T-Mobile USA Sued By OTI Over NFC Patent In Nokia, HTC Smartphones

Here we go again: today brings another mobile patent infringement suit — this time against T-Mobile USA, and over a technology that has had very little use to date, but a lot of potential.

On Track Innovations says that the carrier is selling, “or offering to sell”, “at least” two handset models — the HTC Amaze 4G and the Nokia Astound — that it claims violate a near-field communications patent owned by OTI. NFC is the technology that is the centerpiece for a number of contactless mobile payments services and data sharing other applications.

The case was filed today in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, OTI says.
OTI says that it holds some 100 patents — both approved and pending applications — covering a pretty wide range of areas, from NFC and other contactless payments technologies, to secure ID, and “petroleum and parking solutions.”

OTI says in its suit (embedded below) that T-Mobile has been damaging OTI’s business “by selling and/or offering to sell data transaction devices having contact and contactless modes of operation enabling Near Field Communications capabilities, including at least the following such devices: HTC Amaze 4G, Nokia Astound.” That could leave the door open for other devices to be named. There are no damages specified in the suit. The patent in question here is number 6,045,043.

OTI has been enforcing its patents already and says it has signed a licensing deal “multibillion dollar” corporation, covering a different patent, 8,090,407, for contactless smart SIM cards. It doesn’t specify the name of the licensee.

“We believe in the strength and value of our intellectual property and have the resources to protect it,” Oded Bashan, chief executive of Rosh Pina, Israel-based OTI, said in a statement.

OTI says that its technology is supported by MasterCard and Visa. Among the products it sells itself are NFC devices and readers, including a product, the COPNI (Contactless Payment and NFC Insert), that can be attached to a phone to make it NFC-capable, even if it does not have an NFC chip built into the device itself.

Although some companies like Google, Nokia and RIM have committed to implementing NFC, there are others that have not and some have seen these “bolt-on” solutions as one way forward to speed up usage and adoption. There were just 30 million NFC-equipped handsets sold in 2011, says Berg Insight, but it predicts that number will go up to 700 million by 2016.

Up to now, many of the mobile patent suits have been against device and component makers although there seem to be an increasing number of digital media suits covering services (for example, the infringement case Yahoo has brought against Facebook) that widens the net of plaintiffs and defendants.


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