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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Nokia Vs. Apple Patent Battle: It’s All Or Nothing

Nokia has taken off the gloves and now accuses that all Apple products violate Nokia products in one way or the other. It’s surely attention getting move, but will it help Nokia to survive?

Nokia said that it has filed a second patent complaint with the ITC, following the first case in which the ITC determined that Apple did not infringe on Nokia’s patents. With this new filing, Nokia now claims that Apple illegally takes advantage of 46 Nokia patents and has cases pending in The U.S., Germany, U.K., and in the Netherlands.
According to Nokia, Apple infringes patents ”in virtually all of its mobile phones, portable music players, tablets and computers.” Those patents relate to “the areas of multi-tasking operating systems, data synchronization, positioning, call quality and the use of Bluetooth accessories.”
“Nokia is a leading innovator in technologies needed to build great mobile products and Apple must stop building its products using Nokia’s proprietary innovation,” said Paul Melin, Vice President, Intellectual Property at Nokia. Nokia said that it has invested almost $61 billion in research and has about 10,000 patent families. While the company has every right to defend its innovations, there is not enough detail publicly available to determine whether Nokia has a case against Apple or not, or whether Nokia simply uses a stalling strategy against Apple.
This new lawsuit as well as Nokia’s decision to move to the Windows 7 platform could also suggest that other phone manufacturers are a potential target as well. However, such industry-wide lawsuits rarely work and tend to isolate the suing party from the industry and possibly the market as well. Rambus, for example, has experience in that.
Can a lawsuit save Nokia? Probably not, as – even if Nokia has an opportunity to win – it can dragged out by Apple long enough to potentially bring Nokia down to its knees and awarded damages could be used to pay out Nokia investors. Given the current state of the phone industry and Nokia’s “burning platform”, one could also suggest that those $61 billion were not invested in the right areas of research.  Stephen Elop’s letter to Nokia’s employees indicates that the company’s situation is very much based on its own inability to innovate and recognize shifting consumer interests. Only new devices that are more than just copies of Apple’s iPhone and iPad will give Nokia a future.
However, that isn’t just Nokia’s problem. That is a problem the entire phone and PC industry has.

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