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Apple iPhone litigation highlights importance of IP rights, employment agreements

In our last post, we began looking at recently initiated litigation between Apple and Nokia over alleged patent violations. As we noted last time, it is critical for businesses in highly competitive industries to be solicitous about protecting their intellectual property rights, both in terms of obtaining the proper legal protections and enforcing those protections against companies that infringe upon intellectual property rights. Apple has certainly been active in patent litigation over its iPhone products.

An interesting aspect to the current litigation between Nokia and Apple is that Apple filed the lawsuit the day after its former director of patent licensing and strategy—who had been involved in Apple’s litigation against Samsung—was hired as the new chief executive of one the companies accused of colluding with Nokia to inflate patent licensing rates. The individual, Boris Teksler, had worked for Apple in that capacity between 2009 and 2013. 

According to Teksler’s LinkedIn profile, he worked for at least two other companies prior to joining his current employer, the company associated with Nokia.  One of these companies was Unwired Planet, of which Teksler was the CEO. Unwired Planet is known to be a non-practicing entity, meaning that it does not actually make products connected to the patents it holds, and has a history of litigation with Apple beginning in 2011.

All of this shows that the world of patent protection and litigation is a smaller one than might initially be assumed. The experts in the field can and do pass back and forth between competitors, which is a reminder for tech companies that managing contractual agreements with high-level employees is just as important as protecting intellectual property rights. We’ll say more about this in a future post. 

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