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Patents The Courts Apple

Nokia Claims Patent Violations in Most Apple Products 419

Posted by timothy
from the mickey-finn-or-mickey-mouse? dept.
An anonymous reader writes with an extract from this Associated Press story, as carried by The Globe and Mail: "Nokia is broadening its legal fight with Apple, saying almost all of the company's products violate its patents, not just the iPhone. Nokia Corp. said Tuesday that it has filed a complaint against Apple Inc. with the US International Trade Commission. The Finnish phone maker says Apple's iPhone, iPods and computers all violate its intellectual property rights."
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Nokia Claims Patent Violations in Most Apple Products

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @05:35PM (#30587820)

    Whoever wins, we lose.

    Get to da choppa!

  • Your point is well made. Large companies like Apple, IBM, Microsoft, etc maintain huge patent portfolios and have extraordinarily complicated cross-licensing arrangements that would take an army of outside attorneys decades to fully decipher. It's largely a defensive measure; as you pointed out, poking at Apple with a stick is likely to result in Apple bludgeoning them with a log.
  • Dear Nokia (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @05:35PM (#30587834)

    Dear Nokia,

    I hope you can show clear proof that you've continually tried to engage Apple - throughout the production of each of their infringing products ... to re-iterate your position. If you have not, I hope you LOSE this case. If you did, you deserve to WIN this case. Failure to protect your patents until they are well established should be automatic disqualification of a patent.

    Sincerely,

    The Internet Community

  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @05:45PM (#30587982)

    or are they going to make excuses about how this is okay because it's going after Apple

    It may not be ok, but it sure is ironic. So Ha Ha Ha Ha.

    However what I just said is irrelevant. At the end of the day, these two companies will undoubtedly just do a broad ranging cross-licensing agreement like most big tech players. That will further serve to stifle any potential future competition from people who are not in the cabal of giants protected by their mutual patent moats.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @05:53PM (#30588086)

    Why is it ok to patent something physical, but not ok to patent software? I have never understood the distinction.

    Is the work done by an electirical engineer more difficult than that done by a software engineer? Is it more valuable? Why is it ok to patent the implementation of an algorithm in hardware but not ok to patent the implementation of the same algorithm in software?

    This is not a troll post, I legitimately do not understand why the distinction should be between hardware and software. Isn't it better to just have the distinction be between good and non-obvious vs bad and obvious? Do we say that all software patents should be invalid simply because of obvious patents like amazon's one click? Isn't that a problem with the obviousness criteria and not the underlying makeup (be it software or hardware) of the patent?

  • by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @05:59PM (#30588162) Homepage Journal

    You are aware that Nokia has been around since the 19th century and have a much larger patent portfolio than Apple, right? Nokia's amount of R&D dwarfs the amount Apple does.

    That might be the case, but only patents filed in the past 20 years are relevant (20 years being generally the longest period for a patent, in any country). For this reason what matters is not how much innovation a company had done since their existence, but how much it has been innovating and filing in the past 20 years.

  • by rkit (538398) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @05:59PM (#30588164) Homepage
    Most probable scenario: cross license deal.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:03PM (#30588204)

    Software engineering is done by writing code, and should be afforded protection under copyright laws, not patents.

    A huge cornerstone of many open source licenses depend on their work being copyrightable, and not patentable.

  • by DMiax (915735) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:04PM (#30588218)

    Nokia has the largest market share, why do they have to catch up? The real thing is that Apple has to catch up and probably has used tecnology owned by Nokia illegally.

    And at least on Slashdot we should value Nokia's hardware patents a little more than software patents. They spent real money on research. On the contrary, patenting "do something on user click" is not really that useful for the progress of human race...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:10PM (#30588286)

    These are not physical as you can kick them. They are physical as Nokia in Nokia has actual product using them. Nokia has actually developed heaps of technology because they were very early to market (GSM, UMTS, etc were to a large extent developed by Nokia and Ericsson), so the patents cover a lot of actual technology that's widely used.

    Nokia spent heaps of money developing many of the technologies that make cell-phones work, and the rest of the industry has to pay to make of for the R&D. That way everybody gets better products; Nokia has an incentive to do the R&D because they can make back the money and the rest because they can purchase the technology cheaper.

    This is an excellent example of why the patent system was developed; everybody benefits by allowing Nokia patents on their technologies.

    As for Apple... Multi-touch... Well, I've worked with that for almost a decade now...

