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With dueling lawsuits, a Nokia-Apple patent battle heats up

Nokia Corp. upped the ante in a growing conflict with Apple Inc. on Dec. 21, filing lawsuits in the U.S. and Europe alleging that Apple had violated the Finnish cellphone maker's patents in creating its mobile devices.

The suits, which allege Apple is infringing on 32 of the phone maker's patents, come a day after Apple filed a suit of its own accusing several patent-holding companies of conspiring with Nokia to fix prices for the technology.

In suits filed in courts in Dusseldorf, Mannheim and Munich in Germany, and in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Nokia argued that after agreeing to license the company's technology in 2011, Apple has since refused to work with Nokia to settle pricing and terms.

One of the cases filed in court in Marshall, Texas, involves technology behind the H.264 video codec, which reduces the amount of data needed to create a video file.

In its complaint, Nokia contended that "Apple has benefited greatly from Nokia's innovations, which have enabled Apple products to more efficiently and effectively stream video over communications networks. Despite all the advantages that have been enjoyed by Apple, Apple has steadfastly refused to agree to license Nokia's H.264 patents on reasonable terms," the company argues.

Nokia also asserted that Apple violated its patents for phone displays, user interfaces, software, antennas and chipsets, Reuters reported.

On Dec. 20, Apple alleged in a suit filed in federal court in San Jose, Calif., that patent-holders Acacia Research Corp. and Conversant Intellectual Property Management Inc. "colluded with Nokia ... as part of a plan to extract and extort exorbitant revenues unfairly and anticompetitively" from Apple and other cellphone makers.

Apple's suit also takes aim at what it calls Nokia's "failure to innovate" as a cellphone maker. The company's flagship mobile handset business, acquired by Microsoft Corp. in 2013, has long floundered. Microsoft in 2016 sold Nokia's feature phone division to HMD Global and FIH Mobile Ltd., a unit of Taiwan-based Hon Hai/Foxconn Technology Group, for $350 million. HMD Global has a licensing deal with Nokia and plans to introduce new smartphone models under the Nokia brand next year, according to Reuters.

On Dec. 21, Nokia described its suit as a necessary step in a long-running conflict with the iPhone maker.

"After several years of negotiations trying to reach agreement to cover Apple's use of these patents, we are now taking action to defend our rights," said Ilkka Rahnasto, head of Patent Business at Nokia, in a statement.