In any highly competitive industry, it is important for companies to protect their innovative designs and business plans by covering them with appropriate legal protections. This can include copyrighting, patenting, and trademarking, as well as designating trade secrets. It also has to include enforcing these intellectual property rights when they are infringed by competitors.
The smartphone market is a highly competitive one. Over the past handful of years, there has been a fair amount of litigation over design patents, with Apple take a lead in much of the litigation. Apple has been involved, for example, in a series of patent infringement lawsuits against Samsung Electronics. Recently, Apple initiated another patent lawsuit, this time against Nokia.
Apple filed the lawsuit against Nokia and two other companies for conspiring together to financially squeeze the iPhone maker, claiming that the companies are attempting to force Apple to pay exorbitant royalties. In response to that lawsuit, Nokia filed its own lawsuit the next day, alleging that Apple was in violation of a total of 32 technology patents.
Apple has characterized the countersuit as “patent trolling.” The term is a pejorative way of saying that a patent holder is attempting to enforce patent rights well beyond the value of the patent or the patent’s contribution to the alleged infringer’s creation. Nokia used to be a large player in the mobile phone market, but ultimately ceded dominance to other companies as smartphones came onto the market. Nokia was purchased by Microsoft in 2014, and earlier this year Microsoft sold that line of business to a new company which has plans to enter back into the mobile phone market.
In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this story and the importance of working with experienced legal counsel to handle intellectual property rights and patent disputes.