Nokia Warned Against Becoming a Patent Troll

by Matt Klassen on December 10, 2013

Could Nokia morph into a patent troll? Imagine thinking such a thing ten years ago when Nokia was at the height of its mobile power, but now that the company has had the sale of its mobile division to Microsoft approved on both sides of the pond, there are some very real concerns that becoming a patent assertion entity—the nice way of saying patent troll—in the mobile industry may be part of Nokia’s future plans.

At a conference earlier this week, European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia voiced serious concerns about Nokia’s future, stating that while he had no problem with the sale of the company’s mobile division to Microsoft, he was suspicious of the once great mobile company’s decision to retain its vast patent portfolio, saying that any attempt to generate increased revenue streams through those patents could create a problematic situation.

In his discussion Almunia voiced concerns that Nokia might “behave like a patent troll or, to use a more polite phrase, a patent assertion entity,” according to the Associated Press. He added a warning that if Nokia attempts to use its patents in such a way that he’ll waste no time launching an antitrust suit against the Finnish tech company. But that also has me wondering, if not a patent troll, what other future does Nokia really have now?

The warning from the EU to Nokia to avoid becoming a patent troll comes at a time when the American government is already embroiled in a similar battle, with the announcement that the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Innovation Act, a bipartisan bill designed to “curb frivolous lawsuits by patent trolls.”

The move comes as patent assertion entities continue to stifle innovation by pursuing patent litigation against companies who are trying to push technological progress forward, yet whom often times have little or no resources to defend themselves against these trolls.

“In the last five to six years, the patent world has been like the Wild West with no sheriff in sight,” Robin Feldman, a professor at the UC Hastings College of the Law, told the E-Commerce Times. “It is great to see some help on the horizon, and I hope it arrives,” said Feldman. Feldman noted that “patent monetization entities, as he calls them, filed 58 percent of patent lawsuits in 2012, compared with 24 percent in 2007.

While such an ignominious destiny may seem beneath Nokia, given that the Finnish company still retains one of the most valuable patent portfolios in the entire mobile industry yet has no other stake remaining in said industry, the strength of the company’s intellectual property coupled with some imminent desire to generate revenue could facilitate Nokia’s transformation into one of the most dangerous patent trolls in the market, and for Almunia and the EU its better to warn Nokia now then later when the company has already started to flex its patent muscles.

But I have to wonder, does Nokia have any other choices for its future? Sure the company will continue to sell its telecommunications network solutions and services, but given the fact it has sold off its mobile assets, what’s really left at the company but its patents? But consider the warning shots fired, “if Nokia were to take illegal advantage of its patents in the future, we will open an antitrust case,” Almunia promised, adding, “I sincerely hope we will not have to.”

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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