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10.23.09

Nokia Lets Its Inner Patent Monster Go Loose

Posted in Apple, Courtroom, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 1:33 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Nokia vampire

Summary: Nokia — facing many new difficulties — unfortunately decides that a litigation strategy is the way to go

LONGTIME readers of Boycott Novell may already know that we have been skeptical about Nokia because of its approach towards software patents. As one of our readers from Finland put it a day ago, “It looks like the press release from Nokia about openness was a feint. It’s now suing Apple. I supposed some of the Microsofters on the inside, maybe even some of the same involved in screwing HTML5, are keen on undermining Apple. You could see indications of the possibility of patent trolling from Nokia when they dropped to LGPL for their newly acquired Qt.” We alluded to the subject in:

It is more or less a giveaway of the fact that Nokia is now going aggressive with patents. Apple is assaulted not just by Nokia because there is also this new case involving Ethernet patents from the nineties.

A Texas company has targeted Apple and a number of other technology companies in a new lawsuit regarding a handful of computer networking patents issued in the 1990s.

Here is information about Nokia’s lawsuit against Apple (from the British press):

The Inquirer: Nokia sues Apple

NOKIA HAS called down upon itself the wrath of Steve Jobs by daring to sue the glorious Iphone religion.

Nokia dares to suggest that Apple’s Iphone technology did not spring virgin from the brow of St Steve of Cappuccino but actually had been previously patented by Nokia.

It seems that the Nokian kings of Espoo claim that the Iphone infringes Nokia’s patents for GSM, UMTS and wireless LAN (WLAN) standards.

BBC: Nokia suing Apple over the iPhone

Nokia, the world’s biggest mobile phone maker, has said that it is suing its US rival Apple for infringing patents on mobile phone technology for the iPhone.

The Register: Nokia sues Apple over iPhone

It claimed all Apple’s iPhone models shipped since the Cupertino-based firm debuted its popular device in 2007 infringed the patents.

Here is IDG’s coverage and TechDirt’s take on it. Basically, this is another case of a company going aggressive with patents amid its downfall. Sounds familiar? Well, Microsoft does the same thing and president of the FFII now writes: “Microsoft says royalties do not conflict with the “free” business model.” He points to this new document [PDF] and argues: ‘You will find the same terms from ACT copy/pasted from the Microsoft letter, such as: “respecting the owner’s IPR, implement clear, transparent and balanced IPR policies which do not discriminate and allow competition among different business models, and which seek to ensure the effectiveness of procedures for IPR disclosures”.’

“Basically, this is another case of a company going aggressive with patents amid its downfall.”Since ACT is a Microsoft front, such a connection between texts would almost be predictable. “It would be nice to draw a table between the two to see how they managed to use the same terms,” tells us the FFII’s president.

Going back to Nokia, its litigation strategy is almost akin to that of SCO, except for the fact that there may be truth in Nokia’s allegations.

This behaviour from Nokia comes at a very bad time just after they hosted an event for Qt developers and around they same time that their “Linux killer” goes open source. There is new coverage about it this week, e.g.:

Ever since the announcement about Symbian going “open source” (not Free software) we have warned about Nokia and patents on numerous occasions. Not so long ago in the past we saw Symbian being used as a Trojan horse to partly legitimise software patents in the United Kingdom, for example. Nokia now owns the whole of Symbian, but it uses the “foundation” to pretend that there is Independence that’s inviting to a ‘community’ (mostly volunteer developers and partners). It ought to be mentioned that Symbian’s main man quit the foundation just a couple of days ago and Nokia reported horrific financial results a few days before that.

As for Apple, in this latest case it would be inappropriate to describe it as a victim. What goes around comes around. Apple uses threats of patent attacks against Linux-based products and now it is reportedly patenting some more customer-hostile ideas:

According to a recent patent application, Apple have applied to be recognized as the creators of “Advertisement in Operating Systems” attributed to the technology’s inventor, Steve Jobs.

As one final side note, CSIRO is an entity that we wrote about the other day because of its patent assault on the entire industry. As we put it at the time, “CSIRO is suing a lot these days [1, 2, 3] following the patent-in-a-standard scam [1, 2, 3].” Here is TechDirt’s good new take on the subject:

CSIRO Taxes Innovators To Fund Innovators?

[...]

A few years back, the Australian tech research agency CSIRO was awarded a patent with several claims over basic concepts used in WiFi. While we have tremendous problems with the idea of any government agency patenting anything, CSIRO wielded this patent and aggressively fought against a bunch of large tech companies, and it recently convinced them to pay a $200 million settlement. At some point, tech firms realize it’s often just cheaper to pay up than to keep fighting a bogus patent claim.

How is this helpful to development and what role does Nokia play in development if Trolltech/Qt developers are ever assigned to write patent applications rather than develop? And what if programmers are fired to give room for more lawyers (either defensive or confrontational)? It is a sad day for Nokia and those in the Free software community who trusted Nokia.

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