Remember when Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone, and proclaimed, to much applause, that they patented the hell out of it? Well, apparently Apple likes to boast about its own patents, but when it comes to dealing with other’s they’re not so willing. That is, if you believe Nokia: the largest phone manufacturer in the world has sued Apple for patent infringement.
Nokia claims that Apple’s iPhone, all models, infringes on ten Nokia patents coveringGSM, UMTS, and wireless LAN standards. “Nokia has already successfully entered into license agreements including these patents with approximately 40 companies, including virtually all the leading mobile device vendors, allowing the industry to benefit from Nokia’s innovation,” the company writes in a press release.
“The basic principle in the mobile industry is that those companies who contribute in technology development to establish standards create intellectual property, which others then need to compensate for,” said Ilkka Rahnasto, Vice President, Legal & Intellectual Property at Nokia, “Apple is also expected to follow this principle. By refusing to agree appropriate terms for Nokia’s intellectual property, Apple is attempting to get a free ride on the back of Nokia’s innovation.”
The company claims it has invested nearly 40 billion USD in research and development over the past two decades, which resulted in about 10000 patent families. The press release reads as if Nokia tried to enter into a patent agreement with Apple – like it did with those other 40 companies – but that Apple refused.
I’m not a particular fan of patent lawsuits, but this does kind of feel like what goes around comes around. Apple shouted its iPhone patent portfolio off the rooftops a few times (during launch, when the Pre came out), so it’s kind of hypocritical not to pay up for other companies’ patents.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The lawsuit is filed in the state of Delaware, and of course hasn’t started yet. We’ll see whether there’s any merit to Nokia’s claims. It of course reeks a bit of “if you can’t beat them, sue them”, too.
What kind of patents are these? If they are sensible hardware-based patents for non-obvious inventions created by Nokia, then this is a reasonable action. I think it is right that physical inventions can be patented, and if Apple ignored the patents that apply to them, well they deserve to get sued.
Of course if this basic anti-competitive patent troll behaviour then shame on Nokia. However, I feel inclined to give Nokia the benefit of the doubt at this stage, especially considering the good work they’ve been doing with LGPLing Qt and also for the upcoming N900, which looks very promising as a hackable Linux smartphone.
I think the “if you can’t beat them, sue them” line is a bit premature, we’ll have to see whether or not Nokia can beat them with the aforementioned N900 and whatever Maemo 6 devices may manifest in 2010. By this time next year I think we’ll be in a better position to judge this.
I recall hearing that Nokia posted a loss for last quarter, could this action be driven by shareholder pressure based on this bad performance?