Inventor loses patent case against Nokia
Written by Jane Coyle on 14 August 2007« Return to Reading Room
An inventor who wrote his patent from scratch and conducted a legal campaign against Nokia has
lost his claim for patent infringement against the mobile phone company.
Frank Cunningham must pay £1,500 in costs to Nokia, having lost a review hearing related to an
earlier ruling by a hearing officer of the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). That opinion, and
the review hearing that supported it, said that Cunningham's patent was not infringed by Nokia and
that one of the claims he made for his patent was invalid. Cunningham invented a system which
connected a house's door entry system to a mobile telephone. His brief application, accompanied by
a page of hand-drawn illustrations, was granted. According to his patent, Cunningham's system
comprised a camera built into a house door with a motion detector attached. When motion is
detected or the doorbell pressed, the system connects the camera in the system to the house
owner's mobile phone, allowing the owner to see who is at the door.
Nokia has a system called the PT-6 which is a remote camera and motion sensor that sends the owner
of a property a photograph of what it sees when it detects motion. Cunningham alleged that Nokia's
technology infringed his patent and asked the IPO to issue an opinion. That opinion was issued
last year and turned on the scope of Cunningham's patent. It said that Nokia did not infringe that
patent. Cunningham asked for a review of the opinion, which has only a small number of specific
grounds on which it can overturn an original opinion. Opinions are not legally binding and
Cunningham can sue Nokia for infringement in the courts.
Hearing Officer Phil Thorpe said that the original opinion had not been an error, and that Nokia
has not infringed Cunningham's patent. He found that there was enough difference between the two
systems; principally that Nokia's cannot be activated by a doorbell, for there to have been no
Cunningham represented himself in the case. Thorpe said that his arguments were passionate but not
always relevant. "[Cunningham] has represented himself with no little conviction and has clearly
thrown himself into the legal aspects of the case," said Thorpe's ruling. "Unfortunately much of
his argument was based on misunderstandings. in particular he based his arguments mainly on a
false assumption that the scope of his patent extended well beyond the words that he had actually
used in his claims, even when read in the light of the description and drawings, to cover aspects
of his invention that he seems to have thought of yet not specified or else specified in a way
that was clear only to him," he said.
There is a scale on which costs are awarded in IPO hearings, and Nokia applied to have greater
costs awarded to them than were allowed on the scale. Thorpe declined, and ordered £1,500 in costs
to be paid to Nokia. Thorpe also ruled that the original opinion was correct when it said that one
of the patent's claims, related to a security system for vehicles, was invalid because a previous
patent had covered similar ground.
Cunningham has lodged an appeal with the Patents Court.
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