Apple seeks US ban on Nokia imports

Apple has raised the stakes in its escalating smartphone patent battle with Nokia, filing a complaint with the US International Trade Commission in a bid to block the importation of Nokia phones. The move is more of a nuisance than a threat, given Nokia's paltry share of the US market.

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Apple has raised the stakes in its escalating smartphone patent battle with Nokia, filing a complaint with the US International Trade Commission in a bid to block the importation of Nokia phones. The move is more of a nuisance than a threat, given Nokia's paltry share of the US market.

The complaint notice, but no details, were filed on the ITC's website.

The new complaint is the latest in the legal chess game that Nokia started in October, when it filed a suit charging Apple with infringing 10 patents covering wireless data transfer, speech coding, security and encryption. Nokia alleges that all iPhone models infringe on these patents.

After Nokia's yin, Apple yanged: the computer maker countersued in December, alleging that Nokia smartphones were infringing on 13 Apple patents. February 8 is the deadline for Nokia's response to that filing.

A Bloomberg story recorded Nokia's non-response to Apple's new ITC complaint: "Nokia will study the complaint when it is received and continue to defend itself vigorously," Nokia spokesman Mark Durrant said by text message Monday. "However this does not alter the fact that Apple has failed to agree to appropriate terms for using Nokia technology and has been seeking a free ride on Nokia's innovation since it shipped the first iPhone in 2007.

Nokia's global share the Symbian-based phone market has been steadily eroding. Bloomberg cited Gartner data: Nokia's share globally fell to 39.3% from 42.3% of the market in the third quarter, mainly at the expense of Apple and Research in Motion, and more recently of phones based on the Android operating system. Though Nokia still has the dominant global market share for mobile phones, it has not come up with a big North American hit in the smaller but fast growing and lucrative market for higher-end smartphones.

The suits possibly could be put on hold if either company is successful in getting the US Patent & Trademark Office to review the contested patents. Reuters reports that Nokia has successfully attacked mobile-related patents held by Qualcomm in the mid-2000s, and by InterDigital more recently.

The Reuters story notes that Nokia has cross-licensing agreements with 40 companies, including all the top cell phone makers except Apple.

Nick Farrel, writer with The Inquirer.net, probably spoke for many when he wrapped up his recent summary of the patent warfare with this conclusion: "What the mobile phone industry is waiting for is for Apple and Nokia to come up with an agreement to cross-license each other's technology, stop arguing and just get on with it."

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