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Nokia to Apple: mobile latecomer is infringing patents big time

Nokia has filed a complaint against Apple alleging that the iPhone and iPad 3G products infringe five important Nokia patents.

The complaint was filed with the Federal District Court in the Western District of Wisconsin. The patents relate to technologies for enhanced speech and data transmission, using GPS in applications and antenna designs for improved performance and smaller devices.

?Upon information and belief, Apple did not make telephones, much less mobile telephones, until 2007,? Nokia?s complaint for patent infringement says. ?Apple?s wireless communication devices take advantage of the decades of continued investments by Nokia to advance cellular communications and to distinguish Nokia?s handsets from those offered by its competitors.

?Apple?s unauthorized use of Nokia?s technology has damaged Nokia?s competitive advantage in the marketplace, resulting in irreparable harm to Nokia?s business reputation and market share,? it says. 

Nokia would not comment beyond the information it provided in a statement to the press. Apple did not return calls for this story.

Nokia said in a statement that these patents are important to the Finnish manufacturer's success, as they allow for improved product performance and design.

Nokia and Apple have been going back and forth with patent infringement lawsuits for a while now and the question stands as to whether any of this turmoil is really worth it.

It all began in October when Nokia filed a complaint against Apple with the Federal District Court in Delaware, alleging that Apple's iPhone infringes Nokia patents for GSM, UMTS and wireless local area network (WLAN) standards (see story).

In response to that lawsuit, Apple filed a countersuit claiming that Nokia is infringing 13 Apple patents (see story). 

Then, in December Nokia filed a complaint with the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) alleging that Apple infringes Nokia patents in virtually all of its mobile phones, portable music players and computers (see story).

"Nokia has been the leading developer of many key technologies in mobile devices," said Paul Melin, general manager of patent licensing at Nokia, in a statement regarding the latest suit. "We have taken this step to protect the results of our pioneering development and to put an end to continued unlawful use of Nokia's innovation."

In the last 20 years, Nokia claims it has invested billions in both research and development as it pertains to mobile devices. The company has come to build more than 11,000 patent families.

?The patents-in-suit are a reflection of Nokia?s research and development and achievements in the world of mobile communications,? Nokia?s complaint for patent infringement says. ?One patent allows for better transmission of speech and data by providing a modulator with a high signal-to-noise ratio.

?Another patent facilitates design of applications that use positioning data,? it says. ?The remaining three patents represent Nokia?s achievements in the area of antenna design.

?These patents provide antenna configurations that improve performance and save space, allowing devices to do more in less volume.?

Patent No. 6317083
The first patent is No. 6317083. It was filed July 16, 1999, and issued Nov. 13, 2001. It relates to antennas.

With the advancement of electronics in the communications market came the drive to advance performance while decreasing the size of mobile devices.

Nokia recognized this in 1998 and figured out that one area in which size and weight design goals may be counter to performance design goals is in the design of antennas.

Back in 1998 mobile telephones came equipped with a rod antenna. But rod antennas were prone to breakage because they extended from the device.

Nokia was convinced that as communication devices become smaller, rod antennas would unlikely last as a convenient antenna solution.

Nokia states in patent 6317083:

It is desirable therefore to develop an antenna which could be located within the device. An example of such an antenna is a flat plate or low profile antenna such as planar inverted-F antennas (PIFAs) which are well known in antenna art.

A PIFA comprises a flat conductive sheet supported a height above a reference voltage plane such as a ground plane.

The sheet may be separated from the reference voltage plane by an air dielectric or supported by a solid dielectric.

A corner of the sheet is coupled to the ground via a grounding stub and provides an inductive load to the sheet. The sheet is designed to have an electrical length of it at the desired operating frequency.

A feed is coupled to an edge of the flat sheet adjacent the grounded corner. The feed may comprise the inner conductor of a coaxial line.

The outer conductor of the coaxial line terminates on and is coupled to the ground plane. The inner conductor extends through the ground plane, through the dielectric (if present) and to the radiating sheet.

As such the feed is shielded by the outer conductor as far as the ground plane but then extends, unshielded, to the radiating sheet.

Click here to view patent 6317083

Patent No. 6348894
Patent 6348894 was filed May 10, 2000, and issued Feb. 19, 2002.

The patent has to do with an RF antenna.

An RF antenna is used for conveying communication signals in the radio frequency (RF) range and, more particularly, to an antenna operating at radio frequencies around 2.45 GHz.

A Bluetooth system provides a communication channel between two electronic devices via a short-range radio link.

According to the Nokia patent, the Bluetooth system operates in the radio frequency range around 2.4 GHz in the unlicensed Industrial-Scientific-Medical (ISM) band.

The Bluetooth radio link is intended to be a cable replacement between portable and/or fixed electronic devices.

