Fortress-backed company sues Nokia over patents

FRANKFURT, Jan 30 (Reuters) - A company backed by hedge fund and private equity company Fortress Investment Group FIG.N has filed a lawsuit against the world's top cellphone maker, Nokia NOK1V.HE, for alleged patent infringement.

Munich-based IP-Com, of which Fortress owns just under 50 percent, sued Nokia at the district court of the southern German city of Mannheim at the end of last year, Christoph Schoeller, managing director of IP-Com, said late on Wednesday.

He was confirming a pre-released article from Thursday’s edition of Handelsblatt newspaper.

IP-Com decided to sue Nokia after the mobile-phone maker refused to pay 12 billion euros ($17.77 billion), which IP-Com had demanded from Nokia for using the patents for mobile communications technology, Schoeller said.

In the lawsuit, IP-Com demands that Nokia stop using the patents IP-Com owns, the managing director said.

“We demand at least 12 billion euros in license fees for the patents which we own and which Nokia uses in its products,” Schoeller said.

“We were not able to agree with Nokia about the sum for the license fees and have therefore filed the lawsuit to bar Nokia from using those patents,” he said.

A spokesman for Nokia said the Finnish mobile phone maker believes the patents in the suit are invalid and have not been infringed.

“This is far higher than anything we have heard before,” the spokesman for the company said. “We will vigorously defend ourselves.”

Munich-based IP-Com had bought the patents from Germany’s Bosch [ROBG.UL] in 2007, Schoeller said.

Private-equity group Fortress will help IP-Com finance the lawsuit, the managing director said.

A first hearing in the case, which refers to eight families of patents out of a total of 160 IP-Com had bought, took place in January, and the next one is scheduled for April, he said.

Nokia is in the midst of numerous patent disputes with U.S. companies Qualcomm Inc QCOM.O and InterDigital Inc IDCC.O.

Nokia and Qualcomm have been at legal loggerheads since they failed to renew a key technology licensing pact that partly expired in April last year.

Analysts have estimated Nokia pays around $500 million to Qualcomm annually for patents and wants to cut the sum. ($1=.6753 EURO) (Reporting by Peter Dinkloh, with additional reporting by Tarmo Virki in Helsinki)