Nokia and Ap­ple’s patent dis­pute

Com­pa­nies are at odds over fair li­cens­ing of the H.264 video codec and other tech­nolo­gies. Grant Gross re­ports

Macworld - - Contents -

An in­ter­na­tional patent dis­pute has bro­ken out be­tween Ap­ple and Nokia over the Fin­nish mo­bile net­work ven­dor’s li­cens­ing terms for the widely used H.264 video codec and other tech­nolo­gies.

Nokia has started le­gal ac­tion against Ap­ple in Ger­many and in the US, al­leg­ing that the smart­phone gi­ant has in­fringed 32 of its patents. Its five law­suits fol­low an Ap­ple suit filed in Cal­i­for­nia last month. The US tech gi­ant ac­cused Nokia of work­ing with patent as­ser­tion firms Aca­cia Re­search and Con­ver­sant In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Man­age­ment to “ex­tract and ex­tort ex­or­bi­tant rev­enues un­fairly and an­ti­com­pet­i­tively” from Ap­ple and other smart­phone mak­ers. Nokia was not named as one of eight de­fen­dants in the Ap­ple law­suit.

Nokia’s patent in­fringe­ment law­suits, filed with the Re­gional Courts in Dus­sel­dorf, Mannheim and Mu­nich in Ger­many and the US Dis­trict Court for the East­ern Dis­trict of Texas, cover patents re­lated to dis­plays, user in­ter­faces, soft­ware, an­ten­nas, chipsets, and video cod­ing, Nokia said.

The firm is plan­ning to file more law­suits in other ju­ris­dic­tions, it said in a press re­lease.

The eight patents cov­ered in one of Nokia’s Texas law­suits are re­lated to the H.264 Ad­vanced Video Cod­ing stan­dard ap­proved by the In­ter­na­tional Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion Union, ac­cord­ing

to Nokia’s com­plaint. A se­cond Texas law­suit cov­ers 10 patents for a range of other tech­nolo­gies.

Ap­ple prod­ucts us­ing the H.264 video codec in­clude the iPhone, iPad, iPod, Ap­ple Watch, Macs, and Ap­ple TV, Nokia said in its com­plaint.

“De­spite all the ad­van­tages that have been en­joyed by Ap­ple, Ap­ple has stead­fastly re­fused to agree to li­cense Nokia’s H.264 patents on rea­son­able terms,” the Fin­nish Firm’s lawyers wrote. “Dozens of com­pa­nies have li­censed Nokia’s patents for use in their prod­ucts... Ap­ple, how­ever, re­fuses to pay Nokia’s es­tab­lished roy­alty rates.”

Ap­ple did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for a com­ment on the law­suits.

As part of the ITU stan­dards process, Nokia agreed to grant li­censes for the H.264 de­coder on rea­son­able and nondis­crim­i­na­tory, or RAND, terms, the com­pany said. How­ever, the ITU stan­dard cov­ers only the de­coder, and not the en­coder, the com­plaint said.

The Fin­nish firm has of­fered Ap­ple a li­cense for the en­coder tech­nol­ogy on RAND terms, but Ap­ple has re­fused to pay, the com­pany as­serted. “Nokia has ne­go­ti­ated in good faith and made sub­stan­tial ef­forts to en­ter into a li­cense agree­ment with Ap­ple on rea­son­able and nondis­crim­i­na­tory terms,” its lawyers wrote.

Nokia re­search has con­trib­uted to “fun­da­men­tal tech­nolo­gies” used in Ap­ple prod­ucts, Ilkka Rah­nasto, head of Patent Busi­ness at Nokia, said in a press 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.”

Ap­ple’s law­suit, mean­while, al­leges that Nokia is work­ing with out­side patent as­ser­tion firms to skirt its RAND patent com­mit­ments to stan­dards bod­ies.

Nokia promised it would “li­cense its patents fairly,” Ap­ple’s lawyers wrote. Nokia is work­ing with the patent law­suit fil­ers on a “scheme to dif­fuse and abuse” the com­pany’s patents by ex­tract­ing “ex­or­bi­tant” roy­al­ties, they al­leged in their com­plaint. The Fin­nish firm’s ag­gres­sive patent li­cens­ing ef­forts came af­ter the com­pany largely ex­ited the smart­phone-mak­ing busi­ness, Ap­ple’s lawyers wrote. “Un­able to com­pete with in­no­va­tive com­pa­nies such as Ap­ple – which had de­vel­oped a rev­o­lu­tion­ary hard­ware and soft­ware plat­form – Nokia quickly trans­formed it­self,” Ap­ple’s lawyers wrote. “It changed from a com­pany fo­cused on sup­ply­ing cell phones and other con­sumer prod­ucts to a com­pany bent on ex­ploit­ing the patents that re­main from its years as a suc­cess­ful cell phone sup­plier.”

The Ap­ple law­suit is “un­re­lated to our own com­plaints” against the com­pany, a Nokia spokesman said. “By fail­ing to agree to terms, Ap­ple is seek­ing an un­fair ad­van­tage over our other li­censees and we are tak­ing steps to pro­tect our in­ven­tions and de­fend our rights,” he added.

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