Nokia targets Apple with patent suits in 11 countries

Patents on file
Nokia didn’t specify which Apple products were in violation but said the patents in question covered technologies relating to displays, user interface, software, antennas, chipsets and video coding.

Nokia said it filed complaints against Apple in the U.S. and 10 other countries, claiming the iPhone vendor is infringing on 40 of its patents.

Apple paid an undisclosed sum to Nokia in 2011 for licensing as part of a settlement in a two-year patent dispute between the two companies, but the Finnish company said in a press release Wednesday that Apple has since declined subsequent offers to license some of its other patents.

“Through our sustained investment in research and development, Nokia has created or contributed to many of the fundamental technologies used in today’s mobile devices, including Apple products,” said Ilkka Rahnasto, head of Nokia’s patent business, in the release. “After several years of negotiations trying to reach agreement to cover Apple’s use of these patents, we are now taking action to defend our rights.”

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Nokia announced initial lawsuits in the U.S. and Germany Wednesday afternoon before saying Thursday it had expanded the litigation to nine other markets around the world. Apple representatives weren’t immediately available to comment on Nokia’s announcement.

In addition to the U.S., suits were filed in Europe, Japan and Hong Kong, and with the International Trade Commission.

The announcement follows Apple's move earlier this week to sue Nokia in a federal court in California, claiming the Finnish company excluded some patents from the earlier agreement and transferred them to other companies "to be used for extorting excessive royalties" from Apple, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Nokia didn’t specify which Apple products were in violation but said the patents in question covered technologies relating to displays, user interface, software, antennas, chipsets and video coding. The patents were filed in three German cities as well as the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, and Nokia said it is in the process of filing actions in other jurisdictions.

The 2011 settlement was purported to have ended all patent litigation between the two firms, and both Apple and Nokia also agreed to withdraw their respective complaints against each other from the U.S. International Trade Commission under terms of that deal. Apple said at the time that the agreement was limited in scope, however, claiming the deal covered “some of each other’s patents, but not the majority of the innovation that makes the iPhone unique.”

Patents have become a key component of Nokia's business following the sale of its handset manufacturing business to Microsoft in 2014. Earlier this year, the company finally ended a long-running patent dispute with Samsung, but analysts said the outcome was disappointing for Nokia and might have set a lower precedent for future licensing talks with Apple and other companies.

The battle may take a toll on both companies' shares as it plays out in court, Wells Fargo Securities analysts said. The cases are likely to take at least a year to resolve—it may take much longer—which could lead to "potential stock volatility" as they wend their way through the system.

"We view this negatively for both Apple and Nokia as both may incur higher litigation expenses and there may be some level of uncertainty over what is likely to be an extended time period," Wells Fargo said in a research note. "The fact that this did not go to arbitration suggests, to us, that the two sides must be far apart in what each party wants and it appears Apple is not arguing the validity of the patents but, rather, the rate it deems fair."

This story was updated Thursday, Dec. 22, to include Nokia's expanded litigation.

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