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A patent war involving leading mobile phone and chip makers intensified on Monday, with Qualcomm announcing it was suing Nokia for infringement of a dozen of its patents.
The move by the US mobile chip maker appeared to be a response to last month’s complaints to the European Commission by Nokia and five other companies that Qualcomm was being anti-competitive in refusing to license its patents to the industry on “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.” Qualcomm said it filed suit on Friday in a federal court in San Diego alleging infringement of 11 of its patents and one owned by its subsidiary SnapTrack.
“We have been discussing a number of issues with Nokia for some time, including the fact that we have essential GSM patents for which Nokia is not licensed,” said Louis Lupin, Qualcomm general counsel.
“Until recently, we had been led to believe that these issues might be resolved co-operatively and amicably,” he added.
Analysts at Deutsche Bank said in a note that Qualcomm was “playing hardball.” “This appears to be an aggressive counter to Nokia’s complaint . . . we believe today’s suit . . . signals [Qualcomm’s] view that they have a strong case in these matters,” they said.
Nokia said it had not yet seen the full complaint so could not comment on its “substantive aspects”. But it said it was “disappointed” with Qualcomm’s decision to resort to legal action, claiming that the US company had not even attempted to hold any licensing negotiations.
“Qualcomm has a duty to license those patents on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. Qualcomm has not provided Nokia with any proposed terms for a licence in compliance with its obligations,” it said.
Analysts believe that intellectual property rights disputes in the mobile phone arena are on the rise as falling prices for the equipment increasingly put margins under pressure.
“All this does is underline the importance of intellectual property in this business,” said Ben Wood, a mobile handset analyst at Gartner.
The suit refers to patent infringement through the use of Qualcomm’s Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology.