Nokia explains Qualcomm 'disappointment'

The Finnish handset maker has said it thinks Qualcomm's licensing terms are unreasonable and discriminatory, as it faces up to a patent lawsuit

Nokia is disappointed that Qualcomm continues to disregard obligations to license patents fairly, according to a company statement.

Telecommunications equipment vendor Qualcomm has accused the mobile phone maker of infringing 11 patents that it owns, either directly or through Nokia's subsidiary SnapTrack. The patents are essential for the manufacture, or use, of equipment that complies with the GSM family of cellular standards.

"With respect to the patents alleged to be essential to the GSM, GPRS and EDGE standards, Qualcomm has a duty to license those patents on fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms," Nokia said in a statement Monday.

Nokia added it is disappointed Qualcomm is taking legal action even before verifying the infringing patents, or proposing any licensing terms. "It is quite unusual for a company to institute litigation before discussing such terms," the company said.

However, Qualcomm's senior vice-president and general counsel Louis Lupin, said in a statement that "we have been discussing a number of issues with Nokia for some time, including the fact that we have essential GSM patents for which Nokia is not licensed."

"Until recently, we had been led to believe that these issues might be resolved cooperatively and amicably," Lupin said. "However, it now appears that a cooperative resolution of these issues is quite unlikely and we must move forward with the litigation in order to protect our rights, and to get these issues resolved."

It is not known, however, if talks between both companies so far include licensing terms.

A spokesman from Nokia Asia-Pacific declined to further comment on the lawsuit, while Qualcomm's global office did not respond to queries from ZDNet UK sister site ZDNet Asia.

But Nokia's global office said on Monday it would analyse Qualcomm's claims when it obtains the complaint, and will defend itself in this action to ensure its rights are fully protected.

The company also noted the timing of this action in relation to the recent request by Nokia and five other companies, for the European Commission to investigate Qualcomm's licensing practices.

Broadcom, Ericsson, NEC, Nokia, Panasonic Mobile Communications and Texas Instruments have claimed that Qualcomm is preventing other mobile phone chipset manufacturers from competing fairly in the market.

They said Qualcomm is refusing to license essential patents to potential chipset competitors on fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms. They also alleged that the company offers favourable royalty rates to customers of handsets that buy chipsets exclusively from Qualcomm.

In response, global industry body GSM Association (GSMA) said it fully supports an intellectual property licensing process based on open standards and licensing on fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms. This is central to a dynamic industry environment of innovation and competition.

"The GSM standard has flourished under these principles," said Rob Conway, chief executive of GSMA. "As one of the greatest examples of international cooperation, the industry ecosystem comprises many thousands of suppliers to almost 700 networks serving more than 1.6bn users today."