HELSINKI Cellphone makers Nokia and HTC are using technologies patented by German firm IPCom, a court said on Friday, but added it was unclear whether the patents were valid.
A district court in Mannheim, Germany decided to put on hold a request for injunctions to ban the sale and distribution of the two company's handsets in Germany, pending final decisions on the validity of the patents by the European Patent Office.
These decisions are due next year, the companies said.
"This ruling shows clearly that the companies have made unapproved use of our patents for years," Bernhard Frohwitter, IPCom's managing director, said in a statement.
Nokia and HTC stressed the importance of the court's comments on lack of validity of the two patents in question.
"We are trustful we can get both patents revoked," said Martin Chakraborty, partner at Lovells LLP law firm, who represents HTC on the case.
Nokia said it has always believed that the patents are invalid and are not infringed by Nokia products.
IPCom acquired Bosch's mobile telephony patent portfolio, created between the mid-1980s and 2000, which includes about 160 patent families worldwide.
Frohwitter said it expects to Nokia and HTC to return to the negotiating table and agree a license on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory licensing terms.
"We believe IPCom's portfolio is a weak one and for weak portfolios companies don't want to pay high royalties," Chakraborty said.
Nokia said IPCom's demands were 'excessive' and 'unjustifiable.'
German daily Handelsblatt has estimated Nokia could have to pay 12 billion euros ($17.27 billion) to IPCom if it loses the legal battle.
Last week IPCom pledged to European Union regulators to stick to its promise of fair licensing terms for patents acquired from Germany's Bosch, averting a possible antitrust investigation.
Nokia and IPCom have been fighting in several courts for the last three years over the patents and their validity, but this has been still a sidetrack for Nokia's legal team, which has at the same time battled against Qualcomm, and, in October, charged Apple for infringing its patents.
(Additional reporting by Christoph Steitz in Frankfurt; editing by Simon Jessop and Rupert Winchester)