Nokia has announced that it has filed a number of complaints against Apple in Germany and the US complaining that Apple products infringe their patents.
Nokia now owns three valuable portfolios of intellectual property, their own from decades of wireless communication research and experience, and also those it acquitted when it purchased NSN in 2013 and Alcatel-Lucent in 2016.
Apple has a license to some of the patents since 2011, those belonging to Nokia Technologies portfolio. Apple has declined to license the rest of the portfolio.
Ilkka Rahnasto, head of Patent Business at Nokia, 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.”
The cases have been filed in Germany and US, with 32 patents in suit across all of the actions, covering technologies such as display, user interface, software, antenna, chipsets and video coding. Nokia is also filing further actions in other jurisdictions.
Apple has accused Nokia of using non-practicing proxy companies such as Acacia and Conversant to extract royalty fees from Apple indirectly and Apple has filed an anti-trust case against them. This is believed to have triggered a direct attack by Nokia on Apple leading to the charges above.
When Microsoft purchased Nokia’s phone division in 2013 it acquired a 10 year license to Nokia’s patents for $2 billion. This, combined with Microsoft no longer being a mobile phone OEM may make Microsoft immune to this issue, but of course Apple also had a license to Nokia’s patents and still fell afoul of their actions and Microsoft’s license specifically exclude NSN patents.
Recent court cases such as Microsoft’s win over Motorola has taken much of the heat out of the patent market, with companies now much more willing to license technology on a FRAND basis and courts more likely to side with infringers, and also to assign smaller damages even when infringers lost the case. It remains to be seen if Nokia can single-handedly turn back the clock, especially against the richest company in the world.