Apple is booting all products from Nokia subsidiary Withings from its online and physical retail stores, which have been selling connected smart scales and blood pressure monitors. The move might seem straightforward, but it’s more complicated than the strategic sweep of consumer digital health tools during holiday season from Apple’s shelves.
Nokia – which has become increasingly invested in digital healthcare and acquired connected health device maker Withings in April – filed a number of complaints against Apple in Germany and the United States last week, alleging that Apple products infringe on a number of Nokia patents ranging from software, display, chips and more. This picks back up on a 2011 settlement in which Apple purportedly agreed to a license covering some Nokia Technology patents, but subsequently declined Nokia’s offers to license other patents that are used in Apple products.
"Through our sustained investment in research and development, Nokia has created or contributed to many of the fundamental technologies used in today's mobile devices, including Apple products,” Ilkka Rahnasto, head of Patent Business at Nokia, said in a statement. “After several years of negotiations trying to reach agreement to cover Apple's use of these patents, we are now taking action to defend our rights."
Apple followed by filing suit in California, claiming that Nokia had purposefully removed certain patents from the 2011 settlement (which was at a reported at $720 million) in order to maximize profit.
In a statement to TechCruch, Apple didn’t mince words about its suit against Nokia, suggesting that the company is using the lawsuits to imply their patents extend to more pieces of technology than is the case.
“We respect intellectual property and we’ve always been willing to pay a fair price to secure the rights of patents covering technology in our products,” Apple told TechCruch. “Unfortunately, Nokia has refused to license their patents on a fair basis and is now using the tactics of a patent troll to attempt to extort money from Apple by applying a royalty rate to Apple’s own inventions they had nothing to do with. We are standing up for inventors everywhere by fighting this flagrant anticompetitive practice."
Apple hasn't confirmed that the removal of Withings products from its stores is related to the Nokia lawsuits (which notably, do not involve Withings patents or products), but the timing is certainly suspect. And this isn’t the first time Apple’s pulled products off its shelves apparently due to a conflict with the company making them. In November 2014, Apple dropped Fitbit products from its online and retail stores, which was widely speculated to be in response to Fitbit’s reticence to integrate its app with Apple Healthkit.