Apple faces €1.57 billion patent damages claim in Germany

IPCom alleges that Apple infringed on its patent relating to the control of access to 3G mobile networks

German patent licensing firm IPCom has accused Apple of infringing a patent on 3G technology and wants €1.57 billion (US$2.1 billion) in damages, the Mannheim Regional Court said Wednesday.

IPCom has declared the patent, EP 1 841 268, essential to the implementation of 3G mobile standards, and a narrowed version of the patent was upheld by the European Patent Office (EPO) last month following challenges from Apple, Nokia, HTC, Ericsson and Vodafone.

The patent relates to the way handsets are allowed to access networks of various mobile telecommunications providers. The technology can be used to give some users priority access to networks in emergencies, even if the networks are overloaded, according to IPCom.

After the EPO had upheld the patent IPCom announced it would continue a number of related cases in the coming months.

The case against Apple is scheduled to be heard on Feb. 11 at the Mannheim Regional Court. It will deal with two patents that IPCom alleges Apple has infringed, the court said in a news release.

In addition to the recently upheld European patent, it also involves a German patent, DE 199 10 239, which relates to a way to manage access to overloaded wireless communication channels, the court said. IPCom did not demand a specific amount of damages from Apple for the second patent, the court added.

Apple and IPCom both declined to comment on the case.

When the EPO upheld the first patent in suit, IPCom said that it wanted companies to license the patent, adding that "the industry should bear in mind that damages for patent infringement set by the courts can be significantly higher than a license" on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.

A separate case against Nokia over the European patent recently upheld by the EPO is scheduled to take place on May 28 at the Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe.

IPCom was founded in 2007 and has a portfolio of almost 1,200 patents in about 160 patent families in the field of mobile communications. It says that 35 of those families are essential to implementation of key mobile communications standards in 2G (GSM), 2.5G (GPRS), 3G (UMTS) and subsequent generations.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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