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Intellectual Property Reigns: How Multinationals Like Nokia and Apple Forge New Avenues of Profit

Team PatentAssist

In the fast-paced world of multinational corporations, the dynamics of business are constantly evolving. Companies that once dominated markets may find themselves on entirely new trajectories. Take, for instance, Nokia—a former smartphone heavyweight that has transformed its revenue streams in an unexpected way. In recent years, Nokia's financial prowess has been closely tied to intellectual property, with one of its biggest revenue streams stemming from an unlikely source—Apple. This intriguing shift in the business landscape highlights how some multinational giants are strategically leveraging their intellectual property portfolios to remain relevant and profitable in the modern era.

Power of Intellectual Property

Nokia, hailing from Finland, has undergone a remarkable transformation. Despite no longer holding the lion's share of the smartphone market, the company continues to wield significant influence in specific domains. Since the year 2000, Nokia has invested a staggering 140 billion euros in research and development including €4.5bn in 2022 alone, amassing a colossal portfolio featuring over 20,000 patents. While this extensive patent collection covers various technologies, our focus today centers on the 5,500 patents related to 5G technology—a critical element of the global tech landscape.

5G Patents: A Game-Changer

Nokia's cache of 5G patents has become invaluable to the technology's development and widespread adoption. Numerous companies worldwide rely heavily on Nokia's 5G patents to power their devices. Notably, the tech behemoth Apple stands out as a prominent user of these patents. However, the relationship between Nokia and Apple hasn't always been smooth sailing.

The Legal Battles

The disputes between Nokia and Apple date back to 2009 when Nokia filed several lawsuits against Apple, alleging patent infringement related to GSM, camera subsystems, and touch input—fundamental components of Apple's iPhones and iPads at the time. Apple retaliated with 13 lawsuits of its own. This dispute led to a standoff, with Apple refusing to collaborate or license Nokia's technology.

Round Two: A Renewed Battle

In 2016, Nokia asserted that Apple was utilizing its patents without proper compensation. After years of negotiations, Nokia filed complaints against Apple in both Germany and the United States, citing 32 patents covering various technologies, including display, user interface, software, antenna chipsets, and video coding. It wasn't until 2017 that the two giants finally reached an agreement, allowing Apple access to Nokia's patents in exchange for a substantial sum.

Renewed Cooperation

The initial agreement was set to expire in 2023, sparking expectations of a third round of legal battles. However, to everyone's surprise, the two tech giants chose a different path. They peacefully renewed their agreement without resorting to prolonged legal disputes. Jenni Lukander, President of Nokia Technologies, expressed her satisfaction with the outcome, emphasizing Nokia's strong patent portfolio and contributions to technology standards.


The story of Nokia and Apple underscores how intellectual property has become a primary driver of revenue for some multinational giants. In an ever-changing business landscape, these companies are finding new ways to thrive by capitalizing on their patent portfolios. According to a report by Kidon IP, Nokia earned €1.459 billion from patent licensing in 2019. However, it is unclear how much of Nokia’s revenue comes solely from its patents. Forbes reports that Nokia’s revenue from licensing is expected to be about 7% of its total revenue by 2020. As technology continues to advance, intellectual property will likely play an increasingly pivotal role in shaping the strategies and fortunes of these corporate titans.

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