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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 richardkelleher (1184251) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:31PM (#30587752) Homepage
    Apple has been patenting things for a long time. If they look really hard, I suspect they will find hundreds of patents that Nokia is using without compensation.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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.

        • by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:59PM (#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 dunkelfalke (91624) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @07:34PM (#30588560)

            Okay. How about that: Nokia made their first cell phone in 1982. Ten years later they made the world's first GSM phone.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by mjwx (966435)

            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).

            Nokia is significantly bigger and richer then apple, roughly by about 4 times. The amount of patents Apple has matters little if 1. Apple is proven to be knowingly and wilfully infringing (not obscurely) or 2. Nokia can fight longer and harder then Apple (and Apple are not known for winning a lot of law suits).

            So if no one is clearly right, he with

        • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @07:01PM (#30588178)

          So you're saying it would be more like Nokia poking Apple with a stick, Apple getting out their Super Stick of Doom (patent pending), followed by Nokia crushing Apple with their Patent Log of All Things Terrible and Marvelous (patented)?

        • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @07:04PM (#30588216) Journal

          Just FYI, never say "Something has been around since the 19th Century" - The difference between 1801 and 1899 is pretty huge, and it only leads to under or over estimation. Say 1860's next time.

          And also, as a side note, their first electronic device was launched in the 1960's - so its not like their broad patent portfolio as a paper mill will really affect Apple too much.

        • So, instead of one company poking the other with a stick and getting hit with a log, you end up with both companies starting with sticks and the beating each other over the head with teams of lawyers! Not going to end well...
    • by Penguuu (263703) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:37PM (#30587860)

      They have actually already countersuited Nokia for earlier patent disputes: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2357039,00.asp [pcmag.com]

    • by Xest (935314) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @07:07PM (#30588252)

      The issue Apple faces is that the patents Nokia were originally pursuing were patents that every single other mobile manufacturer was happy to license.

      This suggests that Nokia actually has a strong case and there's clearly a good reason for Nokia doing this whilst not needing to go after other phone manufacturers. Despite all the iHype each iteration of the iPhone has still only sold around 10mill to 15mill handsets which is pretty much par for the course for high end phones like this, although Apple likes to group the separate handsets together into "the iPhone" and suggest sales of 40mill whilst separating it's opponents iterations (for example the N95, N96 iterations) to show itself as more of a success story than the figures really put it at.

      The question is, is Apple's patent portfolio that usable against Nokia really enforceable? Nokia's clearly is hence why every other manufacturer has been licensing them without hassle. Nokia no doubt looked into this point long before they started the patent action against Apple and clearly seem to believe they have a case. What's more, as Apple isn't playing nicely with the entire rest of the cell phone market Apple may find it's not just Nokia it's up against but the likes of Sony Ericsson, Motorola and so forth also. If Apple starts digging into it's patent portfolio to use against Nokia it will be a cause for concern for other companies that could potentially infringe these patents and Apple may find itself up against all these companies also. Again, this is not a problem in Nokia's case, because everyone who could be threatened by Nokia's patents is already licensing them. The only chance Apple has in fighting this with counter-cases is if it can find patents that everyone but Nokia licenses from them, but as Apple's counter-patents so far have been extremely minor it seems highly unlikely Apple has any real threatening usable patents to counter-sue with without bringing to bear on it the cross hairs of perhaps not just the rest of the mobile phone industry who would also be at threat, but from large segments of the IT industry including other giants such as IBM and Microsoft.

      I applaud what Apple has done to the cell phone market in giving it a much needed wake up call and taking mobile phones forward, but that doesn't give it some right to break all the rules of the phone market. Really, the sensible solution for Apple would be to just license the patents like every other cell phone manufacturer does rather than continuing to pretend it's special. It can't on one hand complain that Nokia wishes to be able to use some of their technology as part of the license agreement and suggest that as such Nokia is showing a lack of innovation all the while whilst doing exactly that themselves by using Nokia's technology without license.

      • by rsmith-mac (639075) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @07:48PM (#30588720)

        Bear in mind why Apple hasn't licensed these patents yet. If their side of the story (and their counter-suits) are to be believed, then it's because Nokia won't license them under Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory [wikipedia.org] (RAND) terms.

