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5/2/2012
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Nokia Patent Lawsuits: Convenient Google Attack?

Finnish phone maker claims HTC Android devices violate Nokia mobile hardware and software patents, but gives HTC's Windows Phone lineup a pass.

10 Ways To Get More From Your Android Device
10 Ways To Get More From Your Android Device
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Nokia on Wednesday filed lawsuits against three major mobile device makers, alleging a wide range of infringements on 45 patents relating to mobile hardware and software.

The suits against HTC, ViewSonic, and RIM cite products that use the Android or BlackBerry OS, but conspicuously ignore devices that use Nokia partner Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system.

That's not surprising in the cases of RIM and ViewSonic, which don't offer Windows Phone-based mobile devices. But it's noteworthy that Nokia's complaint against HTC only mentions Google Android phones while skipping Windows Phone models manufactured by the Taiwanese company. Microsoft and Nokia have software licensing arrangements in place, but Nokia is accusing the defendants of violating both software and hardware patents.

[ Is Windows Phone 7.5 worth the upgrade? See: 7 Hottest Features In Windows Phone 7 Mango. ]

Analysts say it would be unusual for HTC not to use many of the same hardware components in both its Windows and Android devices.

Although some believe it's unlikely that Nokia, which is headed by former Microsoft exec Stephen Elop and is porting its entire lineup to Windows Phone, is acting at the behest of Microsoft in its legal salvos, they note that, at the very least, Redmond likely welcomes the actions.

"Microsoft is not going to tell Nokia not to do this," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. "Anything that runs against Android is something that they would clearly like."

Adding insult to injury for HTC is the fact that it previously agreed to pay license fees to Microsoft for its Android products, which Redmond claims violates Windows patents. Now it's facing double jeopardy if it ends up paying fees to Nokia for those same products.

Nokia filed its complaints with the International Trade Commission, in regional courts in Dusseldorf and Mannheim, Germany, and in U.S. District Court in Delaware. In the Delaware filing, Nokia singled out the HTC Amaze, Inspire, Flyer, Jetstream, MyTouch, Sensation, and Vivid, alleging that those products violate nine patents. All of those phones or tablets run Android.

Nokia claims HTC's Android phones violate patents that govern technologies and methods ranging from "Synchronization of Database with Date Range", and "Method for Attenuating Spurious Signals and Receiver", to "Lighting Control Method and Electronic Device". Smartphones in HTC's Windows Phone lineup, including the Titan, Radar, HD7, Trophy, Arrive, and Surround, got a pass.

Enderle said the prospect of getting sued by both Microsoft and Nokia for using Android might have some hardware makers thinking twice about their commitment to Google's mobile OS. "You can't just go grab a bunch of code, call it open source, and then bring out products. Google didn't think at all about what was going to happen to its licensees," said Enderle.

For its part, Nokia said it's merely trying to protect its intellectual property. "We have already licensed our standards essential patents to more than 40 companies," said Nokia chief legal officer Louise Pentland, in a statement. "Though we'd prefer to avoid litigation, Nokia had to file these actions to end the unauthorized use of our proprietary innovations and technologies, which have not been widely licensed."

HTC, ViewSonic, and RIM have yet to file formal responses to Nokia's allegations.

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