TomTom vs Garmin: everyone’s a winner

The year-long patent dispute between the Dutch GPS supplier TomTom and its American rival Garmin appears to have been resolved. Trouble is, both parties say they have won.

The case centres on five core patents that Garmin says TomTom has infringed. A decision in the Wisconsin court has found that all five Garmin patents are either invalid or not infringed at all.

So TomTom wins? That’s the view of Harold Goddijn, CEO of TomTom: “We are pleased with the recognition of the Wisconsin court that this was not a valid case. We did not start this fight and tried to convince Garmin that the case did not have merit … We are hopeful that Garmin will return to competing in the marketplace instead of wasting resources on litigation.”
But that’s not how Garmin sees it. “The Court’s ruling gave Garmin a complete victory in its defense of TomTom’s claims of infringement of three patents and left unadjudicated many of the claims filed by Garmin against TomTom.”

Garmin’s view is based on a counterclaim by TomTom. After Garmin filed the original claim, TomTom – which does not hold any US patents for technology it developed itself – bought three US patents from a company called Horizon Navigation and then counterclaimed that Garmin had infringed those. And the judge threw out those claims.

The current situation, according to Garmin, is just a breather between rounds. The judge “found that some of Garmin’s claims against TomTom could not go forward” but “her ruling did not resolve multiple patent infringement claims asserted by Garmin against TomTom.
“the ruling administratively closed the case, Garmin intends to pursue these additional unadjudicated claims.”

So the case in Wisconsin is over – but Garmin has already opened a new legal attack, having filed a separate patent infringement action against TomTom in the Texas back in August. The Wisconsin ruling has no impact on this litigation, which is set for trial in the Autumn 2008. All good fun.

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