When it comes to intellectual property lawsuits, there are usually a couple of different types observed. More often than not you can come across a startup or small business suing a major corporation, claiming the industry giant has come in and stolen their idea to further enrich themselves. Within that, there are usually those with a solid case mixed in with those deemed "patent trolls", looking to cash in on their broad patents that otherwise go unused. But on the occasions that you see two big names enter into a legal battle, it is worth noting, as the future of entire industries can shift based on a court decision.
Nokia and Apple are the latest tech companies to head to court in order to resolve their disputes, and it didn't take long for the case to take an ugly (and some might argue petty turn.)
The matter kicked off when Apple and Nokia failing to reach an agreement on the continued licensing of Nokia patents for use in Apple products. Things escalated with Apple suing Acacia Research Group and Conversant Intellectual Property Management, accusing both companies of colluding with Nokia to extort unreasonable licensing fees for their patents. Nokia subsequently retaliated by filing a suit of their own, accusing Apple of infringing on 32 of their patents related to displays, user interfaces, software and other features used in Apple's iPhones. Not to be bested, Apple responded to this response by pulling the products of Withings, which is a Nokia subsidiary, from its stores.
The current spate of actions, legal or otherwise, are not the first battles between the two companies. Both companies sued each other back in 2009, the result of which was ultimately a licensing agreement in 2011 that maintained the peace until recently. Nokia's recent tact has led Apple to accuse them of acting as a patent troll; Nokia sold off the actual phone-making aspects of its company to Microsoft, and now focuses on its telecom equipment and patents for revenue. Similarly, the other companies named in Apple's suit have previous with the tech giant; an Acacia subsidiary won a $22 million decision against Apple in a patent infringement suit decided in September, and Conversant recently reached a $7.3 million settlement with Apple in their own infringement suit.
The spate of legal wrangling between the two companies has onlookers concerned of a re-ignition of the contentious battles between smartphone makers of several years ago, highlighted by the court case between Apple and Samsung. While the protection of patents and IP rights are an important part of any business' strategy, it is unfortunate to see litigation get in the way of cooperation and innovation.