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Apple Seeks To Ban Nokia Imports To US 374

Posted by timothy
from the let's-take-this-outside-the-country dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Cnet reports that the ongoing patent battle between Apple and Nokia has escalated, with Apple moving to block imports of Nokia cell phones to the US by filing a complaint with the International Trade Commission, an independent federal agency that examines issues including unfair trade practices involving patent, trademark, and copyright infringement. In December, Nokia filed its own complaint with the USITC alleging that Apple infringes seven Nokia patents 'in virtually all of its mobile phones, portable music players, and computers' and sought to ban imports of Apple's iPhone, iPod, and MacBook products. Responding to Apple's latest move, Nokia spokesman Mark Durrant told Bloomberg that 'Nokia will study the complaint when it is received and continue to defend itself vigorously. However this does not alter the fact that Apple has failed to agree appropriate terms for using Nokia technology and has been seeking a free ride on Nokia's innovation since it shipped the first iPhone in 2007.' An ITC investigation is a lengthy process, but it's possible that Apple and Nokia might reach some sort of settlement as suits continue to escalate between the two companies."
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Apple Seeks To Ban Nokia Imports To US

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  • by mjwx (966435) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @01:37AM (#30796420)

    Is it really cheaper to sue for peace? I mean, can't the legal teams for both companies see this down the road and come to some sort of mutual agreement in advance?

    Do you not think Nokia has been negotiating with Apple from the moment they released the iphone (3 years), they finally got sick of the delay tactics and went to the courts. This is a bit of tit for tat on Apple's part.

  • Re:Worthless patents (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 17, 2010 @01:40AM (#30796432)
    How do patents contribute to innovation? Do you believe that a patent-less society would be less innovative?
  • Re:Worthless patents (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 17, 2010 @02:06AM (#30796514)

    More than likely the percentage talks broke down and they are taking it to court. Nokia just went thru this with another big cell player Qualcomm (who nokia accused of charging more than the going rate). It has nothing to do with one or the other using the other inventions. It is just about money. They settled with qualcomm for a big chunk of money going to qualcomm. Which means 'we could go to court and drag it out for years but would loose in the end'.

    Apple is playing a shaky game. As Nokia is one of the 800 pound gorillas in that market. It sounds like Apple is trying to get a 'favored' status rate. These guys will not do that as it ends up costing them with other people they charge. They have things in the contracts like 'if someone else gets a lower rate you get the same rate'. Nokia will fight tooth and nail not to go below a certain rate. This magic number is never said outside of boardrooms but everyone knows who is paying what anyway...

  • by mab (17941) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @02:32AM (#30796598)

    Shouldn't the company that produces the GSM chip sets be paying?

  • by The End Of Days (1243248) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @03:18AM (#30796714)

    Nokia has more employees, but Apple makes more money. Nokia sells tons more phones, but Apple has a hell of a lot of other lines. Overall, Apple looks to be in better shape. It's fairly hard to compare companies using a general metric like size since there are so many factors. Seems like Apple is healthier in general, although Nokia is "bigger" for whatever that means.

    Looking at valuation, Apple could probably buy Nokia if they decided to, but that's not in the least bit likely. Apple's not big into the low end.

    So far as the story goes, obviously this is just negotiation tactics.

    What surprises me is that Apple is responsible for licensing the radio patents. It's not like they build the radios, they just buy them and integrate them. Seems like Broadcom or whoever they use as the radio vendor would have to handle that. I don't know the details of the case, though, so I'm really just talking out my ass here.

    Overall I'd say they should suck it up and license the damn things, even though Nokia wants those precious multitouch patents. It's pretty clear Apple is infringing.

  • by icsx (1107185) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @03:54AM (#30796834)
    Nokia is Bigger. They have more employees because they do a hell of a lot more things than just design stuff and marketing. They have their own factories in which the phones are built. Apple just gives money to some chinese company to make their own iPhone and puts a hefty pricetag on the top. It's much easier to do 1 phone than 1+49 others. Nokia could sell out their factories and limit their company's agenda to management, R&D and marketing but that would be just stupid at the scale which they are now. They controll everything from top to bottom, Apple has control over only the things that are on top. Apple is far from the leading top from mobile phones and has a lot to learn.