  • by GasparGMSwordsman (753396) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:14PM (#30588334)
    Since Nokia has not stated WHICH patents Apple has infringed, exactly how do either of you know if they are for physical or business method patents? Next you both start calling each other names? Really?

    If you do have a list of which patents are involved I would love to go over them. However I was unable to find any source for that information. Nokia's official response on that question (for all sources I could check) was to the effect of, "we don't comment on the details of pending litigation."

    The real matter at hand is that Nokia makes the items it patents, therefor they are not a patent troll.

    The devil is in the details however, as the two companies start legal proceedings who ever is more wrong will end up paying the other in some way. Notice I said, "more wrong." My guess is that both companies do in fact, infringe upon each others patents.
  • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:15PM (#30588344)

    Indeed, the only catagory Apple wins with in smart-phones is in the single-device category, and the blackberry 8300 series (5 devices that are essentially the same phone in different configurations) is just a hair behind the iPhone 3g. RIM has over 40% of the smartphone market, a number Apple can't touch.

    Nokia does ok in the smartphone market, but their bread and butter is the general handset market, of which they control more than half of the entire market.

    Apple is not the big guy in this battle, Nokia is. Apple has, what, four variations of the same phone? Nokia has thousands. They have been in the business long enough that they may well have a case against Apple computers as well, since a phone is really nothing more than a small computer anyway.

  • by Omnifarious (11933) * <eric-slash@omnifar i o u s.org> on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:46PM (#30588690) Homepage Journal

    So why does the medium of the patent actually matter?

    This is an interesting question, and my take on it is this...

    The malleability of the medium has a whole lot to say about the economic cost the patent system imposes on works created in the medium.

    As our tools for manipulating the physical world in an automated fashion become more precise, cheaper and more flexible the physical world is going to start having the same kinds of problems with the patent system imposing an unacceptable burden that it currently has with software.

  • by dontmakemethink (1186169) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:50PM (#30588734)
    However, looking really hard at TFA doesn't reveal anything. How could the author know Nokia claims "almost all" of Apple's products violate Nokia's patents without citing one single specific example? Pretty in-depth journalism there. Maybe they ran out of space on the internet? Everyone use SMS shortforms from now on...
  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:51PM (#30588762) Journal

    Won't happen, and here is why: It is not in their best interests to risk losing the power that having patent warchests give them against new players attempting to enter the market. So instead what will happen is that after much saber rattling the lawyers from Nokia and Apple will get together and sign a cross licensing agreement covering any and all of the above patents, thus allowing both to keep their patent warchests while Nokia will get a nice check.

    Just look at deals between AMD and Intel, ATI and Nvidia, for examples. While we can be sure that with patent warchests as large as the mega companies have that they are no doubt infringing on each others patents in probably hundreds of cases, by signing large CYA cross licensing agreements with each other they can continue business as usual and help to keep out new players. Just as I'm sure that along with that fat 1.25 billion dollar check Intel cut AMD to drop the anti-trust lawsuit there was wording in the settlement that lets AMD not worry about infringing on plenty of Intel patents. It is just the way the big corps roll sadly.

  • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @07:02PM (#30588850)

    I'd be very surprised if Apple were the big dog in this fight, given that Nokia has been designing and manufacturing cell phones for decades (verses just a couple years for Apple), has a very large patent portfolio in the cell phone realm on such trivial technologies as GSM and the like, and has almost 500 times the cell phone market share that Apple has.

    Seriously, Nokia is not just a behemoth in the cell phone realm, it is THE behemoth. Sony-Ericsson, the next largest cell phone manufacturer, has less than 1/3 Nokia's market share.

    Also, patent trolling is buying up patents and springing lawsuits on companies when one of them gains sufficient momentum. That is not what Nokia did. Nokia does original research and developement in cell phone technology, it's why they are the largest cell phone manufacturer in the world. Nokia offered licensing terms and Apple didn't like them. Just because Apple doesn't like the terms does not mean they get to ignore the patents. Apples only legal options were to accept the terms or not use the infringing technology, they did neither and now they have been sued.

  • by Xest (935314) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @07:07PM (#30588896)

    "Possible infringement by other parties has no relevance."

    It certainly does, because if Apple does get them enforced in the court it means companies using them are a lot less safe. They're put into a situation where they can either spend the rest of their existence shitting themselves that Apple could pull the rug from under them at any moment or also themselves put forth pre-emptive court cases to try and force Apple to license the patents to them. Apple will find itself under a deluge of patent suits as everyone scrambles to force a cross-licensing agreement to protect themselves from patents which now have a legal precedent behind them.

