Apple seeks ban on U.S. Nokia imports

In latest salvo in the accusation-slinging involving smartphone technology, Apple files request with the International Trade Commission for a block on its Finnish rival's devices.

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Leslie Katz
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The ongoing patent battle between Apple and Nokia escalated Friday, when Apple moved to block imports of Nokia cell phones to the U.S.

Apple made its request in a complaint filed with the International Trade Commission, an independent federal agency that examines issues including unfair trade practices involving patent, trademark, and copyright infringement.

Nokia device
Will Nokia devices be blocked from the U.S.? Nokia

In December, Nokia filed its own complaint with the USITC in Washington. In it, the Finnish company alleged that Apple infringes seven Nokia patents "in virtually all of its mobile phones, portable music players, and computers" and sought to ban imports of Apple's iPhone, iPod, and MacBook products.

Responding to Apple's latest move, Nokia spokesman Mark Durrant told Bloomberg that "Nokia will study the complaint when it is received and continue to defend itself vigorously. However this does not alter the fact that Apple has failed to agree to appropriate terms for using Nokia technology and has been seeking a free ride on Nokia's innovation since it shipped the first iPhone in 2007."

Apple has not yet responded to a request for comment on the filing.

Back in October, before the patent debate between the two companies moved to the trade commission, Nokia filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Delaware regarding 10 patents related to wireless handsets, which Nokia says Apple has refused to license. Every iPhone model since the original, introduced in 2007, infringes on those patents, Nokia has charged.

The 10 patents it accuses Apple of violating are related to making phones able to run on GSM, 3G, and Wi-Fi networks. They include patents on wireless data, speech coding, security, and encryption, according to Nokia.

Apple then filed a countersuit accusing Nokia of copying technology inside the iPhone. Apple said Nokia is violating a range of patents, from real-time signal processing methods to list scrolling and document translation, scaling, and rotation on a touch-screen display.

In November, research firm Strategy Analytics reported that Apple had surpassed Nokia in quarterly mobile phone profits, bringing in $1.6 billion from the iPhone, compared with Nokia's $1.1 billion in cell phone profits.

Nokia's new mobile chief, Rick Simonson, acknowledged in an interview earlier this month that 2009 had been a difficult year for the company.

"Yes, we have lost ground in the smartphone space over the past 18 months, but the decline has stopped and stablized in the second and third quarters of 2009," Simonson told the India Times.

"The new year will see [our] recovery in smartphones with the introduction of Maemo and the stabilization of the Symbian operating system, which by the way, continues to be the platform for the largest number of smartphones, globally," Simonson added.

Update, 1:50 p.m. PST: Added more details on the technologies involved in the disputed patents.