It’s on: Apple and Nokia go to war over patents

22 Dec 2016

The patent wars that have dogged the smartphone industry are back on, with Apple in one corner and Nokia in the other. Image: Gutzemberg/Shutterstock

The patent wars are back on as Nokia sues Apple over alleged patent infringement; Apple has struck back, accusing Nokia of patent troll tactics.

Nokia has filed a number of lawsuits against California tech giant Apple, alleging that it violated 32 patents. The lawsuits were filed in Dusseldorf, Mannheim and Munich, as well as the US district court for the eastern district of Texas.

The suits cover patents for displays, user interfaces, software, antennas, chipsets and video coding.

‘Nokia has refused to license their patents on a fair basis and is now using the tactics of a patent troll to attempt to extort money from Apple’

This was in apparent retaliation for a disagreement between Apple and Nokia, over the former refusing to pay “exorbitant” license fees for Nokia technology.

Patent wars return as two giants go to war

In a statement yesterday, Nokia said that since it acquired Nokia Siemens Networks in 2013 and Alcatel-Lucent in 2016, it now has three valuable portfolios of intellectual property built on more than €115bn investments in R&D over the past 20 years, covering smartphones, PCs and other connected devices.

Nokia said that since agreeing a licence covering some patents from the Nokia Technologies portfolio in 2011, “Apple has declined subsequent offers made by Nokia to license other … patented inventions which are used by many of Apple’s products”.

The head of patent business at Nokia, Ilkka Rahnasto, said: “Through our sustained investment in research and development, Nokia has created or contributed to many of the fundamental technologies used in today’s mobile devices, including Apple products.

“After several years of negotiations trying to reach agreement to cover Apple’s use of these patents, we are now taking action to defend our rights.”

Apple has struck back by suing patent firms Acacia Research Corporation, Conversant IP Management and Core Wireless Licensing, alleging collusion with Nokia to break commitments made under fair and reasonable and non-discriminatory terms on cell phone patents, and attempts to collect excessive fees and royalties for Nokia.

The legal action harks back to the smartphone patent wars that began several years ago, when Apple filed patent infringement cases against Samsung Electronics.

In a report on Reuters, Apple spokesman Josh Rosenstock was quoted as saying: “We’ve always been willing to pay a fair price to secure the rights of patents covering technology in our products. Unfortunately, Nokia has refused to license their patents on a fair basis and is now using the tactics of a patent troll to attempt to extort money from Apple, by applying a royalty rate to Apple’s own inventions [that] they had nothing to do with.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years