    As Apple isn't willing to cross-license with Nokia, do you really think they'll be willing to cross-license with anyone else?

  • by dgatwood (11270) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @07:12PM (#30588956) Journal

    If Apple is in violation of GSM patents, then the patent system is even more broken than I thought. If I go buy a Wi-Fi card and stick it in a laptop, install the drivers, and sell the laptop as a Wi-Fi-enabled device, I don't expect to have to pay patent royalties to the Wi-Fi Alliance. I expect that the Wi-Fi chip vendor paid those royalties, and that the cost of those royalties were passed on to the card manufacturer as part of the part cost, and that the card manufacturer then passed the cost on to me as part of the price of the card.

    More to the point, the very act of buying a legally licensed chip should implicitly grant a patent license to any and all software technologies required to actually make use that chip. Anything less is patently absurd. To give a car analogy, it would be like selling an engine to a car manufacturer, but using a special connector on the end of the crankshaft and suing the car manufacturer years later for violating a patent on the matching connector.

  • by sznupi (719324) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @07:12PM (#30588960) Homepage

    I would be very surprised if licensing deals with Sony Ericsson, Motorola, etc. don't include some amount of cross-licensing.

    In which case demanding the same from Apple is exactly the Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory thing.

  • by Xest (935314) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @07:28PM (#30589110)

    That's certainly Apple's argument yes, but whether it has any validity is really down to the GSM Association and the courts to decide, the best anyone on Slashdot can do is merely speculate in this respect.

    My point was more aimed in response to the idea that Apple will be able to defend itself with mere counter-suits. As stated in my original post above, I don't think they are well positioned to do so. The fact their current counter-suit is so weak in terms of the patents it uses is a pretty good example of why Apple doesn't seem in a good position to fight patent with patent in this particular case.

    You cannot claim Apple's patents are far more valuable than the fee other handset manufacturers have paid because you do not know the terms of the deal Nokia has made with other manufacturers, nor do I believe the patents Nokia has requested to license from Apple have been published. It is rather dishonest to suggest this unless you are working at Nokia and know what their licensing terms with the 3rd parties are and know what they have requests from Apple? Is there really anything Apple could license to Nokia that is worth any more than the patents which Nokia is suing over which underly major essential components of Apple's flagship devices?

  • by Xest (935314) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @07:33PM (#30589132)

    This is merely Apple's argument, not fact.

    Whether the argument is valid is down to the courts, and the GSM association to decide. Even then you may note that in those very quotes Apple themselves note that they were offered a different, much lower figure originally but still refused it citing it was excessive.

    So the question for the courts/GSM association is, were the rates every really excessive, or is that just a convenient excuse that Apple has been using to try and actually pay an unreasonably low fee?

  • by sznupi (719324) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @07:39PM (#30589176) Homepage

    Actual stats are not much different. Nokia 39%, Samsung 17%, Sony Ericsson 9%, Motorola 8%, LG 8%. Apple hardly registers. At least they are visible in "smartphones"* (what, 15% of total market?) with 14% there...but where Nokia dominates even more, having 50%.

    *explain to me why iPhone is called a smartphone while Sony Ericsson "feature phones" - not (they even have full multitasking). Or S40 Nokia phones for that matter (multitasking similar to iPhone, limited to audio player/phone features)

  • by rsmith-mac (639075) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @08:07PM (#30589342)

    It's possible (and even likely) that some of the others have done cross-licensing deals, but if everyone had done that, then there wouldn't be any phone manufacturers besides Sony Ericsson, Moto, and Nokia. Not everyone has valuable patents to cross-license; for example the army of dumbphone manufacturers in developing countries. If the only way to get Nokia's patents was to cross-license, they simply wouldn't exist.

    There is a price at which Nokia will license their patents - however it looks like they aren't making it available to Apple.

  • by lepidosteus (1102443) <<lepidosteus> <at> <gmail.com>> on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @08:29PM (#30589494)
    You completly missed his point. He's not saying apple is violating patents related to GSM, he's saying that yes, nokia did a lot of patented R&D in the last two decades.
  • by mdwh2 (535323) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @08:42PM (#30589582) Journal

    The only Ipod at the low end is the Shuffle, which is a joke. No options other than random play, and only offering 1GB to say the Sandisk Sansa's 8GB (which also has an expandable microSD slot).

