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Nokia takes Apple's side in patent fight

Finnish firm says US court denial of injunction against Samsung risks subjecting inventors to "compulsory licensing scheme"


Published: 8 March, 2013

READ MORE: Nokia | Patents/IPR | iPhone

More twists and turns in the Apple-Samsung patents battle: Nokia has come out as a surprising ally for the iPhone maker and Apple has scored the latest points in a UK court win. Meanwhile, the US company also wants to revive claims against Motorola Mobility, now part of its real enemy, Google.

Nokia is backing Apple's bid to overturn a decision by US District Judge Lucy Koh - who presided over the iDevice maker's most important court win so far, against Samsung in San Jose last summer - not to impose a ban on infringing products. Nokia said Koh's recent ruling that Apple would get damages but not a permanent injunction risked turning the US patent system into a "compulsory licensing scheme".

Koh has also thrown out the $1bn-plus damages amount set by the jury, on the basis the jurors did not follow her guidance, but the final fee is still to be finalized in a subsequent proceeding.

In an 'amicus brief' filed by Nokia with the US Court of Appeals, the Finnish firm challenged Koh's argument that a patent holder needs to prove a "causal nexus" between the IPR and the source of demand for the offending product. Koh rejected Apple's plea for an injunction against 26 Samsung products on the basis that the infringements covered only a few "narrow protected functions", and that Apple had failed to "link any harm it suffers directly to Samsung's infringement". She believes a ban is only appropriate where a firm can prove that consumers buy a rival product specifically because it sports a patented feature.

Nokia argues that this viewpoint "sets a dangerous precedent that could severely restrict, if not outright eliminate in some circumstances, the ability of a patent holder to obtain injunctive relief". Its lawyers say the 'causal nexus' proof might "rarely, if ever, be met", and would force IPR holders to license their technology to competing firms, a deterrent to innovation.

Meanwhile, Apple's CEO Tim Cook may be less keen than his predecessor Steve Jobs on litigation, but the firm continues to chase new cases. It has asked a US Appeals Court in Washington to reinstate an infringement case over touchscreen technology. "This is Apple's first touchscreen patent," Apple lawyer Joshua Rosenkranz told a three- judge panel, adding that the IPR covered "a key invention" which "drove the iPhone phenomenon and later the iPad. It claims something that no one had ever done."

Apple is appealing against a US International Trade Commission decision concerning multitouch screens. The ITC has ruled that one of the patents at issue is invalid and the other was not infringed by Motorola. ITC lawyer Megan Valentine argued that the Apple multitouch invention was very similar to earlier technology, including a patent issued in 2008 and a Sony innovation called SmartSkin. "The algorithms are nearly identical in the two patents," she told the panel.

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