Nokia-Apple Patent War Heats Up

Barely a week after a judge rejected its earlier complaint, {complink 3847|Nokia Corp.} has again hauled smartphone rival {complink 379|Apple Inc.} before the US International Trade Commission (ITC), alleging that the American company has violated another seven of its patents.

In the new complaint, Nokia said Apple is infringing on patents related to mobile phones, portable music players, tablets, and personal computers — virtually all products manufactured by the California-based company, which has rejected the allegations, and has in turn filed counterclaims against Nokia.

“This second ITC complaint follows the initial determination in Nokia's earlier ITC filing, announced by the ITC on Friday, March 25. Nokia does not agree with the ITC's initial determination that there was no violation of Section 337 in that complaint and is waiting to see the full details of the ruling before deciding on the next steps in that case,” Nokia said in a statement.

“In addition to the two ITC complaints, Nokia has filed cases on the same patents and others in Delaware, US and has further cases proceeding in Mannheim, Dusseldorf and the Federal Patent Court in Germany, the UK High Court in London and the District Court of the Hague in the Netherlands, some of which will come to trial in the next few months,” the company added.

The telecommunication equipment and personal computing industry has seen numerous cases of patent violation allegations and counter-allegations over the course of the last year as competition heated up, especially in the smartphones and tablet PC sector where manufacturers are jostling for leadership. With Apple dominating in the two segments, the company has been a bigger target for rivals and is now facing complaints over patent infringement from not only Nokia but also fellow American OEM {complink 12925|Motorola Mobility Inc.}.

In October, Motorola filed three separate infringement lawsuits alleging Apple violated about 18 patents covering a wide range of applications. The company also filed a complaint with the ITC “alleging that Apple's iPhone, iPad, iTouch and certain Mac computers infringe Motorola patents.” Motorola also asked a court in the Northern District of Illinois and the Southern District of Florida to rule on its complaints.

About two weeks after the filing of that October complaint, Motorola and Nokia signed a cross-licensing agreement to cover their 3G cellular products, including LTE, WiMax, and LTE-Advanced technologies. It's unlikely either company would be striking a similar agreement with Apple in the near future. Nokia's complaints against Apple go back 10 years.

“Our latest ITC filing means we now have 46 Nokia patents in suit against Apple, many filed more than 10 years before Apple made its first iPhone,” said Paul Melin, vice president of intellectual property at Nokia. “Nokia is a leading innovator in technologies needed to build great mobile products and Apple must stop building its products using Nokia's proprietary innovation.”

The latest Nokia-Apple patent spat is one of numerous complaints before the ITC. Photography equipment maker {complink 1688|Eastman Kodak Co.} has filed complaints against Apple and smartphone maker {complink 4644|Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM)} in the hopes it could seek royalties worth about $1 billion from the two companies. The ITC last week agreed to open investigations into Kodak's complaint. A judge with the ITC had initially dismissed the complaint against Apple and RIM.

Apple itself has filed complaints against Motorola in a US Federal court. Apple's lawsuit alleged violations of six patents used by Motorola in several of its smartphones. This is in addition to a separate complaint, filed at the beginning of 2010, in which Apple alleged Nokia was in violation of 13 of its patents. None of the lawsuits has yet been resolved.

What's most likely to happen, in my opinion, is that all these companies will keep firing off patent violation allegations for several more years until they're faced with the prospect of an unfavorable ITC or court ruling. That would force the parties into a broad cross-licensing agreement.

11 comments on “Nokia-Apple Patent War Heats Up

  1. SunitaT
    March 29, 2011


    “Motorola and Nokia signed a cross-licensing agreement to cover their 3G cellular products”

    Its obvious that Motorola and Nokia signed cross-licensing agreement because both of them are loosing market share to APPLE. I am sure they will join hand together to fight against Apple because, APPLE is bigger threat to them. What do you think the APPLE stratergy should be to counter this alliance ?



  2. eemom
    March 29, 2011

    Sounds like everybody is suing everybody.  Would it not be more cost competitive for all these companies to get together and resolve their issues by cross licensing or however makes sense? The courts never seem to actually resolve anything but create articles for the newspapers.  I am not a fan of litigious solutions.

  3. elctrnx_lyf
    March 29, 2011

    I understand that the patents are so important for any organization to reap the benefits from their inventions. They invest lot of money to develop technologies and you can't merely take it for free and use them in your products. These cases should be solved as fast as possible for the interest of any company investing money in the technology.

  4. AnalyzeThis
    March 29, 2011

    @eemom, I started to draft a response stating that I thought you were exaggerating, but after thinking about it some more… there are a lot of lawsuits flying back and forth in this space. I mean, Apple just sued Amazon over using the “App Store” phrase this week, I believe.

    These types of lawsuits are nothing new and I don't think they'll still be common long into the future. I doubt companies will find more reasonable, less litigious solutions.

    Who really profits from all these lawsuits? Lawyers, of course. Oh well, law school grads need work in this economy too…

  5. eemom
    March 29, 2011

    It is a shame that the only way most people know to resolve a conflict is to file a law suit.  Our court system continues to be bogged down with unnecessary suits.  I think (here comes the exaggeration part) that some do this as an advertising mechanism.  Not just to get their name in the paper but to put the thought and belief in the consumer mind that the other company is not indeed the innovator, etc.  Unfortunately, I have tuned out all these law suits and do not put much credibility in any of them.  Cynical much??

  6. Clairvoyant
    March 29, 2011

    Good points, eemom. I agree that these types of lawsuits are not needed. The company that is in the fault knows they are doing something wrong, but in every case they want to fight it.

  7. Backorder
    March 30, 2011

    I agree with you, Dennis. I believe the legal departments at some of these companies are always on the lookout to justify their existence and for some of the cases, even the top management might look back in hindsight and feel that they were entirely unneccessary. Sounds like a lawyer's conspiracy?

  8. SP
    March 31, 2011

    Its the war on business not on patent as it looks like. Nokia has been really samrt player in mobile business and now with Apple being almost every where with new and exciting products, the war is going to get dirty.

  9. Backorder
    March 31, 2011

    I would agree, except that not all these patents are genuine innovations. Companies tend to patent frivolous details which have every chance to be replicated independently elsewhere. Mostly these form the core of lawsuits because authentic technological IP is rarely used without license.

  10. pinxlin
    March 31, 2011

    “Nokia is a leading innovator in technologies needed to build great mobile products and Apple must stop building its products using Nokia's proprietary innovation.”

    Only a company in this point not mentioned and should bereferred to by its loss of market share. She reflected on these facts being presented as such and as the violation of law or a simple request presents no risk. Microsoft (MSFT), read “Microsoft” is whois carrying out these protests with Steve Balmer to the head, remember all claims made ​​by Steve that were rejected, but now thesituation is different. Microsoft believed the plant to find a long-term solution to compete against Apple and Google but even the merger with Nokia did well. Moreover, still unclear how to pay it will go to develop the platform of Windows Phone 7 (although one of the things out unless it is proven the economic capacity of Microsoft, despite being a great with the OS.) The reality is indicating thatthere will be substantial changes and new that did not containMicrosoft and Nokia.

  11. patent litigation
    April 10, 2011

    As noted by Alexander Poltorak at GPC: “One cannot help wondering if the latest round [of suits between Apple and Nokia] is not a proxy for a fight between Microsoft and Apple, which are rivals as well.” It's questionable whether these mobile wars should take place in the courts, in the form of patent litigation, or should be properly restricted to the marketplace, where they rightfully belong. Whatever one's position on the issue, however, as long as IP rights exist, then patentees have every legal right to enforce them.


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