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Nokia, the world’s biggest mobile phone maker, on Thursday stepped up its legal battle over the level of royalties it pays chipmaker Qualcomm, announcing its first patent countersuit.
The move increased the pressure from all sides on Qualcomm, which is also in dispute with rival chipmaker Broadcom and the subject of complaints by Texas Instruments and Ericsson, among others.
It faces a decision from the US International Trade Commission on Friday on whether to ban the import of a class of cellphones using its chips.
In the latest round of a series of legal cases spread across Europe and the US, Nokia said it had responded to a Qualcomm lawsuit filed in Wisconsin last month, saying it was confident its products did not infringe two Qualcomm patents mentioned in the suit and asserting that both were invalid.
In addition, it filed its first patent counter assertions for alleged infringement of six Nokia patents used in chipsets for 3G phones. It said it was seeking damages and an injunction against Qualcomm’s chipsets.
“Over the past 19 months, Qualcomm has filed 11 patent litigation cases against Nokia seeking damages and injunctions,” said Rick Simonson, chief financial officer. “Nokia has now filed its first counter action to address Qualcomm’s unauthorised use of Nokia technology.”
At the heart of the dispute is the expiry of a cross-licensing agreement between the two groups this year and their failure to agree a new deal. Nokia has objected to renewing the agreement on the same terms, with Qualcomm continuing to earn royalties of about 4.5 per cent of the cost of handsets containing its chips.
Analysts estimate Nokia will soon be paying Qualcomm more than $1bn a year at current royalty rates.
In the ITC case, Broadcom has asked for a ban on imports of cellphones using Qualcomm chips that infringe Broadcom patents. The commission found that Qualcomm infringed on a battery-saving patent. Qualcomm has argued that a ban would hurt consumers and carriers who depend on Qualcomm’s technology.
The argument has spread to carriers. Sprint Nextel and Verizon Wireless, which depend on Qualcomm’s chips, are supporting its arguments, but AT&T and Deutsche Telekom this week urged the ITC to avoid a compromise decision.
Additional reporting by Robert Anderson in Stockholm