In case you missed it among the seemingly constant back and forth between Samsung and Apple in the world’s courtrooms, there is a patent case about to get underway between HTC and Nokia regarding some alleged patent infringements. The bad news for Android fans is that Judge Thomas Pender has issued a ruling that could negatively impact any Android devices that make a tethering feature available. Nokia has asserted that HTC is infringing on U.S. Patent No 5,884,190 describing a “method for making a data transmission connection from a computer to a mobile communication network for transmission of analog and/or digital signals.” The court case between Nokia and HTC is scheduled to start in a couple months, but this ruling regarding the interpretation of the 190 patent makes it difficult for HTC to deny infringement.
The case between the two companies involves about 40 patents that Nokia has asserted HTC infringes. Google is involved in the case as a third-party intervenor supporting HTC. Both HTC and Google had hoped to narrow the scope of the 190 patent, but failed to do so. The two companies will now have to somehow prove the patent is invalid, such as due to prior art. Proving the existence of prior art could be a challenge since Nokia obtained the patent in 1995, a time when the web was still in its infancy and mobile devices were closer to bricks than what we have today. If HTC fails to make their case during the trial, they may also try to sway the ITC commission to overrule the judge.
If Nokia succeeds during the trial in showing HTC has infringed on the 190 patent, one of the likely results will be an import ban on all HTC devices into the U.S. Nokia will also be in a strong position to pursue other Android device manufacturers, much like they have already done against Apple and Blackberry. In the end, most companies will probably opt to pay a royalty to Nokia in order to keep the feature available.