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Nokia Turns Up Heat On Qualcomm

  Patent Law  -   POSTED: 2007/08/17 13:14

Finnish mobile phone firm Nokia knows how best to hurt its American rival Qualcomm: by bringing in the lawyers. On Friday, it asked the U.S. International Trade Commission to slap Qualcomm with an import ban on semiconductors that allegedly violate Nokia patents. Nokia accused Qualcomm of engaging in "unfair trade practices," pinpointing infringements of five of its patents in mobile chipsets. According to Nokia, the U.S. telecommunications company has been using the Finnish firm's'patented performance-boosting technology in its chips without permission.

"There is significant evidence to warrant an I.T.C. investigation into Qualcomm's business conduct," said Rick Simonson, Nokia's chief financial officer.

Shares in Nokia lifted slightly during midday trading in Helsinki, gaining 10 euro cents (13 cents), or 0.5%, to 21 euros (28 cents). Qualcomm ticked up 7 cents, or 0.2%, to $37.00 in New York during after hours trading.

In June, chipmaker Broadcom won a similar patent-infringement case against Qualcomm, again before the U.S. International Trade Commission. The import ban, coupled with a separate injunction in a federal court that could cost Qualcomm $2.4 billion over five years, is a sign that the long-running wireless litigation battles are finally having some impact.

On Tuesday, Lou Lupin, general counsel for Qualcomm, resigned after the company's string of legal defeats.

But Nokia may not have had the final say in the matter. "It's an obvious tit-for-tat development," said Richard Windsor, analyst at Nomura International. "I think Qualcomm will obviously counter."

Lawyers have had a lot to work through over the past two years. Texas Instruments, Ericsson, NEC, Broadcom, Matsushita Electric Industrial and Nokia each hauled Qualcomm before European Union competition regulators in 2005, while Nokia also filed separate complaints in German and Dutch courts over Qualcomm patents.

"You know, I would say that it is very likely that Qualcomm is in breach of the patents that Nokia says it is," said Nomura's Windsor. "But then again the exact reverse is also true."

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