The war over 3G mobile phone patents has escalated, as Qualcomm, which holds a robust intellectual property war chest, reported Monday that it has filed a patent infringement suit against Nokia in U.S. federal court in San Diego.
The suit, the latest in widening patents litigation involving Qualcomm, was filed as the world’s cell phone service providers are moving from 2G networks to 3G, which will introduce heavier data services.
Qualcomm said Nokia is infringing on 11 of its patents in addition to one owned by its SnapTrack unit.
“Nokia’s GSM, GPRS and EDGE standards-compliant products unavoidably infringe Qualcomm’s patents surrounding these inventions that have become essential to the GSM family of standards,” Qualcomm stated in an announcement.
Qualcomm explained its position in part by stating: “These evolutions of GSM -- first GPRS and later EDGE -- have adopted patented innovations developed by Qualcomm originally for use in CDMA systems to: achieve higher data rates, increase spectral efficiency, enhance capacity, improve resistance to interference, permit access to packet switched networks, and facilitate multimedia distribution.”
Qualcomm has a patent portfolio consisting of more than 4,000 U.S. patents and patent applications as well as more than 20,000 patents and applications around the globe.
Nokia said it had not seen a copy of the suit and could not comment' on it, but in patent litigation it filed against Qualcomm in Europe October 26, Nokia and five other firms maintained Qualcomm was using patents to engage in anticompetitive behavior. Nokia and the other firms asked the European Commission to “investigate and stop Qualcomm’s anti-competitive conduct in the licensing of essential patents for 3G mobile technology.”
Other firms that joined Nokia against Qualcomm in the European action include Ericsson, NEC, and Panasonic Mobile Communications. Media reports from Europe indicated any possible action by the EU in the controversy is unlikely to occur for several months.
“Qualcomm’s complaint states that Nokia is infringing Qualcomm’s patents by making or selling products in the United States that comply with the GSM family of standards,” Qualcomm said. “Qualcomm seeks an injunction against Nokia’s continuing sale of infringing products and monetary damages.”
Qualcomm has also been embroiled in patent litigation with U.S. chip suppliers Broadcom and Texas Instruments. While most of the litigation centers around Qualcomm’s WCDMA technology, its CDMA2000 technology has not been targeted with similar litigation. CDMA2000, used by Verizon Wireless and Sprint in the U.S., is considered the more robust technology.
The litigation centers on Qualcomm’s patents for WCDMA, the mobile phone architecture that is commonly planned for use by suppliers using the GSM European-developed standard that is also widely used throughout the world. Leading WCDMA candidates in the U.S. are Cingular Wireless, which has more wireless subscribers than any other American service provider, and T-Mobile.