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Yet another iPhone patent lawsuit

Nokia proxy puts Cupertino in the crosshairs, Redmond on the spot

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A Luxembourg company called Core Wireless has launched a patent lawsuit against Apple, claiming that its patents, which cover communication protocols, are breached by any device that uses 2G, 3G or 4G standards.

The suit, which was filed in the Eastern Texas District on February 29 before Justice Leonard Davis, is based on a portfolio of 2,000 patents assembled by Core Wireless from Nokia. Its lawsuit alleges infringement of eight of these patents, which Core Wireless says are “fundamental” to cellular technology.

Core Wireless is a patent hoarder. Last year, it was acquired by another hoarder, Mosaid Technologies, which itself was bought by Sterling Partners. The sale agreement allows the company to keep one-third of the income it generates from enforcing the patents, with the remainder returned to the original filers.

However, since the lawsuit covers basic cellular technologies, it probably raises an interesting issue for another company with an interest in the Nokia patents: Microsoft.

Although Mosaid’s acquisition announcement didn’t mention Redmond, while fending off a takeover attempt last year by Wi-LAN Inc, Mosaid named Microsoft as a royalty recipient in its deal with Nokia.

While Nokia has form in suing Apple – last June, Cupertino paid an undisclosed sum to settle a dispute running since 2009 – Microsoft has been trying to paint itself as a patent “good guy”.

In 2010, Microsoft asked a US court to slap Motorola for refusing FRAND (fair reasonable and non-discriminatory) licensing for its patents. Last month, Redmond took its complaints to the European Commission.

However, even if the lawsuit isn’t welcome in Microsoft’s PR operation, it’s inevitable, since the terms on which Core Wireless holds the patents demand that it pursue them. Core Wireless isn’t only obliged to return two-thirds of what it reaps in lawsuits to Nokia and Microsoft: it’s also subject to performance requirements to keep the deal intact.

Microsoft has told The Register it has only a passive interest in Core Wireless.

“Last year, Nokia sold patents to Mosaid. We paid for a license to those patents. As part of that transaction, we also received a passive financial interest in future revenue generated by Mosaid from the licensing of those patents to others,” a Microsoft spokesperson told El Reg

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