MARSHALL – Days after a federal judge in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas ruled on Nov. 4 that a computer software patent registered by Ericsson Inc. is not invalid, dealing a blow to a competing firm TCL Communications, case documents have been sealed.

No explanation was given.

A clerk of the court who refused comment told The SE Texas Record that the reason for the closure could not be divulged, adding that the documents would remain sealed until a judge orders their release.

According to the original October 2014 complaint, Ericsson Inc., a Delaware corporation with a place of business in Plano, and Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson, a Swedish company based in Stockholm, are telecommunications businesses with patents for cellular handsets, smartphones, tablets, television sets and other electronic devices.

The defendant TCL Communications is a company based in China which has an affiliate TCT Mobile, a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Irvine, California.

TCL designs, manufactures and imports into the U.S. smartphones and other mobile devices under brands including the Alcatel One Touch, the suit states.

The dispute between the two companies is over an alleged patent infringement.

In October 2014, officials at Ericsson informed TCL that patents the company held titled '510, '052, '931, '815 and '310 for devices including a radiotelephone that has contact user interfaces, a multiple mode direct conversion receiver and a control processor wireless phone with a ROM-stored control program written in JAVA, had been infringed by TCL.

Despite notice of infringement, TCL allegedly continued to market, import and offer for sale in the U.S. similar devices without the permission of Ericsson, purportedly violating its patent rights.

“Through its manufacture and sales of the Alcatel One Touch Fierce, TCL specifically intended its resellers and manufacturers to infringe the '310 patent,” the suit states.

Ericsson made similar allegations on other patents it held for telecommunication devices and sued, asking the court for a jury trial.

TCL submitted petitions requesting reviews of the patents before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board in August 2015 and asked for a stay in the case until resolution of the reviews. The stay was granted by the court, according to a Nov. 4 memorandum and order.

Eventually four of the patent claims were invalidated, leaving only one, the '510 patent, a system for controlling software and hardware functionality of mobile devices, as the sole remaining alleged patent infringement.

The case devolved into a legal standoff between the two companies in which Ericsson sued TCL for patent infringement in courts around the world including Brazil, France, Argentina, Russia and England to include California and Texas in the U.S., the order states.

TCL maintained it had acted in good faith and the patent held by Ericsson was invalid.  

A trial in the case is scheduled to begin on Dec. 4.

TCL argued for a summary judgment, a non-trial dismissal of the case, contending that Ericsson’s claims involved an “abstract idea” that could not be patented. On Nov. 4, Judge Roy S. Payne of the Texas Eastern Division Court disagreed and denied summary judgment.

Payne also found the Ericsson patent covering the system for controlling software in mobile devices was not invalid under the Alice Standard, a Supreme Court decision that basically said abstract ideas must have more to them than the ideas themselves.    

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