Qualcomm Tries to Block Nokia

The patent case is filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission and could keep Nokia out of U.S. market.

Finnish communications company Nokia has released a statement saying that it believes alleged patent infringement charged by chip maker Qualcomm is without merit.

According to the Nokia statement, Nokia is already licensed to use Qualcomms CDMA technology under an agreement between the two companies from four years ago.

The complaint, filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission in San Diego on June 9, claims that Nokia is infringing Qualcomms patents in some of its GSM technology, particularly with devices using the latest 3G communications.

Qualcomm, in a prepared statement provided to eWEEK, said that the earlier agreement does exist, but doesnt cover the existing patent issue.

"That agreement, however, does not cover GSM/GPRS/EDGE products and therefore is not relevant to the complaint Qualcomm filed with the ITC," Qualcomm said in the statement.

The complaint filed June 9 is just the latest step in a series of actions taken by Qualcomm against Nokia. The company also filed an infringement action in the UK in May, and an earlier one last fall in the United States.

"We think were in a superior position with GSM," Nokia spokesperson Laurie Armstrong told eWEEK.

In a statement released to the press June 12, Nokia said that the legal actions concern GSM technologies that have been in use for years. The company said that it has over 10,000 patents, and over 200 patents essential for GSM.

The GSM standard is used worldwide for mobile phones, including in the United States where it is used by Cingular and T-Mobile.

If the case proceeds, it should be heard in the spring of 2007, and a decision could result in Nokia phones that are using the allegedly infringing technology from being sold in the United States after that.

However, not everyone thinks this will actually go that far.

"Theres a very strong incentive for these parties to reach an agreement," said attorney Bruce Sunstein, chair of the patent practice group at Bromberg & Sunstein, LLC in Boston.

Sunstein said that this is especially true because of the existing case in the European Union.


Qualcomm is also taking Nokia to court over patents in Britain.

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"If you look at the European Convention, policy matters are much more important when theyre in a patent environment than they are in the U.S.," Sunstein said. "The Europeans are more hostile to patents. This will likely help Nokia."

Sunstein said that this is especially true if Nokia prevails in the EU before the case is heard in the United States. "It might solve everything," he said.

Sunstein added that when a company participates in setting standards, which Qualcomm has with 3G, part of the deal is that they have to make the resulting technology available to anyone on a non-discriminatory basis for a reasonable royalty.

The problem is, "Theres very little law on what a reasonable royalty is for standards setting," Sunstein said.

"Qualcomm has offered to license its essential patents for Nokias GSM/GPRS/EDGE products under terms that are fair, reasonable and free from unfair discrimination," the Qualcomm statement said.

"Nokia has refused this offer and continued to sell infringing products around the world, leaving Qualcomm no choice but to enforce its patent rights through legal proceedings."


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Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...