By Tarmo Virki
HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland's Nokia and Taiwan's HTC won a key European ruling that a patent of German firm IPCom, which was threatening sales of their phones in Germany, was invalid in its current form.
Wednesday's ruling by the European Patent Office was a rare spot of good news for Nokia, which is struggling with dwindling sales and credit rating downgrades in recent weeks. Nokia said it meant it could continue selling products in Germany.
IPCom said it would immediately appeal against the ruling and that its patent 100A, which standardizes a cellphone's first connection to a network, was valid until there is a final decision on the appeal.
"Today's judgment does not impact the successful rulings regarding infringement proceeding against Nokia and HTC in Germany and UK," it said.
IPCom acquired Bosch's mobile telephony patent portfolio, which was created between the mid-1980s and 2000 and includes about 160 patent families worldwide.
Those patents, including 100A, include some key technologies for the wireless industry.
Several top phone makers have signed a licensing deal with IPCom, but HTC and Nokia have challenged IPCom's patents in courts across Europe.
Nokia and IPCom have been fighting in several courts for around five years over the patents and Nokia has said IPCom's licensing fee demands are excessive and unjustifiable.
"IPCom needs to recognize its position and end its unrealistic demands," Paul Melin, vice president, Intellectual Property at Nokia, said in a statement.
HTC - whose German retailers IPCom has sued for patent infringement - said it was pleased with the ruling and said it hoped it would end the long patent fight.
"This ruling undermines IPCom's license infringement claim against us. We trust IPCom will now reconsider its opportunistic dispute with HTC and withdraw its legal action against us," the Taiwanese company said.
(Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by Keiron Henderson and Hans-Juergen Peters)