HTC Attempts To Speed Through Patent War With Apple

HTC Attempts To Speed Through Patent War With Apple

Nora Sleeth is a JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.

On September 19, 2011, the England and Wales High Court (Patents Court) rendered its decision related to proceedings launched by Apple against HTC in Germany in July 2011, which claimed infringement of three patents. Two of the claims were brought in Munich and the third was brought in Mannheim. The division of these claims between the two courts proved to be significant in HTC’s attempt at expediting the proceedings.

In response to Apple’s actions, HTC filed corresponding claims for revocation of the patents in the United Kingdom and applied to have these actions expedited.  HTC supported its application on the grounds that the decision would be helpful to their case in the German courts.

In the decision of the England and Wales High Court, Arnold J examined the criteria for expedition as summarized by Lord Neuberger in Gore v Geox: "To my mind, when considering such an application there are four factors to take into account. The first is whether the applicants… have shown good reason for expedition; the second is whether expedition would interfere with the good administration of justice; the third is whether expedition would cause prejudice to the other party; and the fourth is whether there are any other special factors."

Arnold J found that, in the rapidly expanding smartphone market, business efficacy necessitates expedition since HTC, HTC customers, and third parties need to know of any patent infringements as soon as possible.

The claim regarding the third patent, ‘859, generated the majority of the contention in this case.  HTC reasoned that “by virtue of the bifurcated system that exists in Germany, if the decision of the Mannheim court on the question of infringement is adverse to HTC, then an injunction may be granted against HTC restraining infringement of the '859 patent before the validity of that patent has been tested.” HTC thus hoped to obtain a favourable judgment that it could bring to the Mannheim court.

Arnold J was not convinced by HTC’s argument, as no timeline for the Mannheim proceeding had been established and there was no certainty as to the date of the hearing. It was likely that the Mannheim court would adjust the timing of the proceedings once it became aware of the UK trial. Therefore, the first of Lord Neuberger’s criteria was not satisfied.

With regard to the second factor outlined by Lord Neuberger, Arnold J found that the degree of expedition sought was disproportionate to the justifications made and was thus contrary to the administration of justice. Further, the expedition of the trial would prejudice Apple by generating excess pressure to prepare for an earlier proceeding.

This decision is yet another development in the international battle between Apple and HTC for control of the smartphone market.