CeBIT 2008: Alleged patent troll Sisvel throws wrench in works of several smartphone and digital media player makers over MP3 licensing
Ricky Morris, DIGITIMES, Taipei [Thursday 6 March 2008]
Italy-based Sisvel S.p.a., holder of a somewhat controversial MP3 patent, has had the CeBIT 2008 booths of several Windows Mobile smartphone and digital media player makers shut down over allegations that the devices of the makers infringe on its patents.
In 2006, Sisvel was able to disrupt the show of SanDisk at the IFA Expo in Berlin over the same issue.
Sisvel holds a patent which allows it to demand a licensing fee for consumer electronics devices sold in Europe which include MP3 capabilities. Sisvel recently filed suit with local prosecutors in Germany against a list of companies which it alleged would be displaying devices which infringe upon its patent at the CeBIT halls in Hannover.
Company's hit by the allegations include a Taiwan-based smartphone maker, as well as handset and media player makers from China, who were all visited by investigators on Wednesday (March 5). The investigators took away items, including demo devices and brochures.
The result of the raids has left some makers with nothing to show at the event, effectively putting a premature end to CeBIT for these companies.
Other Taiwan-based smartphone makers, including High Tech Computer (HTC) and Asustek Computer, were not included in the suit as they have already reached an agreement to pay Sisvel licensing fees, according to industry sources. BenQ, which also markets smartphones, is not attending CeBIT, according to the company, although it is listed as a licensee by Sisvel.
It is a point of contention that Windows Mobile-based smartphone makers are being pursued by Sisvel, as some would point out that Microsoft should be the one to handle all licensing issues, and any fees should be included in the Windows Mobile software license. Windows Media Player Mobile, which is supplied to partners as standard in the Windows Mobile package, includes MP3 playback capabilities.
However, Microsoft's stance on the issue is that it is between Sisvel and its partners to reach an agreement, according to industry sources. Microsoft was invited to respond to did not reply by the time of publication.
A spokesperson at the Sisvel booth confirmed that the company had supplied a list of "several" companies to public prosecutors, but said that it was the prosecutors who made the decision on which companies to visit. The spokesperson was quick to stress that the list was not intended to target Chinese or Asian companies specifically, saying that the issue of patent infringement was global.
The public prosecutors are expected to hold a press conference later today (March 6), according to the Sisvel representative.