Nokia sues China's Oppo over patents, 5G licenses

Nokia is suing Oppo for patent infringement, the Finnish telco confirmed to Light Reading. The two companies signed a licensing agreement in 2018, which expired in June.

Nokia attempted to update those agreements to cover 5G uses, as well as renew them, but Guangdong-based Oppo rejected Nokia's offers. Nokia will now take the Chinese smartphone maker to court in the UK, France, Germany and India. The licenses involve a mixture of cellular standard-essential patents, and implementation patents for interface and security technologies.

"We have been negotiating the renewal of our patent licensing agreement with Oppo but unfortunately they have rejected our fair and reasonable offers," Nokia told Light Reading.

Patently obvious

Nokia is a major patent holder, and last year received €1.5 billion in licensing revenues from its intellectual property. It has licensing agreements in place with the likes of Samsung, Xiaomi, LG, Apple and Blackberry.

Finnish mobile tech has come a long way from the 11-pound Nokia Talkman NMT450 that Danny Glover sports in 1987's Lethal Weapon. And what's more, like a Charlotte Brontë suitor, Nokia has "prospects."

At 3,500 patent families, Nokia owns the world's largest number of standard essential patents for 5G, the research firm PA Consulting found in April. (Though this hangs a bit on what you count as "essential.") Still, this patent library has sent the earls of Espoo on a winning streak in the intellectual property courtrooms.

In April, China's Lenovo settled a longstanding patent dispute with Nokia after a German court ruled in Nokia's favor and banned Lenovo products from the country. Stuttgart's Daimler-Benz ended a similar dispute in June, and now pays Nokia roughly $2 per automotive for technologies used in navigation systems and car communications.

Want to know more about 5G? Check out our dedicated 5G content channel here on Light Reading.

That is good form in what increasingly looks like open season in patent lawsuits, with Huawei and Verizon going to battle this week in a Texas courtroom. Even better, though, if you don't need to.

"Litigation is always our last resort and we have offered to enter into independent and neutral arbitration to amicably resolve the matter. We still believe this would be the most constructive way forward and our door remains open," Nokia also told Light Reading.

Oppo research

With the departure of Huawei from the scene, Oppo is now in the global smartphone top table, ranking in fifth place in smartphones sold worldwide in the first quarter of this year. And it is only a nostril behind fellow Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, with both commanding a 10.2% global market share according to research firm Gartner.

In the crucial Chinese market, Oppo took over in January as the smartphone brand with the biggest market share, says Counterpoint Research.

Its Reno 5 phone is performing strongly in China's budget-premium smartphone segment, and there are hints Oppo is about to add a gaming phone to its lineup. Oppo did not respond to emails from Light Reading. But it is unlikely to be aware of which side won other recent licensing disputes with Nokia: not Lenovo and Daimler Benz.

And ultimately, with the Chinese maker witnessing growing international demand for its 5G smartphones, it looks unlikely it will risk being banned from Western markets to save a few pennies on patents.

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— Padraig Belton, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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