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HELSINKI, March 3 (Reuters) - Nokia NOK1V.HE, the world's top mobile phone maker, won its second patent case against U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm Inc QCOM.O in a week on Monday, sending Qualcomm shares down 3 percent.
Qualcomm had claimed that Nokia had infringed two of its European patents in mobile phones based on the widely used GSM cell phone technology and had asked the British High Court to stop Nokia selling products in Britain that use the patents.
But in a harshly worded ruling, Justice Floyd said that the first patent was invalid, citing a “lack of novelty” and “obviousness,” and said that four claims on the second patent were invalid for “lack of inventive step.”
Avian Securities analyst Tero Kuittinen said that the UK verdict may hurt any hopes of a settlement by Nokia in a crucial upcoming U.S. case related to patents for W-CDMA, a high-speed mobile technology that is increasing in popularity.
“This might mean that Nokia is emboldened to pursue the W-CDMA case. It doesn’t have an incentive to settle,” Kuittinen said, adding that some investors had hoped for a settlement.
Qualcomm shares were down 2.6 percent in late morning trade on Nasdaq. Nokia shares were down 3.3 percent in Europe.
The companies have been at legal loggerheads since failing to renew a technology license pact that expired on April 9, 2007. Analysts estimate that Nokia pays around $500 million a year for use of Qualcomm patents and it wants to reduce the sum.
Nokia and Qualcomm have more than a dozen legal fights pending on three continents. Analysts see these cases as efforts by both companies to gain leverage in the terms of an eventual license pact renewal. But their expensive legal battles have worried investors on both sides of the Atlantic.
Qualcomm said on Monday that it was disappointed by the ruling but that the British legal battle was a side issue in the larger dispute between the two companies over 3G patents.
“We are disappointed, but not devastated,” Andrew Gilbert, the head of Qualcomm’s European operations, told Reuters. He said the company was “actively considering whether to seek the request to appeal.”
The U.S. International Trade Commission last week ruled in Nokia’s favor in a similar case, but other cases Qualcomm has filed over the same or similar GSM patents in Germany, France, Italy and China are still pending.
Nokia said it was pleased with the court’s decision.
Last month, Nokia and Qualcomm agreed to consolidate their U.S. arbitration case in Los Angeles with the legal case in Delaware, on topics of that case, and put on hold much other patent litigation between the two.
“Any disappointment I might have is more than tempered by the Delaware consolidation. I think anything that gets us in the position of resolution is good for us, I think ultimately good for Nokia and certainly good for the industry,” Gilbert said.
Nokia Chief Financial Officer Rick Simonson also said that the Delaware case was more important in the legal battle and had caused uncertainty in the sector.
“I don’t think it has been unduly disruptive, but everybody in the industry would have benefit if it wasn’t out there, because it adds a degree of uncertainty to investors, operators and customers,” Simonson said. (Additional reporting by Jess Harrold in London and Sakari Suoninen in Helsinki and Sinead Carew in New York; Editing by Quentin Bryar and Gerald E. McCormick)
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