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Nokia braces for Trade Commission patent probe

InterDigital claims rights violations

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Nokia will be investigated by the US International Trade Commission (ITC) over claims that some of its mobile phones violate another company's patents. Nokia said the patented technologies were agreed parts of a standardised technology.

The investigation is the latest event in a recent upsurge in patent-related disputes over the third generation (3G) mobile phone technology in handsets. The ITC has already banned handsets containing Qualcomm technology from being imported into the US.

InterDigital has asked the ITC to investigate Nokia's alleged use of its patented technology in its N75 handset, amongst others. The company filed a complaint last month with the trade body alleging unfair trade practice.

Nokia has claimed that the patents involved have been tied up in a technical standards-setting exercise, and that it should be allowed to use the patents. It said that InterDigital had declared the patents essential to the 3G internet standard, and that they should license them on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.

"For the proper functioning of the standardisation process and continued industry innovation, Nokia believes companies should refrain from seeking injunctions for standards essential patents," said a Nokia statement, according to Reuters.

The InterDigital complaint asks for permanent injunctions to exclude the import of technology using its patents. "The complaint alleges violations of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 in the importation into the United States of certain 3G mobile handsets and components thereof that infringe patents owned by InterDigital," said an ITC statement.

"By instituting this investigation the ITC has not yet made any decision on the merits of the case," it said.

The case will be heard by ITC administrative judge Paul Luckern, who will make a ruling which will then be reviewed by the ITC. The ITC's verdict can be overturned by the US Trade Representative, who is appointed by the President of the US.

Reversals, though, are rare and verdicts have been overturned in only a handful of cases.

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