back to article IPCom's 'priority call' patent ruled too broad, world+dog faints

A patent that allows network operators to prioritise police calls over everyday network traffic is too broad to be valid, the European Patent Office ruled yesterday. The judgment is a blow for the patent-holder – German firm IPCom - but will be a relief for beleaguered phone giant Nokia. IPCom has been hounding Nokia through …

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Cold War prior art?

During the Cold War Britain had an extensive "Government Telephone Preference Scheme" that prioritised phone lines according to user (http://www.ringbell.co.uk/ukwmo/Page242.htm). Although admittedly pre-digital this concept of prioritising calls has been around for decades.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Cold War prior art?

The GTPS still exists today, though it's being withdrawn as effectively stopping over 90% of all landline calls in the event of a major emergency is seen as a bit drastic nowadays.

The mobile equivalent (MTPAS) is still going strong, as is the separate communication systems for emergency services, the military and central government etc.

I do fail to see how a system where lines are effectively disconnected to make capacity on the network is the same as this patent though. Especially as the GTPS kills everything, including 999 calls.

http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/content/privileged-access-schemes-mtpas-ftpas-and-airwave

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This I do not understand.....

.... surely it is the netowrk operator that routes the calls, not the handsets.... ?

In fact, it is, in the 2g voice world, the MSC the routes the calls and, broadley speaking, makes the priority selection, not the device ?

Not really sure why a Nokia E65 would be infinging on this... ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This I do not understand.....

I seem to remember this being a 'standard essential' patent - i.e. it's part of the GSM standard, and all phones must implement it if they're GSM compatible. So yes, the handsets probably do infringe the patent. All handsets, from every manufacturer!

Basically the issue is the utter idiocy of german patent case law. In theory the handset makers all have to pay IPCOM a fee to use the patented stuff, and in theory that fee is pretty small change (a small percentage of the cost of the chip that implements it). Elsewhere in the world, that's the case. In germany? IPCOM can demand billions and the courts will often back them up.

Motorola + Samsung are also trying to pull this particular stunt in germany, and the EU is now investigating them both for market abuse, but somehow IPCOM has slipped the net so far. Hopefully they're on the watch-list.

The whole issue would eventually go away of course - if IPCOM won, nokia would appeal to a higher court, then a higher one.... etc ... and then it would end up at the EU, and nokia would very likely win. Problem is: IPCOM can get nokia phones banned in germany while that happens. And it could take years to appeal. IPCOM will be demanding less money than the cost of losing the whole german market.

It's basically a hold-up. "Pay us money we're illegally demanding, or we shut you down". And nokia can't work around the patent, because it's essential to the standard.

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Paris Hilton

Re: This I do not understand.....

So the correct course of action for the phone makers is:

To stand in solidarity and say - if you ban Nokia phones in Germany, then since we must all be infringing equally and the patent it technically Euro-wide, we will all voluntarily stop sales of our phones in Europe.

Wouldn't actually cost them that much in real terms since people would delay their purchase, not abandon them. Might kick some sense into our collective legislature.

It would be nice snuggle up with beer and popcorn to watch that, but I suspect it'll not be happening any time soon.

Paris: "What happened to my phone?"

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Anonymous Coward

One wonders...

... just how many other of these so-called "Patents" that the Big Boys are playing (and paying) pass-the-parcel with are utterly worthess.

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FAIL

Best news I've read all week.

"So far, of 62 IPCom patents that have come to judgment, none has been found valid as granted"

IPCOM must be the world's worst patent troll.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Best news I've read all week.

Unfortunately that's a bit.. misleading? It sounds like IPCOM's patents are a huge pile of crap. In reality if you took 62 of Nokia's patents and put them up for re-examination they'd probably come back with "none has been found valid as granted".

Almost zero patents are valid as granted. What happens is that the patent office gives them a fairly limited look-over, then when it comes to use them a court (or patent office) looks at it, and their (highly motivated and hopefully wealthy) opponents present lots of prior art and arguments as to why it should be invalid. Normally most of the patent is invalidated, but if the patent is good the core parts will survive. That slims it down to the bone, but what you're left with is pretty solid if it's still of any use.

Note that the IPCOM patent wasn't rejected - just part of it was. The parts that are left could be a big problem for Nokia if it covers anything important.

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ACZ

Here's the case - not just Nokia, opposing

The EPO's record for the case is here:

https://register.epo.org/espacenet/application?number=EP07009265

Opponents are Nokia, T mobile, Vodafone, Ericsson and HTC.

The detailed written decision hasn't yet issued (and will be in German) - expect that to take at least another month or two. When it does issue, it will be in the "All documents" section (link at the top left of the page). They'll probably appeal the decision, so this will go on for at least another year.

The patent itself (English language claims on page 9 of the PDF here): http://worldwide.espacenet.com/publicationDetails/originalDocument?CC=EP&NR=1841268B1&KC=B1&FT=D&ND=1&date=20100317&DB=EPODOC&locale=en_EP) requires the mobile phone itself to do the work in prioritising traffic - reads a value off the SIM, gets data from the network, and figures out whether or not the call can be made.

Involvement of the phone and network means that both the mobile phone manufacturers and networks would be affected by the patent.

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It is an outrage that IPCom public spirited actions in stopping the sale of crappy old Nokias have been stymied in this way. May we all pray that this decision is overturned.

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