Earlier this week, Apple filed an antitrust lawsuit against two patent lawsuit companies affiliated with Nokia, The Street reports. In the filing, Apple accuses Acacia Research Corp. and Conversant Intellectual Property Management of colluding with Nokia “to extract and extort exorbitant revenues” from Apple and other mobile device manufacturers. Both of the named companies purchased portfolios of patents from Nokia after the Finnish company sold the majority of its cellphone business to Microsoft in 2013. In the suit, Apple claims that since Nokia has basically exited the cellphone business, it has become a company “bent on exploiting the patents that remain” in its portfolio. Further, since Nokia still retains a financial stake in the patents that it sold to Acacia and Conversant, Apple alleges that these two companies are “willing conspirators” that “have conspired with Nokia to use unfair and anticompetitive patent assertions to improperly tax the innovations of cell phone makers.”
At the core of Apple’s antitrust lawsuit is not a case of patent infringement, but rather the complaint that these companies have not met their obligation to license their patents — which comprise key aspects of cellphone technology — on fair and reasonable terms. There is also the question as to the extent to which patent buyers are required to abide by fair licensing agreements when they purchase a patent portfolio. Apple has further stated that Nokia now has little incentive to promote “patent peace” with its former competitors. A Nokia spokesperson responded to the suit, saying simply that they “are reviewing the statements made in the complaint about Nokia at this time,” while pointing out that Nokia is not specifically a named defendant in this antitrust case, but adding that it is in the process of filing its own complaints against Apple, claiming that the iPhone maker is “seeking an unfair advantage” over Nokia’s other patent licensees. Nokia filed its patent infringement suit against Apple yesterday.