    Why would Apple would even want to buy Nokia? It's not like there's 50,1% of shares free out there on the market, waiting for someone to buy them off. Even hostile takeover isn't possible.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 17, 2010 @04:21AM (#30796920)

    Your view is stereotypical US worldview, which downplays market stability the company has acquired, especially on non-domestic markets, to quite a bit. This illusion is also the reason why Apple stocks are so overvalued and Nokia stocks are not doing very well. US investors, with their understandably but still pointlessly narrow worldview affect both companies' value more than it would make sense.

    I think future of Apple is actually very much more unpredictable than that of Nokia. It's also a giant gamble to let so profilic licensing negotiation regarding so essential function of their main product to escalate to the court level from Apple's part.

    What I expect that has been going on is that Apple would have tried to offer cross-licensing deal, offering subportion of their UI patents for GSM/3GPP essential patents of Nokia, knowing that this would make Nokia fear that other essential patent owners would see it as aversion from FRAND practices, and potentially even put Apple stronger position in requiring cross-licensing deals from other GSM IP owners. Anyway, Apple has nothing to lose if it tries to make GSM IP owners fight with each other and thus weaken them in comparison to itself. It's primary goal might be changing or breaking the whole FRAND practice of GSM patents, obviously for its' own benefit. What it doesn't have is capability to dispute the essentialness of the selected Nokia patents. In this regard, it's really a gamble; even in Nokia-Qualcomm dispute, Nokia minimized its losses to paying some licensing fees when the dispute was on.

    What I fear, as someone that's reasonably close and dependent on Nokia R&D ecosystem, is that Nokia has itself stepped too far from FRAND practices and Apple really has something to claim on that front. I don't believe Nokia lawyers are as much idiots as Apple bosses are bigots; but somehow this situation has occurred. It would be nice to know how, but unlikely to happen for several years...

  • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:28AM (#30797352) Homepage

    Well, that's what Apple claim. There are two problems with this.

    The first one is, how does Apple know what other companies are required to pay? This article [eweek.com] claims the agreements are secret and I see no reason to disbelieve that, it'd be standard for this sort of thing.

    The second problem is that Apple have sadly established a track record in the last few years of being flexible with the truth, whereas Nokia have not. For example, covering up issues with Jobs' health and playing cute with the FCC over Google iPhone apps. In constrast the only time I read about Nokia in the news is when they've done something cool, like launching a new product.

    Simply put, some companies have more credibility than others, and Apple is on the losing side in this one.

  • by gtall (79522) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @07:35AM (#30797530)

    So what you mean is there is a cabal of companies working together to limit competition by limiting entry thus making it a non-free market. And somehow Apple must accede to this regime. How fetching.

  • by sosume (680416) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @07:41AM (#30797546) Journal

    Apple uses this kind of practice all the time. Can't win against Microsoft? File antitrust against them. Can't win against Nokia? same.

  • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @08:09AM (#30797674)

    Again, I'm being up-front and telling you I'm ignorant here: Is Microsoft even spending in the neighborhood of the same amount of money, or are they spending less on licenses because they're not actually making phones? Not to make a pun here, I'm just trying to make sure it's an apples-to-apples sort of thing.

  • by peragrin (659227) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @08:54AM (#30797904)

    that's just it Apple shouldn't have to pay a dime for Nokia's patents as they cover the hardware which apple purchases from people who have already paid Nokia for access to those patents.

    Nokia wants to double dip charge the hardware manufactures who make the chips, and charge apple to use those chips. Until people realize this then Nokia is going to look like the good guy in this mess.

    apple has to pay the manufactures extra to use those patents as they pay nokia already. or do you think Qualcomm who makes the iphones GSM chipset doesn't pay nokia?

  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @08:54AM (#30797908)
    From what I understand one of the sticking points is the cross-licensing. Other companies like Motorola, Sony have agreed to cross license their cell phone patents in order to get Nokia's cell phone patents. In Apple's case (according to Apple), Nokia didn't want just their patents related to cell phones but their patents related to everything else like multi-touch, computer technology, etc. We don't know the whole story really.
  • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Sunday January 17, 2010 @09:37AM (#30798188)

    And Nokia said "give us multi touch for essentially free or we will make it very difficult for you to operate a cellphone because we control the patents on talking to celltowers"

    "you can roll your own cell towers of course..."

    This is not just all Apple. Both companies are slugging it out here - neither one playing nice. It's not really in Apple's interests (or Nokia's) to have this out in court if they could come to a cross licensing agreement. The only obvious result of this is that they simply don't agree on what each other's patents are worth.

    It's cheaper to just cross licence; that is has got this far is an indication that they are fundamentally disagreeing on some serious points, mainly financial ones.

