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IPCom wins access to licences in FRAND case

A legal adviser to patent licensing company IPCom can inspect confidential licensing agreements signed by Nokia and HTC, a UK judge has ruled

The January 24 judgmentby Mr Justice Floyd is the latest twist in extensive litigation initiated by IPCom after it bought Bosch’s telecoms patent portfolio, which includes a number of standard-essential patents.

IPCom has asserted various patents against companies including Nokia and HTC. One of those patents was found to be valid and infringed by Nokia, while a parallel case against HTC concerning the same patent is pending.

Other IPCom patents have been found to be invalid or not infringed.

The latest hearings concern the determination of the appropriate royalty to be paid by Nokia and HTC under FRAND terms.

IPCom sought permission to view relevant confidential licences signed by Nokia and HTC with third parties, and specified five Nokia and three HTC agreements.

These would be made available to a “confidentiality club” comprising (1) legal advisers and counsel, (2) named experts and (3) two other named individuals. Nokia and HTC objected to the inclusion of the third category, and also to the specific people that IPCom proposed.

In his judgment, Floyd said that two men, Bernhard Frohwitter and Christoph Schoeller (who run IPCom), should not be allowed access but that a third, Roman Sedlmaier, should be allowed to join the club.

Sedlmaier is a partner of German law firm Frohwitter, and has represented IPCom since 2007. He has given an undertaking to withhold confidential information from those not in the club.

“Dr Sedlmaier ... is an external lawyer bound by a professional code of conduct ... To the extent that he is involved in future negotiations he will have to shut out from his mind anything learned from the confidential documents,” wrote Floyd.

The trial to decide the royalty to be paid by Nokia on the patent is scheduled for July this year, and many observers of standard-essential patents expect that to be one of the first opportunities for the courts to define FRAND terms.

However, there is a hint in Floyd’s judgment that the hearing may not take place. He noted: “Shortly before the application was due to be heard, Nokia and IPCom announced that they were close to a settlement of the disputes between them.”

IPCom is represented by barristers James Flynn QC, Iain Purvis QC and Kassie Smith and law firm Bristows.

Nokia is represented by barrister James Abrahams and law firm Bird & Bird while HTC is represented by Adrian Speck QC and Josh Holmes and SJ Berwin.

Ericsson, represented by Mark Chacksfield and Taylor Wessing, and RIM, represented by Joe Delaney and Allen & Overy, also took part in the hearing.

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