US International Trade Commission rejects Qualcomm's complaint against Nokia
In the patent dispute between the Nokia mobile-phone group and Qualcomm, the chip manufacturer, the US International Trade Commission (ITC) has confirmed an earlier decision that certain 2G mobile phones of the Finnish company did not violate Qualcomm patents. The chip manufacturer had complained about Nokia to the ITC in mid-2006, calling for a ban on the importation of the mobiles affected.
After examining the case in December 2007, an ITC judge had recommended that the Commission dismiss the complaint. He also considered one of the patents in question to be invalid. Although the Commission normally follows such recommendations, Qualcomm had asked the competition watchdogs to reconsider their decision. But the ITC sees no reason to do so. Relations between the quarrelling parties now appear to be thawing slightly.
Nokia seemed unsurprised by the decision. "We are very pleased that the commission has agreed with the initial determination, has decided not to review this matter any further, and to close this investigation with immediate effect", said a spokeswoman in a written response. She said the ITC decision "reaffirms Nokia's assessment that Qualcomm does not have relevant GSM patents."
Qualcomm on the other hand was "disappointed" with the verdict, but made no further comment. The chip manufacturer is now looking towards Delaware, where some basic questions underlying the dispute are pending clarification. The Chancery Court there is considering an application by Nokia for an evaluation of a licensing agreement that expired in 2007. That case is being amalgamated with a conciliation procedure that Qualcomm is seeking in Los Angeles.
The adversaries have now agreed on a general cease-fire. Most of the ongoing actions would be suspended until a decision had been made in Delaware, said Nokia in response to a question. Nor would any new proceedings be opened until then. A spokeswoman in London said that the case in Delaware could help the two companies to come to an agreement on certain disputed questions. But she thought it unlikely that the case would provide a fundamental solution to the general licensing questions between the companies.
Qualcomm has been embroiled in many patent disputes with Nokia since a licensing agreement made in 2001 expired in the spring of 2007 and was not extended. The technologies in question are used in 2G andn 3G mobile phones. Procedures protected by Qualcomm affect a number of general industry standards, and the chip manufacturer is attempting to exploit its patents. Nokia on the other hand is expecting better terms and conditions for a licensing agreement, because it can itself show a large portfolio of patents.