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An Apple [lawsuit] a day keeps Nokia busy

5 January 2010

Back in October last year we reported on litigation commenced by Nokia in Delaware against Apple alleging infringement of 10 Nokia patents, considered by Nokia to be “essential” to the relevant wireless telecommunications technical standards. In early December Apple filed its response, denying infringement, together with a counterclaim, alleging that Nokia itself infringed 13 of Apple’s own patents.

 Enough of the lawsuits, I hear you cry! Not a bit of it.

On 29 December, Nokia cranked the dispute up another notch, by filing a complaint with the US International Trade Commission alleging that Apple infringes 7 Nokia patents. This is a significant step, particularly as it appears to take Nokia’s claim far wider than a dispute relating solely to the iPhone. Here’s what Paul Melin, general manager of Nokia’s patent licensing at Nokia, had to say about this latest step: “while our litigation in Delaware is about Apple’s attempt to free-ride on the back of Nokia investment in wireless standards, the ITC case filed today is about Apple’s practice of building its business on Nokia’s proprietary innovation”.

Perhaps so, but though the patents before the ITC relate to technology which differs from those patents being litigated in Delaware, one can’t help wondering whether the battles aren’t in fact inextricably linked – after all, the original claim by Nokia was brought following a breakdown of licence negotiations, the timing of Nokia’s ITC complaint strongly suggests that it is the next step within the current dispute, and we all know that lawsuits can be settled and an adjustment to licence fees negotiated accordingly. We await Apple’s next move – we can be confident that the dispute will widen before the two sides bury the hatchet. Of course, the English High Court has jurisdiction to hear claims built on the “essentiality” of patents to standards……..

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Mark Daniels

Mark Daniels

Partner and Head of Business Services

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