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Qualcomm sues Nokia over patents


A week after facing accusations of using strong-arm tactics to further its position in the UMTS market, Qualcomm fired back at one of its attackers in federal court, saying today it has filed a lawsuit against Nokia alleging the Finnish vendor has infringed on its patents for GSM, GPRS and EDGE technology.

Qualcomm filed the lawsuit in federal district court in San Diego, accusing Nokia of infringing on 12 Qualcomm patents related to data technology devised for GSM networks. While Wideband CDMA technology is usually associated with Qualcomm’s intellectual property, Qualcomm said that as 2G GSM standards evolved vendors began incorporating into GPRS and EGDE more and more innovations used in the CDMA technologies patented by Qualcomm. Six of the patents in question are also the subject of another intellectual property suit Qualcomm has filed against Broadcom, another one of the companies accusing Qualcomm of uncompetitive practices.

Last month, Nokia, Ericsson, Panasonic, NEC, Broadcom and Texas Instruments filed a complaint against Qualcomm before the European Commission, claiming Qualcomm tried to use its near monopoly on essential WCDMA intellectual property to drive up licensing fees and force handset-makers to buy Qualcomm manufactured chipsets exclusively. The GSM Association last week weighed in saying that, while it was passing no judgment on the merits of the allegations, the commission should thoroughly investigate them due to their severity.

At the heart of the vendor consortium`s complaint is that Qualcomm broke promises to the commission and regulators when the 3G UMTS standard was originally negotiated. Qualcomm`s technology contributed heavily to the standard, and after assurances that Qualcomm wouldn`t use its intellectual property heft to gain an unfair advantage in the market or drive up prices, standards bodies settled on W-CDMA as the core cellular technology for the European 3G standard. The consortium, however, said Qualcomm has reneged on that promise, charging most vendors the same royalty rates for WCDMA handsets shipped as it does for CDMA 1X EV-DO, even though Qualcomm`s technology is used much more heavily in the latter standard. But to vendors that buy their chipsets exclusively from Qualcomm, the consortium maintains, Qualcomm is offering a royalty discount, encouraging handset suppliers to shut out Qualcomm`s licensees.

Qualcomm has vigorously denied those charges, accusing the vendors of merely trying to use the Commission complaint as leverage for renegotiating their licensing agreements.

While Qualcomm’s intellectual property portfolio is much stronger in Wideband CDMA than in GSM, it claims it owns some key patents that are essential to the standard, meaning any vendor producing GPRS and EDGE products are necessarily using Qualcomm’s intellectual property regardless of whether a licensing agreement is in place. Qualcomm is asking the court for an injunction against Nokia to stop it from selling GPRS and EDGE handsets in the U.S. as well as undisclosed monetary damages.

Qualcomm has built up a portfolio of 4000 U.S. patents pertaining to wireless technologies, and in the last few years has built up 130 licensing agreements with vendors. Qualcomm’s intellectual property weight has been so massive that many vendors have sought to enter into licensing agreements with Qualcomm long after their products began to ship. Last month, Andrew signed licensing agreements for WCDMA technology with Qualcomm for pico-cell and micro-cell portfolios it had already built.


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