Apple promises patent freedom if rivals stomach its nano-SIM

Mar 26, 2012
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Apple has raised the stakes in the battle over next-gen SIM cards, promising royalty-free licenses to any patents involved in its nano-SIM design if it is accepted, and challenging Nokia and others to commit to the same. The Cupertino company has offered "an unequivocal commitment to grant royalty-free licenses to any Apple patents essential to nano-SIM" according to a letter from Apple to the European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI) shared with FOSS Patents, as long as its design is the winning one. However, the commitment doesn't take into account complaints other firms have around technical superiority.

According to a report earlier this month, Apple had prompted outcry amid members of the ETSI over its attempts to push its preferred nano-SIM standard. The card design was described as technically inferior to alternative options, by Nokia among others, though said to have the backing of "most" European carriers.

Nokia, however, doesn't agree, arguing that Apple's design is technically flawed since it can jam in existing microSIM slots and still requires a tray arrangement for loading. That fits in with Apple's current iPhone and iPad SIM design, but would, Nokia suggests, limit any space saving benefits.

Another concern was that Apple could, in time, come to hold valuable patent control over the nano-SIM should its design be accepted as the standard. It's this argument that Apple has seemingly addressed with its letter to the ETSI, committing to allowing use of any patents it holds that are involved with the nano-SIM, on the assumption that any other patent holders agree to the same terms in accordance with the principle of reciprocity.

The different designs will battle it out at the Smart Card Platform Plenary meeting later this week in France. Apple has also been accused of trying to game the ETSI voting system by individually registering six different European subsidiaries, each of which would gain more votes for the final decision.


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