Nokia Fires Out a Slew of Patent Suits

by Jordan Richardson on May 3, 2012

In an effort to raise more revenue from its patent portfolio, Nokia has launched a series of lawsuits against RIM, HTC and ViewSonic.

The suits cover 45 hardware and software patents, from power management to data encryption technologies. Nokia’s suits are interestingly against products that use the BlackBerry operating system and the Android operating system, leaving aside products that use Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system for obvious reasons.

It’s hardly surprising to see Nokia go after RIM and ViewSonic, but the HTC case seems a little more puzzling. For starters, Nokia’s complaints against HTC only mentions Android devices and, again, leaves aside any mention of Windows Phone devices. Also, Nokia has previously had an “alliance” of sorts with HTC after the two companies fought against German patent firm IPCom.

“HTC has been a licensee of Nokia on wireless essential patents since 2003. We are waiting to receive a complaint,” said the Taiwanese maker of tablets and smartphones.

“Nokia is a leader in many technologies needed for great mobile products,” said Louise Pentland, chief legal officer at Nokia. “We have already licensed our standards essential patents to more than 40 companies.  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, along with Qualcomm and Ericsson, possesses one of the widest stacks of patents in the industry. They can lean on their portfolio for a while, even after the base business tumbles, and can be quite profitable based on successful litigation. One example of Nokia’s success in this arena came with their recent settlement with Apple in June of 2011. Exact amounts weren’t disclosed, but many believe Nokia wound up gaining hundreds of millions of dollars.

Nokia has seen its business take a dip as of late, losing the top spot in global mobile phone making to Samsung for the first time in 14 years. Nokia has been focusing on Windows Phone devices, largely dumping Symbian, but it’s struggled against the overwhelming tide generated by Android and iPhone devices in North America.

“Many of these inventions are fundamental to Nokia products,” Pentland wrote about the patent suits. “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.”

The snarkiness of Pentland’s comments are hard to ignore, but Nokia certainly does seem to know how to play the litigation game. At this point and time, it seems their best shot at profitability.

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