The U.S. International Trade Commission is stepping into another legal battle over gadgets, this time between Nokia and Apple.
Nokia and White Plains, N.Y.-based Intellisync Corp. filed a complaint with the ITC on March 28. The complaint says that Apple is infringing on seven patents. The ITC said yesterday it will start an investigation and send the case to an administrative law judge, who will make an initial determination before the dispute goes before the full commission.
The patents relate to syncing devices with differing storage capacities, storing draft information from a phone to non-volatile memory, power control, network interfaces and providing a centralized interface for applications running a device to obtain location data. Nokia says its N8 phone has an example of technology that is mentioned in each of the seven patents in the complaint. The complaint asks that Apple stop selling the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, iMac, Mac Mini, Mac Pro, MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air in the United States.
The ITC has the power to stop imports of any products it determines are infringing patents; the agency can have the items sold seized by U.S. customs officials at the port of entry. The advantage for companies filing complaints is that ITC disputes are decided in months, rather than the several years that a patent claim can drag on in the courts.
This isn't the first such action Nokia has filed with the ITC. An administrative law judge decided in favor of Apple in March, after Nokia had said Apple violated five other patents. While the ITC still has to vote on a final decision, the full commission doesn't usually contradict the judge's determinations.
There are also a half dozen patent suits pending between Apple and Nokia, covering two dozen patents and five different jurisdictions in the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands.
One thing that may change the calculus for both companies is Nokia's move to Windows from the Symbian operating system. All of the patent claims from Apple involve Symbian-based devices. If Apple files claims that mention the newer phone models then it will draw Microsoft into the ongoing legal battle between Cupertino and Finland.