Nokia has signed a licensing deal with Trimble Navigation that gives the mobile phone maker access to hundreds of technology patents for providing location-based services. The deal could also strengthen Nokia’s hand in license negotiations with other companies.
The deal with Trimble, announced Monday, gives Nokia the rights to almost 700 Trimble technology patents for use in Nokia products, said Waldemar Sakalus, director of business development for Nokia’s mobile phone group. Nokia also gets the exclusive right to sublicense the patents to other companies in the wireless industry, he said.
In return, Trimble gets a nonexclusive license to use Nokia’s own location-based technology patents in its own commercial products.
Location-based services allow operators to pinpoint the location of a customer using GPS and other technologies, and then deliver services based on that information, such as finding a nearby hotel or providing driving directions.
“It’s a field we believe will become more and more important and which carries a lot of business opportunities,” Sakalus said. Just last week Nokia announced its new N95 phone, which comes with integrated GPS capabilities, he noted.
Having the exclusive rights to sublicense Trimble’s patents could also strengthen Nokia’s hand when it comes to negotiating license deals with other companies, Sakalus acknowledged.
That could come in handy for Nokia as it tries to resolve a licensing dispute with Qualcomm over Nokia’s use of some key Qualcomm wireless technologies.
Nokia has complained that Qualcomm is demanding royalty payments for its technology that are too high, while Qualcomm has accused Nokia of patent infringement. Nokia’s current agreement to use Qualcomm’s patents expires in the first half of next year.
If the Trimble patents strengthen Nokia’s negotiating position with third parties, that would be a nice benefit, but that is not its main motivation for the deal with Trimble, according to Sakalus. He did not refer to Qualcomm specifically.
The objective’s main deal is to gain access to a broad set of patents in a field that Nokia sees as important and growing, he said. Most of Trimble’s customers are in industries such as agriculture and construction, and by sublicensing the patents, Nokia can make them more available to the mobile industry, he said.
The deal involved a financial payment along with the patent-sharing aspect, but the companies aren’t providing details. The terms will not materially affect the finances of either company, they said.
Trimble’s patents deal with location-based services based on GPS; assisted GPS, which uses additional servers to amplify GPS signals in urban areas; and Galileo, the European satellite navigation network.
Nokia is still deciding whether it will license them separately or as part of its general portfolio of Global System for Mobile Communications and code division multiple access patents, Sakalus said. He said he saw “no problem” with licensing the patents to rival phone makers.
Nokia has said that it currently pays more in technology licensing fees than it receives. It hopes to grow its patents portfolio and eventually make patent licensing a profitable part of its business.
-James Niccolai, IDG News Service (Paris Bureau)
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