Thursday, October 22, 2009

Patent Lawsuits: the Last Resort of the Mediocre

Nokia today announced they are suing Apple . Right in the press release, Nokia states that they are suing over patents that cover implementations of standards (GSM, WCDMA, WLAN, UMTS).

WTF? That kind of misses the point of having an open standard in the first place. There's only so much difference between different implementations of the same protocol or standard. Jeebus! The problem with these cases, though, is that the judges are experts in law, but not in technology, so they rarely have the knowledge and/or cojones to issue summary judgment even in cases with no merits. Like this one. So, Nokia will, at very least, cause Apple to spend millions of dollars to defend themselve.

Apple's release of the iPhone pretty much meant I'd never buy another Nokia phone again for myself, but now I will actively avoid their products. I won't recommend them to others and I won't buy them for family members. If this is how they hope to succeed in the future, I hope Nokia dies a quick and painful corporate death.



8 comments:

Dan Park said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan Nobels said...

Patent lawsuits between phone companies are part of business. The GSM standard is "open" in the sense that changes to it are agreed to in committee but actually implementing it requires the licensing of intellectual property from Motorola, Nokia, Siemens, Nortel, etc. This model is common in the high tech world.

The bigger companies have entire "Intellectual Property" divisions designed to inflate their own IP portfolios - giving them leverage when they're forced to license from their competitors. ie:"Heh Nokia - we aren't paying to license [insert Nokia IP here] becuase you are infringing on our patent for [insert Apple Patent Here]". Going to court is rare - but not unheard of if one company thinks it will be "profitable" for them.

Remember that Apple has their fair share of patents and patent lawyers too and I'm sure they're kept nice and busy.

This isn't news. Patent law reform legislation by would be news...

Eknath Kadam said...

I agree, they are doing it as a last resort, after 2 and half years of iPhone launch. They faced huge losses last quarter. They have no hope in competing with Apple. So what else they can do?

Jeff LaMarche said...

Jonathan:

Yes, companies do this because the law allows it. The law is an ass. It's wrong.

Yes, Apple has a large portfolio of patents. Can you point me to an instance of Apple using patents offensively since the return of Steve Jobs? They counter-sued Creative, and they've used patents defensively, but I can't remember a situation where they've gone on the offense using their patent portfolio. Maybe I'm wrong, but I can't think of a situation where they've done that. I certainly can't think of one where they've gone after a competitor with a patent on an implementation of an open standard.

The fact that IP is "part of business" is no excuse for Nokia's asshattery here, sorry.

Jeff LaMarche said...

Eknath:

They could innovate. They could change their business model. They could push back against the carriers the way Apple did. They could act like they care about the people who use their phones. They made a lot of money in the years of captive audiences and it's nobody's fault but their own that they haven't adjusted to the new reality.

Muhammad Adil said...

I think on the technical terms its the right from nokia but we all know its only because nokia is loosing its ground against apple so basically this has trigger this is the main cause of this whole thing...

pippin said...

You can't blame Nokia for this.
Patent is Patent and Nokia themselves have to pay hundreds of millions to companies like Qualcom on patents for these standards.
If they believe they have a claim, they have to sue or they will permanently lose it even against others.
And, BTW, Apple has a looong history of holding up patent claims against others.

The real problem these days is patent law in general. Patents for technical innovations have generally become completely useless for securing innovation but are only being used for claims management, they should be abolished altogether. And that's not an "open source" view or something. I work in an industry where we have a lot of this, I've seen tons of patent issues but I haven't seen a single case where a patent actually was used to secure a market for an innovator but worked where it's being used to rake in money based on some patent for a remote application that originally had nothing to do with the actual business in question.

anonymouse said...

This is just IP trade. I'd be pretty sure Nokia just want access to multi-touch patents. If they get that, I think the world will be a better place.