Nokia Files Suits Against 3 Companies To Protect Patents
May 2, 2012

Nokia Files Suits Against 3 Companies To Protect Patents

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Enid Burns for

Finland-based Nokia this morning released a statement saying that it had filed a number of suits in the US and Germany against HTC, RIM and Viewsonic. The multiple suits allege the companies infringe a total 45 patents.

International suits were filed in multiple courts in the United States and Germany. Nokia filed a complaint to the US International Trade Commission (ITC) against HTC. Additional actions include suits against HTC and Viewsonic in the Federal District Court of Delaware in the US and suits against HTC and RIM in the Regional Court in Dusseldorf, Germany and against HTC, RIM and Viewsonic in the Regional Courts in Mannheim and Munich, Germany.

"Nokia is a leader in many technologies needed for great mobile products," said Louise Pentland, chief legal officer at Nokia, in a prepared statement. "We have already licensed our standards essential patents to more than 40 companies. Though we'd prefer to avoid litigation, Nokia had to file these actions to end the unauthorized use of our proprietary innovations and technologies, which have not been widely licensed."

The practice of filing patent lawsuits is not unique to the wireless industry, but it is a common action. "The smartphone industry has become very litigious," Tech Analyst Jeff Kagan told RedOrbit. "The question is who invented what, and who has to pay who to license and use it. It's just a matter of determining who is in what position to have to pay. It's a matter of Nokia getting licensing fees."

While it's not a primary business function, patent suits have become a source of income in the wireless industry. "That's part of the revenue stream of companies," Kagan said. "If Nokia owns the rights to something, that could be a significant revenue stream for Nokia, and that may help because their performance has been so poor."

Patents held by Nokia, which it feels are being infringed include functions to enable hardware capabilities such as dual function antennas, power management and multimode radios. Additional patents that enhance software features include application stores, multitasking, navigation, conversational message display, dynamic menus, data encryption and retrieval of email attachments on a mobile device. Nokia did not offer additional patent descriptions in its statement.

"Many of these inventions are fundamental to Nokia products," said Pentland. "We'd rather that other companies respect our intellectual property and compete using their own innovations, but as these actions show, we will not tolerate the unauthorized use of our inventions."

Deciding whether a company has its own idea, or is infringing on a patent, is not so easy to decide. "This is a booming, vibrant marketplace full of very smart people looking to solve problems," Kagan said. "Trying to solve similar problems, often the ideas look the same but are derived from other people. Sometimes it happens to be the same."

Patent suits are commonplace in the industry, and Nokia has filed, and won, suits in the past. Last year Apple settled with Nokia. Apple agreed to pay patent licensing fees to the Finnish company. Over the years Nokia has filed suits against Apple and Qualcom,  and was sued by InterDigital and IPCom. The activity is representative of the wireless industry.

"It seems like every week there are different companies and we can have the same conversation," said Kagan. "It's part of the business."