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Nokia won't license 'essential' patents if Apple's nano-SIM standard is selected

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Nokia is now threatening to withhold the licensing of patents it believes would be "essential" to an Apple-led nano-SIM proposal to be voted on by ETSI later this week.

iphone sim
iphone sim

The saber rattling continues today ahead of the ETSI's vote on the future of the nano-SIM standard later this week, a vote that has significantly different proposals from Apple and a consortium of Nokia, Motorola, and RIM in the mix. So far, we've heard that Apple would license patents relevant to its proposal royalty-free — a claim which Nokia swiftly bashed, claiming Apple has no relevant patents to license.

Now, Nokia is threatening the ETSI that it will refuse to license patents it holds that it believes to be essential to Apple's proposal should that design be selected over its own, once again saying that the design simply "does not meet ETSI's technical requirements and which would be inferior for consumers and the mobile industry, unnecessarily increasing the cost of mobile devices." We've taken a look at the competing designs, and it does appear that Apple's proposal — essentially a micro-SIM trimmed down to the chip alone — would be trickier to hold into place.

In practice, if Nokia won't license patents — and they are, in fact, ruled essential to the standard — that means it could be more difficult or impossible for manufacturers to produce and use nano-SIMs within the framework of the law. As for FRAND concerns, Nokia nips that conversation in the bud, saying that this tough new language has "no impact" on the company's existing FRAND commitments for other wireless standards managed through the ETSI.

In other words, Nokia's saying, "pick our standard or no one gets a nano-SIM."

Here's the full statement:

It has become clear that ETSI's current work on the 4FF standard is in conflict with ETSI's agreed rules, risking the adoption of a proposal which does not meet ETSI's technical requirements and which would be inferior for consumers and the mobile industry, unnecessarily increasing the cost of mobile devices.

"We believe that Apple is mis-using the standardization process, seeking to impose its own proprietary solution on the industry and using ETSI merely to rubber stamp its proposal, rather than following established principles and practices," said Henry Tirri, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Nokia. "We urge ETSI members to resist this behaviour, which is not in the best interests of the industry or, more importantly, of consumers."

Nokia has actively contributed to telecommunications standardization for more than two decades. We believe that the overriding objective any standardization activity must be to collaboratively select the best technological solution, independent of individual commercial interests. It is imperative that the integrity of ETSI's standardization process should be upheld, with pre-agreed requirements and selection criteria used to ensure fair selection of the best technology. The proposal from Nokia, RIM and Motorola meets all of ETSI's pre-agreed requirements and more of its selection criteria and so should be selected on its technical merits.

Nokia's objections to Apple's proposal have never been related to intellectual property. However, as a result of the issues with the 4FF standardization work, Nokia is not willing to contribute its own IPR to the standard, if the Apple proposal is selected in violation of ETSI's rules. Nokia holds more than 50 patent families covering SIM related technologies that we believe may be essential to Apple's proposal. We have informed ETSI that, if Apple's proposal is selected, then Nokia will not license its relevant patents to that standard.

This decision has no impact on Nokia's existing commitments to license its standard essential patents under FRAND terms to earlier adopted ETSI standards.