Down, Not Out: Nokia Goes On The Offensive With 11 Lawsuits Against HTC, RIM And ViewSonic Covering 45 Patents

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As Nokia continues to try to turn itself around as a mobile phone business, it is also playing on the offense in the legal game: today it announced that it has filed fresh round of patent suits — 11 in all — against HTC, RIM and Viewsonic across courts in the U.S. and Germany, covering some 45 patents, all told.

The suits go to show that a company like Nokia has a lot more arsenal in its stores to fight against competitors as it struggles win business with consumers. The fact that it has so many patents among its assets also means that there is significantly more value to this company than just its handset business.

These cases also represent new, legal patent ground in two ways that indicate Nokia is getting more aggressive in litigation (perhaps in inverse variation to its other fortunes):

  1. Although there have been patent cases between Apple vs Nokia, and Apple vs HTC, Nokia tells me this is the first time that it has filed cases against any of these companies.
  2. Nokia says that it has licensing deals with 40 companies covering standards-essential patents but the patents included in these cases appear to be outside of those deals: “Nokia had to file these actions to end the unauthorized use of our proprietary innovations and technologies, which have not been widely licensed,” noted Louise Pentland, chief legal officer at Nokia, in a statement.

Nokia says the patents concern “proprietary innovations” in hardware capabilities that involve dual function antennas, power management and multimode radios. Software features including app stores, multitasking, navigation, conversational message display, dynamic menus, data encryption and retrieval of email attachments on a mobile device are also included in the list.

Nokia says that it owns about 10,000 patent families. Recent research from Chetan Sharma noted that makes Nokia one of the biggest patent holders of all in mobile — although the rate at which it’s putting claims on to IP has slowed significantly as the company has cut costs and hunkered down for growth:

It looks like there are 11 separate cases in this latest patent dispute:

  • a complaint to the US International Trade Commission (ITC) against HTC,
  • a suit against HTC in the Federal District Court of Delaware,
  • a suit against Viewsonic in the Federal District Court of Delaware,
  • a suit against HTC in the Regional Court in Dusseldorf, Germany,
  • a suit against RIM in the Regional Court in Dusseldorf, Germany,
  • and suits against all three companies in the Regional Courts in both Mannheim and Munich, Germany (making six more suits).

In the meantime, Nokia has had another depressing quarter in terms of its own results, an in terms of how well its competitors did.

Nokia declined in almost every metric in its Q1 earnings two weeks ago, with sales falling by $4 billion to $9.2 billion and smartphone sales down by more than fifty percent both in terms of units and revenue. It has lost out to Samsung, by most accounts, as the world’s leading phone vendor, with smartphones increasingly looking like a two-horse race between Samsung and Apple.

Ironically, the two companies also getting the short end of the competitive stick against Apple and Samsung are none other than HTC and RIM.

Full statement below

Nokia takes new steps to protect its innovations and intellectual property

Patent suits filed against HTC, RIM and Viewsonic in the US and Germany

Espoo, Finland – Nokia has filed claims in the United States and Germany alleging that products from HTC, RIM and Viewsonic infringe a number of Nokia patents.

“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’s actions include a complaint to the US International Trade Commission (ITC) against HTC, suits against HTC and Viewsonic in the Federal District Court of Delaware, US, against HTC and RIM in the Regional Court in Dusseldorf, Germany and against all three companies in the Regional Courts in Mannheim and Munich, Germany. In total, 45 Nokia patents are in suit in one or more of the actions.

Nokia proprietary innovations protected by these patents are being used by the companies to enable hardware capabilities such as dual function antennas, power management and multimode radios, as well as to enhance software features including application stores, multitasking, navigation, conversational message display, dynamic menus, data encryption and retrieval of email attachments on a mobile device.

“Many of these inventions are fundamental to Nokia products,” Pentland concluded. “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.”

About Nokia
Nokia is a global leader in mobile communications whose products have become an integral part of the lives of people around the world. Every day, more than 1.3 billion people use their Nokia to capture and share experiences, access information, find their way or simply to speak to one another. Nokia’s technological and design innovations have made its brand one of the most recognized in the world.

During the last two decades, Nokia has invested over EUR 45 billion in research and development and built the wireless industry’s strongest and broadest IPR portfolio, with around 10,000 patent families. Nokia is a world leader in the development of handheld device and mobile communications technologies, which is also demonstrated by Nokia’s strong patent position.