Business, Cloud Computing, Hardware, Software Programs

Is Nokia Turning Into a Patent Troll?

As Nokia plans to jettison their handset division off to Microsoft, the questions about their constant aggressive litigation begin to ask, why? Nokia will no longer own a handset division, so they technically have no physical hardware business to protect. However, in the deal that Nokia signed with Microsoft, they keep all of the IP and simply license it to Microsoft. What this means is that Nokia will sit on a treasure trove of IP that they will most likely never use again. This begs the question, should a company really have the right to sue other companies in the industry if they aren’t making any products and don’t have any hardware or software sales to protect?

Nokia’s long term plan is to keep running NSN and license their handset IP to Microsoft (and possibly others). This would make them a lot like Rambus, trying to sue players in an industry that they barely if ever compete within by their own hand.

It appears as though Nokia is already in the process of becoming a patent troll with their latest lawsuit against HTC. This latest lawsuit is the result of Nokia suing HTC for infringing upon a patent that Nokia acquired from another company (first sign of being a patent troll). The second thing that makes Nokia seem like a patent troll is the fact that the patent itself is for something that I don’t believe could or should be patented. It literally patents the ability of a mobile computing device to be able to keep track of timezones in different areas including the movement between timezones.

Here is the official text of the abstract of the patent, it’s a bit long but every part therafter simply adds on to this patent. It actually has 60 different aspects to the patent, most of which build on the abstract and primary part of the patent. 

1. In a system having a processor, a method for displaying a plurality of event information items, including appointments, that each includes an associated time, wherein the times associated with the event information items are according to different time zones, the method comprising: accepting, from a user, an entering of an event information item of the plurality of event information items according to one of the different time zones; converting by the system the times associated with the event information items into times according to a particular time zone, wherein the particular time zone differs from the one of the different time zones; providing a calendar view suitable for displaying at least some of the event information items using the particular time zone, wherein the calendar view includes time slots that each have an associated time label; and displaying the event information items using the times according to the particular time zone.

HTC claims that this patent is essentially patenting something that has been in existence since 1883, stating, "Time zones and scheduling according to different time zones were known as far back as 1883, when North American railroads adopted five standardized time zones to end the confusion of dealing with thousands of local times. Ever since, people have been converting scheduled times between different time zones in their heads or with pencil and paper."

The real truth is that this methodology and concept has existed for so long in so many different ways that it seems ridiculous to allow for such a patent to even stand. They’ve literally patented almost any and every method of getting the time on any mobile device, which isn’t something that is unique or has been unique to that company for a long time. Additionally, the fact that Nokia bought this patent and is using it against a competitor is just another example of their movement towards a patent troll. I expect that Nokia’s litigation activities will only increase once the sale of their handset division to Microsoft is completed.