Yesterday we reported that Nokia launched a lawsuit against Apple claiming that the iPhone infringes on a number of Nokia patents which relate to technologies that make devices compatible with wireless LAN standards.
Regardless of whether or not Nokia has a solid case, it’s interesting that they waited until the third iteration of the iPhone before filing its lawsuit. Did it really take them this long to figure out what Apple was doing, or is there something else at work here?
Analyst Maynard Um from UBS speculates that Nokia’s lawsuit may simply be nothing more than a pre-emptive strike to thwart off any potential lawsuit from Apple over Nokia’s plans to release multi-touch capable phones in the near future.
According to Nokia, Apple has been “free riding” because it isn’t paying royalties on GSM, UTMS and WLAN technologies used in the iPhone. As such, Apple can charge less for the iPhone and unfairly gain market share.
“We would not be surprised if Apple eventually files an infringement suit if Nokia’shandsets are deemed to infringe its IP,” Mr. Um said. “Ultimately, we believe an out of courtsettlement is the most likely scenario with potential cross licensing agreements.”
In other words, Nokia may have filed its suit as a bargaining chip.
It’s an interesting theory, but it’s not as if Apple is the only company with a multi-touch enabled smartphone out on the market these days. Take a look at the Palm Pre for example – when it was first announced, a lot of people were expecting an Apple initiated lawsuit that never materialized. But Palm, at the time, touted its own patent portfolio, and it could very well be the case that Apple didn’t pursue legal action because of that. If Nokia has no multi-touch patents of their own, then Um’s theory might hold some water, but it’s far too early to tell either way.