Nokia Files Section 337 Complaint Against Apple

December 29, 2009. Nokia filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) against Apple alleging violation of 19 U.S.C. 1337 in connection with its "unlawful importation into the United States, the sale for importation, and/or the sale within the United States after importation of certain electronic devices, including mobile phones, portable music players, and computers."

The complaint alleges direct, contributory, and inducement of, infringement of seven Nokia patents: U.S Patent Numbers 6,714,091, 6,834,181, 6,895,256, 6,518,957, 6,073,036, 6,262,735, and 6,924,789

Previously, on October 22, 2009, Nokia filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court (DDel) against Apple alleging infringement of different set of patents -- Nokia's patents for GSM, UMTS and WLAN standards. The District Court litigation involves standards patents, while the USITC case involves implementation patents.

Nokia's USITC complaint states that it affects "at least the iPhone, iPhone 3G, and iPhone 3GS mobile phones, iPod Nano, iPod Touch, and iPod Classic portable music players, and iMac, Mac Mini, Mac Pro, Mac Book, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air computers".

The complaint states that the 091 patent relates to "a programmable voltage controlled oscillator ("VCO") that increases the efficiency of the wireless device and uses less power than traditional VCOs, thereby increasing battery life". The 181 patent involves combining the antenna and speaker assemblies to save space. The 256 patent involves "reducing the overall chip count on the printed circuit board" when a camera is part of an electronic device. The 957 patent involves "deactivating the touch screen during phone calls so that information is not accidentally inputted via the touch screen when the phone is pressed against the ear".

The complaint states that the 036 patent "makes it easier to input information using a finger by magnifying or expanding the selected portion of the screen". Also, "The 735 patent introduced a way to link to other applications on electronic devices through an electronic message", and "The 789 patent introduces a way to both press a key to enter data, and to use a touch sensitive input to navigate through applications".

Nokia seeks from the USITC "a permanent exclusion order prohibiting the entry of Apple's infringing electronic devices into the United States" and "a permanent cease and desist order prohibiting Apple from importing, admitting or withdrawing from a foreign trade zone, marketing, advertising, demonstrating, warehousing inventory for distribution, distributing, offering for sale, selling, licensing, repairing, maintaining, updating, using, or transferring outside the United States for sale in the United States infringing electronic devices".

Apple's unauthorized use of Nokia's inventions is consistent with a long-standing Apple corporate tradition. The complaint also quotes Apple's Steve Jobs' quotation of Pablo Picasso, "good artists copy, great artists steal". The complaint then states that Jobs added that "we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas".

The Patent Act provides a right to exclude others from using one's inventions -- not ideas. The word "idea" does not appear in Chapter 10 of Title 35 of the U.S. Code, regarding patentability of inventions.

Paul Brinkman of the Washington DC office of the law firm of Alston & Bird filed the USITC complaint on behalf of Nokia Corporation (the Finnish corporation) and Nokia Inc. (the U.S. subsidiary corporation) on December 29, 2009. See also, USITC docket for case number 337-2702, regarding "Certain Electronic Devices, Including Mobile Phones, Portable Music Players, and Computers".

The USITC's Electronic Document Information System (EDIS) contains some but not all of the numerous exhibits, attachments, and declarations filed on December 29. Many are confidential due to their containing proprietary information.

Section 337, among other things, makes unlawful the following: "The importation into the United States, the sale for importation, or the sale within the United States after importation by the owner, importer, or consignee, of articles that ... infringe a valid and enforceable United States patent or a valid and enforceable United States copyright ... or ... are made, produced, processed, or mined under, or by means of, a process covered by the claims of a valid and enforceable United States patent".

On October 22, when Nokia filed its complaint in the District Court, it stated in a release that "Apple's iPhone infringes Nokia patents for GSM, UMTS and wireless LAN (WLAN) standards." It explained that "Nokia has created one of the strongest and broadest patent portfolios in the industry, investing more than EUR 40 billion in R&D during the last two decades. Much of this intellectual property, including the patents in suit, has been declared essential to industry standards. Nokia has already successfully entered into license agreements including these patents with approximately 40 companies, including virtually all the leading mobile device vendors, allowing the industry to benefit from Nokia's innovation."

It added that "The ten patents in suit relate to technologies fundamental to making devices which are compatible with one or more of the GSM, UMTS (3G WCDMA) and wireless LAN standards. The patents cover wireless data, speech coding, security and encryption and are infringed by all Apple iPhone models shipped since the iPhone was introduced in 2007."

"By refusing to agree appropriate terms for Nokia's intellectual property, Apple is attempting to get a free ride on the back of Nokia's innovation", said Nokia's Ilkka Rahnasto.

Apple filed an answer and counterclaim (alleging infringement by Nokia of Apple patents) on December 11, 2009. Bruce Sewell, Apple's General Counsel and SVP, stated in a release on December 11, 2009, that "Other companies must compete with us by inventing their own technologies, not just by stealing ours".

That case is Nokia Corporation v. Apple, Inc., U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, D.C. No. 1:09-cv-00791-UNA.