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Dual-SIM patent-holder demands royalty

Rajesh S Kurup  |  Mumbai 

Officials in the country told to stop shipments of such phones.

The dual-SIM handset manufacturers are in a spot after a Madurai resident, who holds patent for such phones, asked the Indian Customs authorities to stop shipment of these phones till he was paid a royalty for every handset brought into the country.

Industry experts expect the move to hit the sales of dual-SIM handsets, which are imported into the country by companies including Nokia, Samsung, Meridian Mobile and Spice. More importantly, this could also affect the plans to manufacture these handsets in the country. It is estimated that around 100,000 dual-SIM phones are sold in the country every month.

The Madurai resident, Somasundaram Ramkumar, holds patent “in India for phones with a plurality of SIM cards allocated to different communication networks”. The patent was awarded to him last year.

Ramkumar has moved the Office of the Commissioner of Customs of Chennai Airport in this regard. The office has accepted his application and directed officials throughout the country to stop clearing shipments of dual-SIM phones, a source close to the development told Business Standard.

The application is valid for five years or till the time the patent is valid, whichever is earlier. Ramkumar is believed to have sought royalty (believed to be around Rs 35) for every dual-SIM phone shipped into the country.

Even though Ramkumar could not be immediately contacted for comments, manufacturers and distributors in the country confirmed the development.

European handset major Meridian Mobile CEO Rajiv Khanna said most of the companies had inventory for a couple of months. He hoped that the issue would be resolved by then. Meridian Mobile sells dual SIM handsets under the brand name ‘Fly’.

The Indian Cellular Association (ICA), the body of handset vendors in India, has already formed a committee to look into the matter, and has initiated dialogue with the Customs department.

Dual-SIM handsets have two SIM slots and can work on both CDMA and GSM networks. They are popular among users due to the convenience of alternating between two numbers. These phones are particularly useful to international as some countries (like South Korea) do not have GSM networks, while others (certain places in the US) do not have CDMA networks.

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First Published: Fri, March 13 2009. 01:21 IST