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Nokia's Patent Row with Apple Escalates

Nokia's Patent Row with Apple Escalates

Nokia has opened up a new front in its patent war with Apple, launching 13 fresh complaints in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands.

The Finnish phone maker now accuses Apple of infringing 24 of its patents, including the technology behind touchscreens and on-device app stores.

Nokia's fresh complaint - its fourth against Apple - marks an escalation in the 14-month legal battle between the two companies. Apple is also counter-suing Nokia for alleged patent infringements in the UK and US.

The rapid adoption of Android smartphones have compounded Nokia's loss of market share, thanks largely to Apple's iPhone. Some analysts see the legal route as a means of "striking back" at the California-based technology leaders.

Nail Mawston, head of wireless device strategies at Strategy Analytics research group, said: "Nokia is on the back foot and may see any potential legal fight as a way of striking back at Apple. Wars over patents have become "an increasing part of the [smartphone] landscape", he added.

"This is part and parcel of the patent wars in the industry where the market is really crowded. Nokia does have a pretty big patent portfolio and they want to keep that as strong as possible."

Symptomatic of the industry-wide wrangles, Apple is also suing manufacturers Motororola, HTC and multiple vendors running Google's Android operating system. Motorola last month announced that it is also suing Microsoft in the tangled web of smartphone litigation.

Nick Jones, a mobile analyst at research firm Gartner, said Nokia is playing to its investors by claiming that its technologies were developed more than a decade before the launch of Apple's iPhone. "We have to assume that this escalation in the patent wars is a conscious policy of Nokia's new CEO Steve Elop because you don't sue Apple without telling the CEO," he said.

The dispute could rumble on for years, Jones said, adding: "What's Nokia's goal? Money or cross licensing, or both? Probably both, but the timing is interesting.

"Nokia tell me they have been unsuccessfully attempting to negotiate with Apple for years. But every year you wait Apple's mobile business grows, and my naive view suggests that the potential damages get larger."

Nokia spokesman Mark Durrant said he did not expect a quick result and that the first case likely would not go to court until late next year, probably in the Hague, Netherlands.

"We wanted to be sure that we don't just talk about these in dribs and drabs. There's obviously a lot of action going in some of these cases," he said.


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