    It's not easy to be a new player to a big game that has been sewn up by other companies, especially if you come in with a new product that has some things that the big boys haven't seen before. Now they want that tech for themselves as the price of admission to the game for much less than Apple really want to give it up for. On the other side, the big boys have put together a big cell network with a lot of invested R&D and by nature of the design, Apple needs to use patented tech to be able to make a phone in the first place, so now it comes swanning in, late to the party after the heavy R&D is done with a flashy phone ready to start taking sales away from the big boys....

    You can see it from both sides. They both have a case here, and it's just a matter of working out what each other's patents are worth.

  • by MistrBlank (1183469) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @09:59AM (#30798322)

    I'm also pretty sure that multitouch is not a technology that is necessary in the mobile phone market. I've seen plenty of new phones with keypads and no touch screens lately for a large market of users that don't need an all-in-one device. And as Apple has shown, multitouch devices are expansive beyond the cell phone/telephone marketplace.

    If Nokia is infringing, it is violation of Apple's patents, end of story.
    If Nokia is holding back Apple (and any other entry) due to tower communication technology licensing, that is a very monopolistic tactic, Nokia is not in their right, end of story.

    Let them fight it out in court. Hopefully someone with sense will preside over it and see what is going on (and maybe take a slight jab at Apple as well).

  • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Sunday January 17, 2010 @10:38AM (#30798656)

    Of course Apple want to play by the rules - they are not simply saying "nah nah we don't have to licence Nokia's patents". They are arguing about the nature of Nokia's strong arming (that under the rules that Nokia agreed to when their patented tech became part of the GSM standard they would not be discriminatory in their cross licencing or charging of fees). Apple are claiming that Nokia are breaking those rules and are after far more from Apple than anyone else they licence their patents to. Nokia are, of course, saying that it's all fair and fine. The two don't agree, thus courts get involved. It's not rocket surgery. They will eventually settle and the patents will be cross licenced. Apple aren't seeking to just *not pay* - they just don;t want to be bullied into paying much more than anyone else Nokia has dealt with (and while that in itself is not ordinarily something they can moan about, it is when Nokia created the GSM standard with their patents).

    I'd be interested to hear how Apple have "lawyer mobbed" their way out of playing by the rules - do you have any specific citations? I am genuinely curious, although since you seem to think are not held to the same standard as any company in the eyes of the law, I suspect it's just biased ranting.

    Disclaimer: I am not rabidly "pro-apple" or "anti-anyone-who-goes-against-apple" - I just tend to actually look at what is being discussed and try not to make sweeping generalisations based on my own bias. I have no idea which way this one will come out - clearly Nokia has put a great deal of R&D into GSM and mobil tech and obviously Apple needs to pay to use that tech. We do not know Nokia's terms though. Apple are claiming that they are (contractually enforceable) unfair - are they? Who knows. That's what the courts are for, as well as some unpleasant grandstanding from both sides.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 17, 2010 @12:28PM (#30799416)

    Other companies didn't seem to have issues with Nokia's terms, though ?

    Those other companies all got the same price in those terms, yet Apple was given a price many multiples higher, and was the ONLY one.

    So of course other companies won't have issue with not-insane prices. You still fail to point out how that situation is related to this one.

  • Because every other company has agreed to Nokia's terms.

    And Apple wanted to agree to the same terms every other company agreed to - but suddenly Nokia wanted more.

  • by Weezul (52464) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @04:34PM (#30801416)

    Apple clearly and knowingly infringed upon GSM for several years. So the courts will eventually award Nokia massive damages, those damages could exceed the total value of all iPhones sold thus far. Nokia was extremely generous to offer merely cross licensing plus royalties going forward to cover this. Nokia presumably offered this based upon Apple being "one of the big boy who are not supposed to sue one another". Apple then started fight. Apple would never have had this problem if they'd merely licensed the patents like everyone else from the beginning.

    p.s. Multi-touch is almost worthless as a patents since it's unenforceable in most countries and easy to work around, but owning a license prevents Apple from patent trolling you and saves you from worrying about how much to work around.

  • by fbjon (692006) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @05:23PM (#30801888) Homepage Journal
    Manufacturing a chip and distributing it in a device are two different uses of the technology. Besides, what if instead of charging the chip manufacturer $10, they charge $5 and then another $5 from the device manufacturer?

    That's right, nobody here knows how much they charge, so no need to rant.

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