Nokia: Google Patent Accusations 'Wrong,' Company Has Plenty of IP

Google has accused Nokia and Microsoft of colluding to raise costs by hiring unsavory firms to help them make money off patents. Nokia responded that it runs independently of Microsoft, and each has plenty of IP. An analyst called the Google complaint "old wine in new bottles."

Nokia has responded to Google€™s accusations that the phone maker and its new operating system partner, Microsoft, are using €œpatent trolls€ to damage rivals and are €œcolluding to raise the costs of mobile devices for consumers,€ as Google told the European Commission in a formal complaint.

Nokia said in a June 1 statement that while the company hasn€™t seen the complaint yet, the suggestion that it€™s colluding with Microsoft on intellectual property rights €œis wrong.€ After years of using the Symbian operating system for its phones, Nokia has moved to Microsoft€™s Windows Phone platform for its new Lumia line.

€œBoth companies have their own intellectual property rights portfolios and strategies and operate independently,€ Nokia spokesperson Mark Durrant said, according to Reuters.

The €œpatent troll€ comment relates to reports of Nokia and Microsoft hiring Mosaid and similar proxy companies, which fight for a client€™s patents and then keep a portion of the revenue they helped raise. According to Reuters, Nokia has transferred 1,200 patents to Mosaid.

Florian Mueller, a patent expert and paid consultant with several companies, including Oracle and Microsoft, described the Google complaint in a June 1 post on his FOSS Patents blog, calling it €œold wine in new bottles.€ Or rather, he continued:

"It's not just "old wine" but actually a concoction that failed to pass even the low hurdle of a basic plausibility test by the United States International Trade Commission (ITC). It failed that test at the ITC no less than three times: the Office of Unfair Import Investigations (which defends the public interest in ITC investigations), Judge Theodore Essex (in a summary determination) and the six-member decision-making body at the top of the ITC all agreed that there was no antitrust-related or other kind of patent misuse claim against Microsoft and Nokia.An entire set of "patent misuse" theories, including the Mosaid story, was considered so frivolous that the ITC didn't even want to waste time on this at a trial at which an all-star team of antitrust lawyers wanted to square off with Microsoft."

Mueller went on to explain that in acquiring Motorola, Google has inherited new antitrust problems, while it already has a considerable share. The European Commission Vice President Joaquin Almunia has given Google an ultimatum to come up with proposals related to claims of abuse regarding its search engines, Google€™s Seoul office was raided by South Korea€™s Fair Trade Commission over suspected Android-related abuses, and there are two investigations into Motorola.

€œI'm against patent abuse by anyone, but Google doesn't appear to have any factual basis,€ wrote Mueller. €œFor now, it just cries €˜conspiracy!€™€

Nokia€™s patent portfolio is said to be one of the more robust in the industry, and during its last earnings call, executives said they would look more closely at how they might best leverage them.

The Finnish phone maker has since filed cases in the United States and Germany against HTC, Research In Motion and Viewsonic that relate to 45 patents.

€œAs the global mobile industry has become more Americanized in recent years, so the approach to mobile patent licensing has also become more Americanized, with a growing focus on lawyers sweating harder their patent portfolios to obtain maximum perceived value,€ Neil Mawston, executive director of Strategy Analytics€™ Global Wireless Practice told eWEEK.

In June 2011, Nokia won a years-long patent dispute against Apple. The iPhone maker was made to pay Nokia a one-time fee as well as ongoing royalties for each iPhone it sells.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been updated to include additional details about FOSS Patents blog author Florian Mueller.