Nokia has lodged a complaint with the European Commission, claiming that IPCom is abusing mobile patents originally owned by Bosch that are already the subject of legal action in the UK and Germany.
The patents concerned relate to GSM and were developed by Bosch back when that company had aspirations on the telecommunications market, but transferred to IPCom GmbH & Co (not to be confused with IP.Com) in 2007. Since then IPCom has been trying to get money out of Nokia, to the tune of €12bn, for licensing those patents.
In order for patents to be accepted as part of the GSM standard they must be licensed in a Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory fashion (FRAND), but IPCom believes it is under no obligation to grant Nokia the same licensing terms as it has granted Samsung - a stance that the Finnish giant feels is discriminatory.
IPCom's legal action, which has been rumbling along for the last 12 months at least, has been financed by the Fortress Investment Group - an asset management firm that owns almost half of IPCom. But investment funds aren't as flush as they used to be; Fortress shares fell below a dollar on Monday, from a high of $31 two years ago, prompting speculation that the group may de-list from the stock exchange - so it's possible that Nokia is smelling blood, though that's pure speculation at this stage.
The complaint to the EC's Director General for Competition does increase the pressure on IPCom, and while a critical ruling from the German courts is expected in February, Nokia will be hoping that's going to signal the end of another long-running patent dispute. ®