The portable devices include mobile phones, communicators, audio headsets, laptop computers, other GEOS-based or Palm OS-based devices and devices with different operating systems.

It is advantageous and desirable to provide a small antenna so that it can be integrated into small electronic devices such as mobile phones, communicators and miniaturized audio headsets to provide a radio link in the Bluetooth band and other radio frequency bands.

Here is what Nokia said in the patent document:

An RF antenna having a non-planar resonating region for radiating or receiving electromagnetic waves in order to convey communication signals between two electronic devices via a radio link.

The resonating region is folded into at least two sections so that the radiating surface of one section is located on a different plane from the radiating surface of the other section.

In order to optimize the input impedance of the antenna, an impedance matching part connected to the resonating region is used to provide a short circuit to the resonating region.

A signal conduit part is used to feed signals to the resonating region in the proximity of the impedance matching part.

Preferably, the antenna is integrated into a system connector of a hand-held communication device so as to allow the hand-held device to communicate with a communication network via a radio link.

Click here to view patent No. 6348894

Patent No. 6373345
Patent No. 6373345 was filed October 29, 1999, and issued April 16, 2002. It has to do with a modulator having a high signal-to-noise ratio.

The patent relates to modulators and their structure which is very suitable for dual-band or triple-band mobile stations.

Confused yet?

In modulation, a carrier frequency is modified a certain way so that the data to be transmitted using the radio signal is carried, for example, in the changes of the phase or amplitude of the carrier frequency.

There are a lot of different modulation methods and they differ in the sense of which properties of the carrier wave are modulated and how it is done.

The arrangement that performs the modification of the carrier wave is called a modulator and may be used in mobile stations. 

Here is what Nokia said in patent No. 6373345:

The modulator comprises a switching arrangement and a driver arrangement coupled to the switching arrangement, said driver arrangement comprising driver components and among the driver components a low pass filter arrangement.

The modulator can be used, for example, in the transmitters of dual-band mobile stations without separate filters for each frequency band.

Click here to view patent No. 6373345

Patent No. 6603431
Patent No. 6603431 was filed Aug. 24, 2001, and issued Aug. 5, 2003.

The patent relates to a mobile station comprising an integrated antenna, an antenna ground plane and an antenna raising component arranged to keep the antenna at a determined height in respect of the ground plane.

Also, the patent relates to an antenna arrangement for a mobile station comprising an integrated antenna, an antenna ground plane and an antenna raising component arranged to keep the antenna at the right distance from the ground plane.

This particular patent focuses on wireless mobile stations like mobile phones, communicators and corresponding mobile stations relating to mobile stations comprising an integrated antenna.

Here is what Nokia wrote in the description for patent No. 6603431:

A mobile station and an antenna arrangement for a mobile station, comprising and integrated antenna, an antenna ground plane and an antenna raising component arranged to keep the antenna at a determined height in respect of the ground plane.

The antenna, the antenna ground plane and the antenna raising component are arranged in a space shared with a speaker of the mobile station.

The antenna is substantially higher than the space between a back cover and a circuit board in the mobile station.

Click here to view patent No. 6603431
Patent No. 7558696
Patent No. 7558696 was filed July 2, 2001, and was issued July 7, 2009.

This patent mainly has to do with Global Positioning Systems, or GPS.

It touches on the different positioning methiods into portable terminal devices and how the device can determine a user?s graphical position.

The position is determined by satellites.

Additionally, the patent touches on Enhanced Observed Timing Difference, or E-OTD.

This is based on the measurement of differences in reception time of signals sent by several base stations at a mobile terminal and can also determine position.

Here is what Nokia said in Patent No. 7558696:

A method and device for position determination, in which one or more application requests a positioning method selection device for positioning data.

The positioning method selection device provides and application with positioning data using one or more positioning method in accordance with settings defined by the application and/or user.

The positioning method selection device receives a positioning request from an application, forms a parameter or parameters indicating the quality of positioning requested by the application, compares the quality of positioning data provided by the positioning methods with the positioning quality required by the application, and sends positioning data to the application response to the positioning request.

Click here to view Patent No. 7558696

?Upon information and belief, Apple has infringed and continues to infringe each of the patents-in-suit by engaging in acts constituting infringement under 35 U.S.C. § 271, including but not necessarily limited to one or more of making, using, selling and offering to sell, in this District and elsewhere in the United States, and importing for sale into this District and elsewhere in the United States, one or more products and services, including wireless communication devices such as the Apple iPhone, Apple iPhone 3G, Apple iPhone 3GS, and Apple iPad 3G,? the Nokia patent infringement claim says.

?On information and belief, Apple is aware of these patents and is infringing them willfully and deliberately,? it says.

Click here to view the entire Nokia patent infringement filing