In a court document filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., Phone.com alleged yesterday that its microbrowser and server software do not flout patents held by Geoworks, a competing wireless Net access technology provider.
Geoworks claims that a portion of the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) standard is based on its "essential intellectual property rights," or technology developed by Geoworks, and that the company should be compensated.
Phone.com filed the lawsuit in response to what it referred to as its rival's "aggressive" licensing plan.
Geoworks imposed a potentially controversial royalty plan in January that sought licensing fees from content providers, software manufacturers and others that use the fast-growing WAP, a standard that allows people to view stripped-down Web pages on Internet-ready mobile phones.
The suit seeks a court order declaring that the patents are "invalid and unenforceable."
"We really felt we needed to clarify the fact that our products are not covered by the patent," said Ben Linder, vice president of marketing for Phone.com. "Most companies have been sitting on the sidelines waiting for some clarity to come to this. What we're doing is trying to force that clarity."
By arguing in court that its use of WAP doesn't infringe on Geoworks' patent, Phone.com could avoid paying the licensing fees on which its rival has staked a claim.
Geoworks remains confident of its authority to charge royalty fees under its patent and believes it will be successful in court.
"Geoworks views Phone.com's claims as completely without merit, and in particular any alleged imminent threat of a lawsuit, as an attempt to interfere with Geoworks' established licensing program," Geoworks said in a statement today.
Phone.com could be forced to pay up to $20,000 per year plus $1 per wireless Internet user to Geoworks--if the company has its way. Some industry watchers expressed concern about the effect of the licensing program on the nascent wireless Internet industry from the outset.
Geoworks maintains that its licensing program follows the rules established by the WAP Forum, of which Phone.com is a member. The company also says it has tried several times to meet with Phone.com to discuss its licensing plan.
News.com's John Borland contributed to this report.