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Patents The Courts Apple

Nokia Claims Patent Violations in Most Apple Products 419

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.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • by Ilgaz ( 86384 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @07:32PM (#30588540) Homepage

    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?

  • 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 [] (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 Midnight Thunder ( 17205 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @07:51PM (#30588764) Homepage Journal

    You know GSM? Yeah, Nokia did most of the work there based on another standard they mostly developed with Ericsson, NMT. [] As GSM was published in 1990, I suppose they may have a patent or ten in that area from the last 20 years.

    Certainly, but these patents are surely part of the GSM license which Apple paid for from the GSM Association? It would seem really odd for Apple to pay a fortune for a license, that does not cover any of the required patents.

  • by nneonneo ( 911150 ) <spam_hole AT shaw DOT 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.

  • 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 TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @08:49PM (#30589236) Journal

    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 Bigjeff5 ( 1143585 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @09:52PM (#30589646)

    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. If Apple doesn't want to pay Nokia's terms, they need to find a way around the patents. If that's what they did, then Apple will win. If they didn't, well, you don't get to just say "Your patent isn't important" and ignore it.

    Claiming that other Apple products violate their patents is just more posturing to try and force a settlement on terms that are very unfavorable to Apple.

    That's assuming Apple products don't violate Nokia patents. If they do violate the patents, then Nokia's position is completely legitimate, and Apple refused to license Nokia's patents and went ahead and infringed them.

  • by profplump ( 309017 ) <> on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @10:44PM (#30589982)

    You've long been able to patent processes and not just specific implementations of a process, at least in the US (and possibly other places, I haven't done the research to know). And by "long" I mean "more than a century" -- there was a USSC case involving a process for refining flour that addressed just this distinction (Cochane v. Deemer, 1877). The majority opinion there says "A process may be patentable, irrespective of the particular form of the instrumentality used.”

    So what I want to know is why processes implemented in software are different than processes implement in other hardware, bearing in mind that the later have been eligible for patents for at least 132 years. Or if software and hardware implementations of processes aren't different, what in society has changed to that would make us want to overturn our traditional patent rules.

  • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @11:02PM (#30590086)

    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 the most money and lawyers wins, Nokia has expert legal teams in every major western nation, more capital and more liquid assets. Apple will not survive a true onslaught, so to use the GP's analogy, Apple may be able to swing a log but Nokia can drop an entire forest.

  • by Zordak ( 123132 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @11:31PM (#30590248) Homepage Journal

    Software patents are more like patenting the idea of a mouse trap rather than a specific apparatus for trapping mouses.

    No, both of those are legitimate subject matter for a patent. If you are the first person ever to conceive of the idea of building a trap to catch mice, then you can get a broad patent on mouse traps. If mouse traps are already in the prior art, you can get a patent on your improved mouse trap. Copyright would apply to a diagram or schematic of your mouse trap. A copyright on your schematic would not prevent me from building the trap described by the schematic. It just keeps me from copying the schematic itself. But a patent on your design does keep me from making your mouse trap, regardless of whether or not I actually copy the schematic. Extrapolating out to software is not difficult and is left as an exercise for the reader.

  • by Artifakt ( 700173 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @11:34PM (#30590266)

    I think you're failing to see how the steps in the process differ from physical invention: It's not that software is implemented based on predefined components, it's a question of where creativity is possible in the process (I'm using creativity in a broad sense, to include the word invention itself, and words such as 'originality' and even 'non-obviousness' when they are used to describe the patent process. I'll try to use some of those more specific terms to make this a little clearer).

    As post #30588846 put it, the assembly of code is done in preconcieved ways. Someone already built a hardware framework that controls what you can create in software for a given purpose at one set of levels (essentially the bottommost levels - you can't, for example, make a deliberate spelling mistake to make a pun or coin a new word to create something novel and previously unforseen, as the system treats these as mistakes which won't execute). There are many non-obvious but still useful ways to arrange a very complex set of logic gates to make a processor, ergo that is patentable (or some parts of it are). There are no similarly non-obvious ways to arrange assembly language commands - A C, L, or ST, or even an SSCH does what it does, and its permissible uses are all documented. When you program above machine and assembly languages, you can't rearrange these to your own taste, as you can't even normally see them.
            At the next set of levels, someone has created a programming language you are using. Unlike a natural language, it too is a very rigidly defined framework. Some choices may seem to be available, but there is often a precise ranking possible, in that one algorythm may be clearly superior to all others for the purpose. Doing something deliberately different is mostly also doing something deliberately inefficient, against standard, or just plain wrong. At neither of these two sets of levels can you actually do much if anything significantly creative. You also can't protect that level by patent because the legal system already forbids protecting the mathematics on which your work is based, and your implementation is a derivitive work of the sphere of math, so it can't have rights the math itself doesn't have.
          Above that second set of levels, yes programming can be creative. But there, you're describing something similar to writing in a natural language. It's normally already protectable by copyright and so shouldn't gain simultanious protection from patent law. Some choices here are non-obvious, but non-obvious in more like the same way as choosing to use adjectives more sparingly and make the red-headed character be from out of state, not so much non-obvious in the 'tungsten makes a durable filament' manner.
            I'm not saying I actually agree with all this, mind you. I think one of the points of both open ended scripting languages and of OOP is to make genuine creative choice available at deeper levels of the process. But, the court system is thinking of programming mostly as it was 20 or more years ago.

  • by davester666 ( 731373 ) on Tuesday December 29, 2009 @11:39PM (#30590286) Journal

    Are you sure about this?

    It's also been put forward that Nokia is not offering RAND terms to Apple, but rather requiring that Apple cross-license at least it's phone-related patents.

  • by Anonymusing ( 1450747 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @12:01AM (#30590406)

    That's why it was so amusing to see Apple copying the LG's Prada phone design for the Iphone.

    FWIW, the Prada was announced December 2006, one month before the iPhone. They had both clearly been in development for awhile -- Wikipedia says the iPhone was in development for at least 2.5 years, though no word on the Prada's development time. Hard to imagine that your assertion is true.

  • 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 miffo.swe ( 547642 ) <daniel.hedblom@g m a> on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @03:38AM (#30591242) Homepage Journal

    Most of the Nokia patents are old, non-obvious and already established. Its not like patents on "doing thing x, but this time on the internet!". Why Apple decided to spit in Nokias face i dont really understand. They cant win this one, especially since the US is trying to get software patents acknowledged in the EU. Now is really not the time to play the protectionist game so i dont think political pressure will be put into the courts.

  • by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @06:25AM (#30591782)

    No, they don't, what's your point?

  • by Weezul ( 52464 ) on Wednesday December 30, 2009 @10:46AM (#30593278)

    Nokia's first offer was a cross licensing deal. Apple refused! So now every GSM Association member thinks "Apple will sue us over their shitty interface patents." Oops!

    I expect the GSM Association will ignore Nokia's FRAND obligations with respect to Apple, thanks to Apple's behavior here.

    Apple has been acting like a spoiled little child ever since they entered the phone market. I'm sure the big players will happily flush them down the toilet.

How many NASA managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? "That's a known problem... don't worry about it."