        All indications that Apple wants to pay the same licensing fee that Sony, Motorola, etc have paid. Nokia on the other hand doesn't want the fee - they want to cross-license Apple's patents - which are far more valuable than any fee that other handset manufacturers have paid. Nokia is violating RAND by refusing to license the necessary patents to Apple as they have the other handset manufacturers. Under RAND terms, Apple is under no obligation to cross-license to get access to Nokia's patents, although they still have the option of doing so if they'd like (and here's a hint, they don't want to).

        For that reason, even if Nokia has a stronger patent portfolio, it's anyone's guess how this will finally go. The larger GSM Association requires that all of this stuff be offered under RAND terms, so there may be consequences for Nokia if they keep this up.

        • by sznupi (719324) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @08:12PM (#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.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by rsmith-mac (639075)

            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

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Xest (935314)

          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

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by julesh (229690)

            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.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TubeSteak (669689)

          All indications that Apple wants to pay the same licensing fee that Sony, Motorola, etc have paid. Nokia on the other hand doesn't want the fee - they want to cross-license Apple's patents - which are far more valuable than any fee that other handset manufacturers have paid.

          And how does this excuse Apple's unlicensed usage of the patented technology?
          If Nokia is being unfair, Apple should take it to Court (or to whatever industry body regulates these disputes) without violating Nokia's patents.

      • by nneonneo (911150) <spam_hole@Nospam.shaw.ca> on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @07:53PM (#30588782) Homepage

        Nokia demanded that Apple cross-license several of its patents in return for licensing the key GSM patents, something it has not asked other manufacturers to do. Nokia therefore singled out Apple for licensing terms despite promising the GSM Alliance that it would license these patents under fair and non-discriminatory terms; singling out Apple and trying to force a cross-licensing deal is not non-discriminatory.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DMiax (915735)
          How do you know they did not ask the same to others? Magic eight-ball?
      • by motorcyclemaintain (1674658) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @08:07PM (#30588894)

        The issue Apple faces is that the patents Nokia were originally pursuing were patents that every single other mobile manufacturer was happy to license.

        Actually no. Nokia wanted Apple to give them much more than "every other single" manufacturer. Nokia wanted to charge Apple 3x the fair and reasonable rate they charged others. They also wanted free access to Apple tech. Here are just a few of Apple's complaints:

        Article 81. In Particular, in or about the spring of 2008, Nokia demanded that, as part of it’s compensation for licensing Nokia’s portfolio of purported essential patents, Apple must grant Nokia a license to a particular number of Apple non-standards-essential patents...Apple immediately rejected the proposal and reiterated Apple’s position that Nokia’s F/RAND obligations required it to licence Nokia’s purportedly essential technologies.

        Article 82. ...In or about May 2009, Nokia demanded a royalty approximately three times as much as the royalty proposed the prior spring, which was itself in excess of a F/RAND rate, as well as “picks’ to Apple’s non-standards-essential patents.

        Naughty Nokia. Go to your room.

        • by sznupi (719324) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @08:20PM (#30589032) Homepage

          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.

          Seems Apple is just convinced it should be the only one getting better treatment than "fair/reasonable and non-discriminatory" (as agreed by this industry). I say send the spoiled kid to his room first.

          • by beelsebob (529313) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @05:18AM (#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 Xest (935314) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @08:33PM (#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 NimbleSquirrel (587564) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @01:43AM (#30590876)
          The question is did Apple seek to license the patents before the iPhone was released?

          Given that every other manufacturer has licensed these patents (and that they are in respect to a Standard) means that Apple would have known about them when it was developing the iPhone. Did Apple approach Nokia at any stage in the process or did Apple just forge ahead, knowing of a potential infringement, hoping to deal with it at a later point in time? Given Apple's secrecy of projects in development, it wouldn't surprise me if that was one of the main reasons they didn't sort out licensing ahead of time.

          Did Apple know about the patents while the iPhone was in development? Did Apple approach Nokia in any way prior to the iPhone's release? Did Apple release the iPhone knowing that it was infringing on on or more of Nokia's patents? If the answer is yes, then arguements over F/RAND terms are rather moot.

