Qualcomm Inc has stepped up its patent infringement battle against Nokia Corp by filing a complaint with the US International Trade Commission asking it to open an investigation into an alleged infringement by Nokia of six GSM patents.
Nokia said it is currently evaluating the filing but the ITC has the power to ban the import into the US of products that infringe the patents of US companies and Nokia is currently battling to increase its sales in the US.
The complaint takes place against the background of tense negotiations between Qualcomm and Nokia on a cross-licensing deal to replace the current agreement, which expires on April 9, 2007.
Qualcomm has already taken legal action against Nokia for patent infringement in the US and the UK. Nokia said it appeared that most of the patents, which are the subject matter of Qualcomm letter to the ITC, are covered by Qualcomm’s prior license agreements.
Nokia claimed that Qualcomm’s repetitive legal actions, over GSM technologies that have been in the market for many years, reflected Qualcomm’s concern over the current 3G UMTS patent negotiations.
It claimed the conditions on negotiations between Nokia and Qualcomm had substantially changed since the early 1990s when Qualcomm held a dominant patent position in the 2G standard and was able to impose that position on the industry.
Nokia boasted that since the 1990’s it had built a leading wireless IP portfolio by investing over 25bn euros ($31.6m) in R&D. It said it held far more essential patents than Qualcomm in 3G UMTS standards.
This macho bragging about the size of their IP portfolio is common to both sides. Qualcomm has said Nokia depends on the license pact for the generation of about $40bn of its revenue in 2005, compared to Qualcomm’s roughly $3.3bn revenue exposure.
Despite the legal action and the war of words, a settlement between the two most important companies in wireless IP appears inevitable at some stage. In an interview with the Financial Times, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs said he anticipated a settlement. We’re in discussions with them. Somehow, we’re going to end up resolving those discussions, he said.