Qualcomm Extends Patent Complaints Against Nokia

Perhaps sensing a relative dearth of patent litigation either brought by it or against it, due to its long-standing squabble with Broadcom finally reaching its denouement, Qualcomm today extended the number of patent infringement counts against Nokia by five.

Yesterday, Qualcomm filed suit in (as if you couldn't guess) federal district court in Marshall, Texas, alleging that Nokia is utilizing intellectual property related to the ability for mobile phones to download applications from servers remotely - IP to which Qualcomm says Nokia is not entitled.

In addition, Qualcomm filed suit in federal district court in Wisconsin over what it claims to be Nokia's misappropriation of IP relevant to two Qualcomm patents concerning the ability for a mobile phone to cancel out audio frames when it determines they include noise or other sound inconsistent with the voice traffic it's already sampled.

But analysts believe this latest barrage from Qualcomm may actually have very little to do with remote application downloads or noise cancellation. Nokia's license to use Qualcomm's CDMA intellectual property - negotiated in the spring of 2001 - expires in just six days. Qualcomm may be using these patent suits, among others, as the proverbial "stick" in its negotiating strategy to compel Nokia to re-up with Qualcomm, in exchange for fees which Nokia believes are too high.

The possibility that Nokia would not be willing to accept Qualcomm's terms arose as early as April of last year, when during a quarterly conference call to analysts, Qualcomm executives acknowledged disputes with Nokia existed, though the company at the time refused to explain them in detail. Given the fact that Qualcomm also stated it planned to strengthen its bargaining position on patent enforcement, reporters quickly put two and two together.

The CDMA license gives Nokia the right to sell 3G handsets that use CDMA and WCDMA technology. Nokia has pending complaints against Qualcomm before the European Commission, and filed complaints in Germany and the Netherlands last month stating Qualcomm exhausted its rights to exercise patent authority over the intellectual property it wants Nokia to re-up for.

While the two parties had been scheduled to settle this matter before the US International Trade Commission last month, an ITC judge imposed a stay on the hearings back in February - the effect of which was apparently to compel both sides to bolster their ammunition in a battle that's looking less and less like it'll be settled amicably by this time next week.

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