A number of high-profile cases involving Nordic IP have enjoyed widespread media attention in recent months (see also our earlier commentary in the Sep ‘16 newsletter on the impressive contribution of Denmark to the number of International Patent applications (ED: Link). From cell phone components to chocolate bars (and even the name of a Nordic country itself!), Nordic IP continues to show its importance on an international scale.
IP vs Goliath
Nokia and Ericsson are well known pioneers of the cell phone industry. Despite increasing competition from the likes of Apple and Samsung, the value of their IP (which was central to setting cellular standards) continues to provide them significant gains. In Dec ’16, Nokia asserted 32 ‘smartphone’ patents relating to displays, user interfaces, software, antennae, chipsets and video coding against Apple across multiple jurisdictions. Through leveraging their strong patent portfolio, Nokia has been able to enter into a financial agreement with Apple (thought to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars) allowing Apple to use its technology. Patents acquired from Ericsson have allowed Unwired Planet to enter into and subsequently settle infringement disputes with Goliaths Samsung, Google and Apple. More recently, the English courts ordered Huawei to pay a global fee to Unwired Planet for the use of technology covered by these patents. Acquiring these patents from the Swedish pioneer Ericsson has indeed proven worthwhile to Unwired Planet, and will yield further gains for Ericsson given that it was agreed that Ericsson should share revenues generated from the patents.
A critical judgement relating to the trade marking of ‘shapes’, in which Nestlé were refused a trade mark for the shape of its four-fingered KitKat bar, was highly influenced by the existence of Norwegian chocolate bar ‘Kvikk Lunsj’. The four-fingered rectangular shape of Kvikk Lunsj was significant ammunition for Cadbury (part of the same parent company which owns Kvikk Lunsj) when convincing the courts that this shape does not belong solely to the KitKat and should not be trade marked as such – as a result the Norwegian treat can continue to be sold in its original, beloved form.
Many will have heard of the Iceland trademark saga which broke at the end of last year, in which the Icelandic government is seeking to cancel the “Iceland” trademark owned by the supermarket of the same name. Iceland (the country) is pursuing this action to gain more freedom in national branding. However, Iceland (the supermarket) is unlikely to let go of the trademark easily, given the enormous value it brings to its brand strategy.
The value of a strong IP portfolio
These cases and their widespread media coverage have forced the world to stand up and notice the global impact of IP originating from Nordic companies. Given the enormous value of these cases, we’re sure more and more companies in Britain and elsewhere will seek to bolster their IP portfolio to Nordic levels of strength.
Lionel Newton, the author of this report welcomes your comments and feedback to this.
Mathys & Squire
Mathys & Squire is a Corporate Member of The Danish-UK Chamber of Commerce