Even as the technology world awaits the verdict in the Oracle vs. Google patent case around the Android operating system, Nokia is waging a new patent war of its own.
Nokia has filed patent suits against HTC, Research In Motion and Viewsonic in the U.S. and Germany. Nokia claims products from the companies infringe on a number of its patents.
"Nokia is a leader in many technologies needed for great mobile products. We have already licensed our standards-essential patents to more than 40 companies," said Louise Pentland, chief legal officer at Nokia. "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."
Nokia's Software Accusations
Nokia has filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission against HTC. It also has filed lawsuits against HTC and Viewsonic in U.S. District Court in Delaware, against HTC and RIM in the Regional Court in Dusseldorf, Germany, and against all three companies in the Regional Courts in Mannheim and Munich, Germany. Altogether, 45 Nokia patents are listed in one or more of the actions.
Nokia claims that the defendants are using its proprietary innovations to power hardware capabilities such as dual function antennas, power management and multimode radios, as well as to enhance software features including application stores, multitasking, navigation, conversational message display, dynamic menus, data encryption and retrieval of e-mail attachments on a mobile device.
"Many of these inventions are fundamental to Nokia products," Pentland said. "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."
Too Many IP Suits?
We asked Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, his take on the volume of intellectual-property lawsuits that smartphone makers and related companies are filing against one another. He said he understood the value and importance of protecting one's intellectual property, but that the rash of lawsuits may have more to do with tripping up competitors than with protecting actual intellectual property.
"Oracle's claims against Google, at least from what I can see, appear to be pretty thin," King said. "But it's one of those situations where if you feel like you can slow the competition down a bit it's worth the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars you are paying your legal staff to pursue cases like this."
As King sees it, these suits point to a fundamental notion that software patents as they currently exist are a broken mechanism at best.
"If the patent law is so big as to support this number of legal options then it seems to me that the Patent and Trademark Office needs to take a close look at the patents they are granting," King said. "This doesn't seem to be a system that is working for anyone except the legal firms that are involved in the litigation."