Apple Sued Nokia 1 Day before Nokia Sued Apple, Did You Know?

Apple sues Nokia sues Apple

Tech news sites and most major online publications yesterday were awash with news of Nokia filing a lawsuit against Apple Inc., but nearly all of them failed to note that a day before that happened, Apple had formally filed a complaint against Patent Assertion Entities that acted as proxies for Nokia.

One of these proxy companies is Acacia, as you can see in Apple’s filing from December 30 below:


What makes this development even more interesting is that Apple explicitly named three Nokia units as defendants in the case. Naturally, the Northern District of California court rejected the summons because none of these units were named in the original complaint.


However, it is expected that Apple will amend the complaint to now include these units as well.

So, the gist of what happen is this: Apple first filed a complaint against Nokia privateers, or entities that it has transferred its patents to, then requested representatives of three Nokia units to be issued summons. Following that Nokia filed its own complaint against Apple violating its patents. Most of us know the second part of that story, but the first part has just come to light thanks to Florian Mueller, the founder of the FOSS Patents blog, and a follow-up by my Seeking Alpha fellow author, George Kesarios.

The main issue started in 2009 when Nokia sued Apple for violating “10 patents for wireless transmission technologies.” What followed was a two-year-long altercation that resulted in Apple settling for an unknown amount, possibly to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars – chump change for Apple, which posted $50 billion in total current assets as of fiscal 2011.

Ever since then, Nokia has been eyeing Apple’s deep pockets, even publicly declaring that Apple refused to license technologies that were patented by Nokia. Here’s an excerpt from Nokia’s press release:

“Since agreeing a license covering some patents from the Nokia Technologies portfolio in 2011, Apple has declined subsequent offers made by Nokia to license other of its patented inventions which are used by many of Apple’s products.”

We have now heard that Nokia has now escalated its original complaint to include no less than 40 patent violations, and it also intends to sue Apple in nine more countries, taking the total to 11 countries. Of note is the fact that Nokia has now also filed an ITC complaint, seeking a U.S. import ban over eight patents.

Nokia’s earlier altercation with HTC was also escalated, but it took more than three years to spread across seven countries. In Apple’s case, it took one day to go from two countries to eleven.

But Mueller is not seeing this as having any advantage for Nokia. On the contrary, he asserts that Apple would be willing to fight a prolonged battle in various courts, and the time that it takes to do that will only hurt Nokia more than help it. It should also be noted that Mueller is long AAPL.

In the meantime, the U.S. antitrust lawsuit against Nokia already has the European Commission sniffing around Nokia’s IP assets. After going heavy on Apple, Facebook and Google over competitiveness issues, European Commissioner for Competition ‎Margrethe Vestager could be looking to balance things out by calling out Nokia – a European entity – for hogging the patent limelight.

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