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Secure Transactions News

Nano-SIM: Nokia to stop licensing its SIM patents?

Thursday 5 April 2012

The Finnish mobile handsets maker believes that the adoption of Apple's nano-SIM would contravene ETSI’s own rules on a tiny SIM design, thus absolving Nokia of its obligations to fairly and squarely license standards-related patents to Apple. Nokia holds 50 patent families relating to the SIM concept.

Withholding access to these vital patents would make it next to impossible to manufacture the nano-SIM, so Nokia is basically saying that its own tiny SIM design is the only one that could ever be built.

Patents embodied in standards are typically bound by Fair, Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) agreements, which require the patent owner to license them without prejudice. Nokia's SIM patents are part of the earlier standards, but if the ETSI design rules are broken by Apple's nano-SIM then Nokia reckons it won't be required to carry over the FRAND arrangements.

Meanwhile, according to Florian Mueller of the Foss Patents blog, Apple has submitted a proposal that would give the other handset makers royalty-free licenses to any Apple patents for its nano-SIM design, as long as Apple's proposal is adopted as a standard and that all other patent holders accept the same terms.

Nokia blasted that proposal, though, arguing Apple cannot possibly back it up. “We are not aware of any Apple intellectual property which it considers essential to its nano-SIM proposal,” a Nokia spokesperson told IDG News Service. “In light of this, Apple's proposal for royalty-free licensing seems no more than an attempt to devalue the intellectual property of others.” Apple declined to comment, according to IDG.

Apple submitted a request to the ETSI in May 2011 to standardize its nano-SIM design, which would allow companies to free up more internal space in devices for other functions.

Apple's proposal is backed by a handful of network operators, named on the submission to ETSI, while Nokia has the backing of RIM and Motorola Mobility.