Last November, I wrote a piece about the Apple-Nokia legal face off over smartphone patents before the International Trade Commission. A lot has changed since then for both these mobile heavyweights. Since then, Apple launched the iPad 2 and it sold out in the blink of an eye. Steve Jobs took an indefinite leave of absence from the company to focus on his health. Nokia meanwhile eloped with Microsoft to create a new mobile ecosystem.
However, some things never change. Apple continues to hold the unwanted and rather notorious distinction of being the “World’s most-sued tech company“. The recent Kodak patent infringement lawsuit is a case in point. And now that the dust seems settled on the Nokia-MS deal, the former is back to its favorite pastime – suing competitors.
And who better than Apple to revive the golden era of the “clash of the titans”?
In its latest complaint to the ITC, Nokia alleges that Apple infringes additional patents in virtually all of its mobile phones, portable music players, tablets and computers. The world’s largest phone maker claims Apple is using its patented technologies to create key features in its products in the areas of multitasking operating systems, data synchronisation, positioning, call quality and the use of Bluetooth accessories.
Last year, Nokia sued Apple to ban the later from selling the iPhone in US. Earlier this week, Judge James Gildea, of the International Trade Commission, said in his initial determination that Apple did not violate the Nokia patents. The ITC now reserves the right to either uphold or uphold that decision. Nokia said it does not agree with the ITC’s initial determination and it will wait to see the details of the ruling in that case before taking any further action.
Either way, this lawsuit is a good indication that Nokia is in no mood to wait till the ITC ruling. The latest lawsuits cover nearly all aspects of a using a smartphone whether it’s calling, messaging or battery life. It’s tough to predict whether Nokia wants to use the litigation to extract licensing fees from competitors or if it genuinely believes it stands a chance to win this legal tussle against Apple. Irrespective of how things unfold, I’m pretty sure this isn’t the last time these two rivals would have battled over patent disputes.
There is no doubt that Nokia is struggling to retain its grip as the world’s largest mobile manufacturer. Microsoft has already given indications of a looming legal tussle over Apple’s “App Store” trademark, so I’m not sure if the latest lawsuit is Nokia’s conscious attempt to please Ballmer & company. Apart from the United States, Nokia and Apple are already fighting it out in several cases proceeding in Germany, the U.K. and the Netherlands.
Just to put things in perspective, Nokia now has 46 patents in suit against Apple. Perhaps, a good case to now stop making smartphones and put on the lawyer’s robe