IPCom is suing around 100 German retailers for continuing to sell HTC smartphones that it alleges infringe one of its patents.
The patent licensing firm said that it has sent cease and desist letters to the retailers setting a deadline for compliance, but that none of them has agreed to its demands, making lawsuits inevitable. The deadline passed on Tuesday.
"Since the retailers are fully aware of the court decisions of patent infringement against HTC, and continue to sell the handsets despite our request to stop doing so, the retailers risk being held liable themselves for wilfully infringing our patent #100A, with all consequences under the law," said Bernhard Frohwitter, managing director of IPCom.
"We warned them that we would not stand by and watch HTC disregard German court decisions. They have only themselves to blame for the escalation."
The fact that the case has degenerated into suing retailers suggests that IPCom is no longer confident of getting HTC to comply with its requests and is going direct to the shops instead. This might result in some outlets, particularly smaller ones, buckling under legal pressure and agreeing to stop selling HTC 3G phones.
The dispute turned a corner when HTC withdrew its appeal against a 2009 ruling by the District Court of Mannheim, which had found that the company infringed one patent but not the remaining ones that IPCom claimed. HTC claims that a Federal Patents Court ruling that the patent is invalid renders the 2009 verdict null and void.
HTC has therefore not pulled, nor made any changes to, any of its products. The company said that it has contingencies in place for any legal eventuality, suggesting that it will alter products to get around any ban, as Samsung has done with the Galaxy Tab in Germany.
HTC also obtained a preliminary injunction forcing IPCom to amend parts of future cease and desist letters sent to retailers, but IPCom claims that the legal substance of the letters remains unchanged.
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