The battle between Nokia and Qualcomm over licensing and royalties moved into a new round Thursday, as Nokia announced it had filed "patent counter assertions" against Qualcomm. The action by the Finnish phone manufacturer, the world's largest mobile phone maker, was filed in a Wisconsin court, and is a response to a Qualcomm patent-infringement lawsuit filed on April 2.
Nokia said that its countersuit was for Qualcomm's infringement of six Nokia patents used in Qualcomm's GSM/WCDMA and CDMA2000 chipsets. The patents cited by Nokia entail technologies that allow roaming, and conversion technologies that affect handset and chipset size, cost, and power consumption.
Nokia also reiterated that its products do not infringe on Qualcomm patents, and its suit seeks damages and an injunction against some Qualcomm chipsets.
Raging Since 2001
The dispute between the companies has been raging since a 2001 cross-licensing agreement expired earlier this year. Qualcomm has said it wants to renew that licensing deal, while Nokia has said it wants to reduce its payments.
In April, when part of the agreement expired, a Nokia representative said that, without the agreement, "Qualcomm's entire chipset business becomes exposed to Nokia's extensive GSM, WCDMA, and CDMA patent portfolios." Qualcomm's general counsel had replied that the company didn't believe it used any of Nokia's patents.
The legal fighting and complaints are all "part of the renegotiation" for their cross-licensing, said Charles Golvin, an analyst at industry research firm Forrester. The real battle, he said, is about the future, particularly wideband CDMA. (Wideband CDMA, or WCDMA, is a 3G protocol that supports broadband multimedia services such as video and video conferencing.)
At the Heart of 3G
WCDMA, Golvin said, is becoming the main standard for 3G phone transmission. Qualcomm currently holds a dominating position in CDMA patents, he noted, and has been accused of using that leverage to pressure companies to buy Qualcomm chipsets to get a better deal on CDMA patent licensing. Nokia has extensive GSM patents and, analysts have noted, is steadily pulling out of CDMA.
Qualcomm and Nokia each own WCDMA patents, he said, as do other companies, and this fight is really about leverage in the new world of WCDMA. "In my opinion," he added, "they have to come to some agreement. There's too much at stake."
Last year, Nokia filed a lawsuit in Delaware, contending that Qualcomm does not follow global licensing rules. Qualcomm also has filed suit against Nokia in U.S. federal court in San Diego, as well as in courts in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and at the U.S. International Trade Commission.
"Next-generation wireless communications," Qualcomm states on its Web site, "is emerging as the most important technology of this millennium."