German court rejects Via Vadis patent suit against Skype

22-01-2013

German court rejects Via Vadis patent suit against Skype

The District Court of Dusseldorf has rejected patent infringement claims brought by non-practising entity (NPE) Via Vadis Controlling against Internet video and voice calling service Skype.

Via Vadis has been pursuing legal action against Skype in Europe and across the US since 2011 over patents relating to data storage and management. An NPE, the company buys and licenses patents but does not produce products.

In its complaint, Via Vadis alleged that Skype had infringed its European patent No.1151591 covering a method for optimising data storage, but the case was rejected on 8 January after presiding judge Ulrike Voβ ruled that Skype’s system does not shift data between different means of storage – a key  feature of Via Vadis’s registered patent.

“This suit was a meritless attempt from a company with no products to capitalise on Skype’s success. We’re pleased the court agreed with many of our arguments and dismissed the case,” said David Howard, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel at Microsoft, which purchased Skype in 2011.

Hosea Haag, an attorney at Ampersand, who represented Via Vadis, said the company is considering whether to appeal against the decision, and rejected claims that Via Vadis was attempting to sue Microsoft with no intention of using the patent.

“The decision of 8 January is based on the interpretation of one feature of the patent in suit, purely on a question of law. Unusually for German courts, the court followed the rather narrow claim interpretation of the defendant,” he said.

“Invented in the nineties, the patentees developed various applications of the invented data-distribution system. Only later did they become aware that their technology was also used by others such as Skype. [Via-Vadis] is not an NPE acting like [other non-practicing entities] in Europe, because the patent is worked and is not trivial,” he added.

Commenting on the treatment of non-practising entities in German courts, Haag said: “From my personal experience, it does not matter to a court whether the entity is practicing or not. German courts deal with a lot of patent cases, more than probably any other jurisdiction, and tend to concentrate on the technology and law rather than on surrounding issues and for the matter of infringement, unimportant questions of who is bringing the claim.”

Daniel Papst, a patent attorney and managing director of Papst Licensing in Dusseldorf, said: “Not every patent is infringed only because a respective argument could be made. It appears to me that Via Vadis’s claims were not a clear cut infringement argument on the technology Skype appears to use.”

Via Vadis, Skype, patent infringement, NPE, Microsoft