15 April 2007

IPR wars: Nokia vs. QualcommContents

The patent licensing dispute between Nokia and Qualcomm has all the signs of becoming an epic battle on intellectual property rights (IPR). The results may or may not show the direction for the development of industrial rights for decades to come.
The basic question is how to measure the value of the patents. Qualcomm seems to be saying that their patents on radio communications methods are so basic and important that their value is both very high and has not diminished over the past 20 years.
Nokia is basing its claims on the number of patents it has in mobile communications systems and devices. Nokia says that the relative value of Qualcomm’s patents is going down while Qualcomm’s share of all the patents in use becomes smaller.
Nokia also claims that some of Qualcomm’s patent rights have expired and the companies had an agreement that lets Nokia make use of these patents in the future without any compensation. However, it seems that in the patent law world things do not work this simply. If the environment changes and increases the usefulness of the patent, the original patent holder might have extra rights.
In this situation we have no clear-cut measurement method to determine the value of the patents and, moreover, the lifetime of these patents is uncertain.
Finding a solution for this dilemma is a mission impossible. I anticipate lengthy negotiations, several arbitration courts, and maybe a few years in both the EU and US court systems. Neither party wants to sign anything that might commit them to uncertain long-term solutions.
Over the years as technology moves forward these patents lose their importance. Meanwhile the parties arrive at temporary solutions that they can both live with. Before that happens both parties use all the legal means and publicity possible to lobby their cases.
Should Qualcomm and Nokia find acceptable methods for setting the value of their patents, all IPR holders and users will applaud loudly.
Timo Poropudas


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