Apple and Nokia go toe to toe with patent claims this week

Apple and Nokia are this week going toe to toe in a legal conflict over smartphone patents.

The pair will appear in front of the International Trade Commission in a row of several disputes over intellectual property.

The fighting comes as no surprise to patent lawyers who claim that “considering the lucrative nature of the smart phone market and the rapid developments in this area, it was only a matter of time before patent enforcement became a big issue.”

Nokia threw the first punch in October last year. At the time it claimed that Apple had infringed 10 of its patents with the iPhone.

However, Apple counter-sued Nokia in December 2009 claiming that Nokia was in violation of 13 of its patents, within this it specified that the  the Symbian and S40 operating systems violated its patents as well as claiming Nokia has participated in antitrust practices and breached its contract.

Instead of wanting financial remuneration, it wants a complete ban on imports to the US of devices utilising the operating systems.

If Nokia wins, Apple could lose the right to sell the iPhone in the US. If Apple wins, Nokia’s devices could be shut out of the US market altogether and the losing company could end up going to the other for licensing rights.

The ITC earlier this month publicly backed Nokia in its fight against Apple, saying that the courts should rule that Nokia did not infringe Apple’s patents.

Jobs isn’t backing down easily. According to Bloomberg, Apple has turned to several top technology lawyers to beef up its legal team in advance of the case. Bruce Sewell, Apple’s general counsel, came aboard last year after 15 years at Intel. For outside counsel, Apple will get advice from Robert Krupka, who negotiated Apple’s $100 million settlement with Creative Labs in 2005.

In September Apple decided to sue Nokia in the UK for the same patent infringement claims.

Up next are disputes with Motorola and HTC. The hearing in the HTC case is scheduled for May, according the ITC.

Andrew Chiva an Associate in the Brighton office of trade mark and patent at Dehns, told TechEye: “Disputes such as these are sometimes necessary in order to prevent other companies from taking unfair advantage of the significant investment required to make these developments.

“However, in reality, each of these companies is likely to have patented technology that the other companies would like to use, or perhaps are already using without permission.  It therefore seems likely that some sort of settlement and cross-licensing of rights will occur in due course.  

“This type of story merely emphasis the importance of patenting developments, particularly in such crowded, lucrative and competitive areas.”