Nokia may be the World's biggest cell-phone maker, but its performance in smartphones has been largely disappointing, especially in the post-iPhone era. Apple's device is so jealousy inducing it seems to have prompted a lawsuit.
The suit centers on ten patents issued in Delaware, in the U.S., not in Nokia's European stomping ground. At its core is an argument that Apple has violated these patents for devices that connect wirelessly to LANs or 3G networks and stream data, or coded speech over them. There's also a claim about security and encryption built into Apple devices.
The absolute target is the iPhone, which Nokia's VP for Legal and IP, Ilkka Rahnasto, alleges is getting "a free ride on the back of Nokia's innovation." That's a somewhat arrogant and inflammatory statement, since it's easy to argue that Nokia's seen the cash register ping open after Apple's recent financial wins, and that it's bringing this case so late (the violations date back to 2007), because it's been unable to ride on the back of Apple's success with the touchscreen smartphones it's tried to launch since then.
It's also unclear if Apple is the only company Nokia's going to target with such a lawsuit, since smartphones by many other manufacturers almost certainly use similar tech--though some of them may have reached patent licensing deals with Nokia, unlike Apple. We can expect neither company to comment on the case now it's been filed, as per usual, but look for lots of legal shenanigans like counter-suits filed by Apple about Nokia's actions and its patents, out-of-court settlements and censored documents. That's how Psystar's and Google's cases against Apple have played out, in any case.