop a ringtone for an incoming call without notifying the caller.

The Federal Circuit held that the lower court correctly found that the ’075 call rejection patent was obvious. However, it found that the judge misconstrued the claims of the ’231 ringtone patent.

For more information, see Law360.



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