  • by dissy (172727) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @08:55PM (#30589666)

    But that's the point here. What do Macs or iPods have to do with GSM?

    Even limiting things to GSM in the iPhone for a minute, Apple purchased Infineon GSM/EDGE RF chips to be used in the iPhone.

    Is this not Infineons problem? Is not Infineon the company Nokia should be suing since they are the ones selling unlicensed chips?

  • by Fahrvergnuugen (700293) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @09:00PM (#30589690) Homepage
    I guess it depends on how you define "big dog". Apple's market cap is 188 Billion vs Nokia's 47 Billion.
  • by v1 (525388) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @09:58PM (#30590058) Homepage Journal

    Why is it ok to patent something physical, but not ok to patent software? I have never understood the distinction.

    It's a lot easier to patent a specific method or physical design than it is to patent a program. The difficulty is where do you draw the line? Like patenting a song... what if I change a single note, does your patent apply? It's trivial for someone to take a chunk of code and make periodic, trivial changes, such a swapping order of adjacent instructions, and make it physically very different without changing it at all, and that clearly would allow someone to violate your IP if that's all it took.

    So having a way to make clear rules is a big factor. For instance, in music it can get down to counting the number of identical notes in a row.

    Programming also has other issues that are unique. Given the restrictions of a language, the simpler a task, the fewer ways there are available to you to perform the task. Opportunities for diversity grow rapidly as the code gets more complex, but at the same time those that want to patent their code then tend to want more general interpretation because it becomes increasingly easy to make minor changes to their work and now call it your own. Very basic and very well-known tasks have a single known most-efficient method to code them - such as a bubble sort in C, that any skilled programmer could develop independently. Those must fall into the area of "obvious", which is not patentable.

  • by sznupi (719324) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @10:55PM (#30590374) Homepage

    I can't believe this...don't you understand that you're looking from a point of view of a very atypical market? This is evidenced by you judging their UI by the current state of Symbian, for example...it's a drop in the bucket of what Nokia offers (and BTW considering that it's geared for cheap devices, with a UI continuity with S30/S40 and with a premiere a long time ago...it isn't doing so bad, with 50% of smartphone sales)

    Customers want Nokia - because Nokia is still, as we speak, the most bought mobile phone brand in the world - that's just a simple fact that's not going away no matter what cognitive blindfold you are willing to wear.

    Nokia does have user-friendly interface, at the least as far devices which are thought mostly as phones go. And they are improving Symbian, so when the world at large will be ready for smartphones (that includes really affordable handsets), Nokia might be too. They certainly were at each of previous major shifts in mobile phones.

    You haven't dealt much with Nokia mobile phones (no, not your Symbian Nokia smartphone, it's not the mainstream class of devices I'm talking about) if you think you can get features I mentioned almost anywhere.

    Lasty...that's a very curious definition of failure, having 50% of the smartphone market. I want to have such failures all my life!

  • by DMiax (915735) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @03:56AM (#30591498)
    How do you know they did not ask the same to others? Magic eight-ball?
  • by julesh (229690) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @04:12AM (#30591568)

    That's certainly Apple's argument yes, but whether it has any validity is really down to the GSM Association and the courts to decide

    It's really just down to the GSMA. Nokia's agreement to licence on RAND terms is with the GSMA; nobody else can enforce that agreement (due to a legal concept called privity of contract) so unless GSMA decide Nokia are in violation, nothing will come of it. I've heard nothing that suggests the GSMA are unhappy with Nokia.

  • by beelsebob (529313) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @04:18AM (#30591590)

    Nokia wanted to charge Apple 3x times more only after Apple refused cross-licensing. And cross-licensing is what surely any other notable phone tech manufacturer does with Nokia.
    No, every other notable phone tech manufacturer cross licenses *standards essential* patents with Nokia and pays the same rate.

    Nokia wanted apple to pay not only 3 times more, but also license patents that had *nothing* to do with standards.

  • by RedWizzard (192002) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @05:43AM (#30591834)

    Apple is not a GSM Association member. They had nothing to do with developing GSM, and so don't have claim to the favorable RAND terms available to GSM Association members.

    If Nokia wanted more in exchange for the use of their patents than other GSM patent holders do, then that is their right.

    My understanding is that Nokia agreed to license those patents under FRAND terms to anyone implementing the GSM standard as a condition of having those technologies as part of the standard. If so then they don't have right to ask for whatever they like now.

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