Nokia to Apple: iPhone? More Like My Phone

Finnish cell-phone giant can't compete with Apple, so it's trying a lawsuit

By Owen Thomas
|  Thursday, Oct 22, 2009  |  Updated 12:26 PM PDT
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Motorola Droid: Look out, iPhone

AFP/Getty Images

Nokia phones aren't as hot as Apple's -- so it's suing.

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Patent Trouble: Nokia Sues Apple in U.S. Court Over iPhone

Nokia executive explains his company's approach to protecting its patents. This was recorded in December 2007 and relates to today's suit by Nokia against Apple over the iPhone.
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If at first you don't succeed, try a lawsuit. Nokia, the Finnish cell-phone giant, is suing Apple, claiming that the iPhone violates several patents related to wireless-phone technologies.

Nokia does have a mighty portfolio of patents, and it would be foolish for the company not to enforce them. But it's hard to wave off the reek of sour grapes here.

With the iPhone, Apple has done something Nokia has never managed to do: Create a consumer sensation. Nokia regularly puts out deadly boring if functional phones, known by numbers rather than names. It's known for catering to cell-phone carriers rather than actual cell-phone users.

That strategy has been hurting Nokia of late. It lost $836 million in the third quarter, and its sales of smartphones -- sophisticated devices capable of browsing the Web and sending email -- slipped from 16.7 million units in the same period last year to 16.4 million this year.

Apple, meanwhile, saw quarterly iPhone sales increase 7 percent to 7.4 million, which helped boost earnings for the quarter that ended in September to $1.67 billion.

What's Nokia after? More than money, it likely wants leverage to get its hands on some of Apple's technologies in a patent swap.

But as its patent portfolio shows, Nokia has plenty of technology. And it's not like the iPhone's core technologies are that new: Touchscreens, for example, have been around for ages.

It's the way Apple packaged those existing technologies with its software that made the iPhone take off. And that kind of cultural knowhow isn't something Nokia will ever get in a court of law.

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