Acting on a complaint filed by Apple, the U.S. International Trade Commission on Friday opened a patent-infringement investigation against Nokia, marking the latest tit-for-tat in dueling lawsuits between the smartphone makers.
The USITC, which voted in December to launch a similar investigation against Apple, said it would consider Apple's request to bar from importation to the United States any Nokia product that infringes on Apple's technology patents. The opening of the latest investigation is not a reflection on the merits of Apple's claims, the agency said.
In launching investigations, the USITC sets a target date for completing the probe within 45 days of opening it. Rulings take effect within 60 days, unless overruled by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, a government agency that develops and recommends trade policy to the president.
Companies in patent disputes often turn to the USITC to bar importation of allegedly infringing products.
The legal battle between Apple and Nokia started last October when Nokia filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Delaware, claiming Apple infringed on 10 of its patents. Apple countersued in December in the same Delaware court, claiming Nokia infringed on 13 of its patents.
Nokia claims the patents at issue involve GSM, UMTS (3G WCDMA), and wireless LAN standards. Nokia noted that it has licensing agreements with about 40 companies that include the patents cited in the Apple litigation.
Apple, on the other hand, claims Nokia has infringed on patents governing real-time signal processing, teleconferencing, display graphics, power conservation, and other areas related to smartphones. Apple, maker of the iPhone, named Nokia's high-end smartphone, the E71, as one of the products that allegedly infringe its patents, as well as all Nokia devices that have a built-in camera and those that use the S60 or Symbian platforms.
In a separate action, at the request of Eastman Kodak, the UITC has opened an investigation of Apple and Research In Motion to determine whether they should be barred from importing smartphones that infringe on Kodak patents.