          Apple's countersuit is a bargaining tactic - an attempt to force Nokia to settle. The most recent filing by Nokia seems to indicate that they are not willing to settle (at least not yet, and any settlement will be under their terms), and that they think they have a good chance. Time will tell, but this is shaping up to be a very interesting case.
      • by dangitman (862676) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @08:10PM (#30588926)

        The question is, is Apple's patent portfolio that usable against Nokia really enforceable? Nokia's clearly is hence why every other manufacturer has been licensing them without hassle.

        This argument makes no sense. The fact that others are licensing Nokia's patents is not proof that Nokia's patents are valid or enforceable. Invalid and unenforceable patents get licensed all the time, just to save legal hassles, or because of ignorance. Try using logic next time.

    • I can tell you one patent Apple uses without even turning on iPhone. iPhone has no visible antenna right? Guess who shipped such device first and spent some years to convince people that the external antenna isn't really better than the internal one?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      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...
  • I highly suspect Apple will soon pull out their patent portfolio and this will quickly turn into a total mess. Oh well, bound to happen sooner or later.
    • I hope they do, it would serve as a great lesson about the patent system.
      • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @07:08PM (#30588274)

        I imagine a patent battle playing out like one of those weird anime card battles:

        Apple: I summon... Multitouchscreen patent level three!
        Multitouchscreen patent level three does 50 damage!

        Nokia: I summon... Wirelessaudiotransmitionoverradio patent level five!
        Wirelessaudotransmitionoverradio patent level five does 120 damage!

        I mean I don't know what the actual patents are, but that seems to be the way it works.

  • Does this mean that Steve Jobs will also lose person of the decade?
  • Software patents (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @06:41PM (#30587932)

    One of the patents that Apple is countersuing on is this one:
    No. 6,239,795 B1: Pattern and color abstraction in a graphical user interface

    Sounds to me like rabid software patenting.

    Source- http://www.informationweek.com/blog/main/archives/2009/12/apple_nokia_sto.html

  • I clicked the link and got six sentences. Is this what qualifies as slashdot newsworthy these days?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I clicked the link and got six sentences. Is this what qualifies as slashdot newsworthy these days?

      So you're the one reading the articles!

  • by jcr (53032) <jcr@mac. c o m> on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @07:08PM (#30588272) Journal

    Litigation is a poor substitute for competition. Nokia's grasping at straws here, because they know that when the iPhone gets down around the $50 price point, they're toast.

    -jcr

    • by DMiax (915735) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @07:23PM (#30588434)
      It's bound to happen, just after the macbook drops below 800$...
    • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

      I hate to break it to you, but Nokia's global market share is several times greater than that of their nearest competitor, it is up about 25% (39% share vs 52% this year) from last year, and it's about 477 times greater than Apple's share (0.11%) of the cell phone market.

      Even RIM has about 25 times greater market share than Apple. Frankly, as popular as the iPhone is (4% of the smartphone market), it is peanuts when put in perspective.

      http://stats.getjar.com/statistics/ [getjar.com]

    • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

      I forgot to mention, the top 16 most popular cell phones in the world are Nokias, with a combined 30% of the market. That's just until another manufacturer's device pops onto the list. Nokia has 25 of the top 29 most popular cell phone models in the world, and the iPhone is still a ways down on that list, right in there with the Sony-Ericsson G700, W380, and a half dozen Nokias.

    • Litigation is a poor substitute for competition. Nokia's grasping at straws here, because they know that when the iPhone gets down around the $50 price point, they're toast.

      -jcr

      Absurd. Apple has always catered to the higher end market, and has never brought any product down to the low end. When phones similar to the iPhone are selling for $50, then Apple will already be on the next next generation at about the same price point.

  • Lawsuits (Score:3, Interesting)

    by countertrolling (1585477) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @07:28PM (#30588490) Journal

    Kind of a neat way to maintain high public exposure, but can it be cheaper than regular advertising? Aside from the freebie here on the front page? Only their accountants know for sure.. I gotta admit.. the drama angle plays pretty good.. cliffhangers and everything.

  • You know that deep down, in some manner or another, Microsoft is responsible for this...
  • Really? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @08:14PM (#30588986)

    So Nokia owned patents for annoying advertisements and cornering the smug douchebag market?

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