Monday 19 November 2018

Blackberry ordered to pay Nokia $137m to settle dispute amid wrangle over patents


BlackBerry CEO John S Chen.
BlackBerry CEO John S Chen.

Jussi Rosendahl and Alastair Sharp

An arbitration court has ordered smartphone pioneer BlackBerry to pay $137m to Nokia to settle a payment dispute - as the Canadian company said it would pursue a separate patent infringement case against the Finnish firm.

The International Court of Arbitration ruled earlier this week that BlackBerry had failed to make certain payments to Nokia under a patent licence contract, BlackBerry said last week.

The ruling, in a previously undisclosed disagreement over a smartphone technology licensing deal signed in 2012, highlights the financial risks technology companies face from disputes over intellectual property, which are sometimes resolved through confidential arbitration processes unknown to investors.

BlackBerry, headed by CEO John S Chen, won a $940m payout from chipmaker Qualcomm earlier this year in a similar case of disputed payments.

BlackBerry has previously said it is looking to generate more revenue from its portfolio of some 40,000 patents by licensing them to other technology companies, and in November said that US-based Marconi Group would help it licence out a broad range of its patents.

It is often difficult for investors to value a company's patent portfolio given the opaque nature of licensing deals and disputes.

"Patent issues are going to come up from time to time and as one-offs," said Todd Coupland, an analyst at CIBC World Markets. "Getting in front of them, unless there is some detail, is going to be tough."

BlackBerry shares were down 1.9pcpc in midday Toronto trading on Friday, Nokia closed 2pc lower in Helsinki.

BlackBerry disclosed in February that it had filed separate patent infringement complaints against Nokia, alleging that several of the Finnish network equipment maker's base stations and related software infringed on 11 of its patents.

Nokia, which sells these products to telecom operators, said in a statement on Friday that it believes those infringement claims "are without merit".

BlackBerry said it would take a GAAP charge on its results, but did not say when the ruling would hit its financials.

Nokia said a significant portion of the amount awarded had already been recognised in its financials.

Nokia sold its once-dominant phone business in 2014, sticking to its network equipment business and broad patent portfolio. It has licensed technology to smartphone makers Samsung Electronics, Apple, Xiaomi Technology and LG Electronics.



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