Apple has suffered a loss in court today at the hands of a federal jury, over three patents held by MobileMedia Ideas, a patent-licensing firm owned by MPEG-LA and holding patents acquired from Sony and Nokia. The jury found that Apple had indeed violated the three patents, which were not determined to be invalid, after deliberating for four hours according to Bloomberg news. Damages for the infringement will be awarded in a later trial, which MobileMedia CEO Larry Horn said he believes could be “substantial” in a Bloomberg interview.
The patents in question were part of an original claim that included 14 total, filed in 2010. That pool was narrowed to three before the case went to trial this year. The three involved include one covering a mobile device with a camera capable of transmitting images to another; one for handling how a phone rejects calls, and another for managing hold status and other call states on a mobile communication device.
MobileMedia Ideas holds around 300 patents in total, and represents one of a variety of patent pools held by parent company MPEG-LA. Apple actually contributed some of the patents held by MPEG-LA, which means that the parent company behind MobileMedia, which will now presumably seek a lot of money in damages from Apple, also handles the collection of royalties for Apple on other patents (specifically related to digital video standards). In a 2010 blog post, intellectual property publication The Prior Art describes MobileMedia’s formation, mission and how it differs from MPEG-LA. The picture it paints is essentially one of what others might identify as a so-called “patent troll,” but one run in part by Sony and Nokia, both of which owned at least 10 percent of MobileMedia at the time of the post’s writing.
So basically, in case you needed more proof the patent system is a tangled mess or not, here it is. There’s no date yet set for the trial at which damages will be determined, but we’ll be watching to see what kind of a hit Apple stands to take (pending any appeals).