By Andrew Ward in Stockholm and David Gelles in San Francisco
Published: October 22 2009 16:22 | Last updated: October 22 2009 21:21
Nokia, the world’s biggest mobile-phone maker, on Thursday launched a legal challenge against alleged intellectual property abuse by Apple, opening a new front in its battle against a US rival that is transforming the industry.
A lawsuit filed in a US federal court in Delaware accused Apple of infringing 10 Nokia patents in all 30m of its flagship iPhones sold since the US company entered the mobile market in 2007.
The move sets the stage for a court battle between the industry leader and its fastest-growing challenger over one of the hottest products in consumer technology.
Ilkka Rahnasto, Nokia’s head of legal affairs and intellectual property, accused Apple of seeking “a free ride on the back of Nokia’s innovation”.
The dispute comes as Nokia attempts a fightback against Apple in the rapidly expanding smartphone market as consumers shift from traditional handsets to phones that double as mini-computers. Nokia remains the biggest maker of smartphones, which offer services such as e-mail, music and video, but is losing market share to the iPhone and the BlackBerry range of devices made by Canada’s Research in Motion.
Their contrasting fortunes were highlighted this week when Apple announced a 47 per cent jump in third-quarter profits days after Nokia said it had fallen into loss.
Nokia said the disputed patents involved technologies that were “fundamental” to the manufacturing of third-generation mobile phones, including wireless data, speech coding, security and encryption.
“The basic principle in the mobile industry is that those companies who contribute in technology development to establish standards create intellectual property, which others then need to compensate for,” said Mr Rahnasto. “Apple is also expected to follow this principle. By refusing to agree appropriate terms for Nokia’s intellectual property, Apple is attempting to get a free ride on the back of Nokia’s innovation.”
Apple, which sold a record 7.4m iPhones in the third quarter of this year, did not return calls for comment.
Apple has established itself as a pioneer in the smartphone market, bringing together a powerful handheld computer with a sleek interface that has proved a hit with consumers and spawned imitators.
Apple has previously been seen as the aggressor when it comes to smartphone patents. Earlier this year, when Palm launched the Pre, Apple threatened to sue Palm over its multi-touch interface.
William A. Stofega, a mobile analyst with market research company IDC, said this had had a chilling effect on innovation: “The rumours were that certain devices were held back because of the threat of lawsuits.”
Nokia statement – Oct-22
Lex: Ericsson – Oct-22