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Apple strengthens legal team for patent battles

Apple is recruiting lawyers who have fought for and against some of the world's largest technology companies ahead of patent battles with Nokia, Motorola and HTC.

Apple is recruiting lawyers who have fought for and against some of the world's largest technology companies ahead of patent battles with Nokia, Motorola and HTC.

Leadership in the US smartphone market is at stake, with Apple trying to protect its right to import the iPhone, while shutting out rivals, according to Bloomberg.

The first battle is with Nokia before the International Trade Commission (ITC) in which both companies allege intellectual property violations.

Nokia sued Apple in October 2009, claiming it infringed Nokia patents, and filed the ITC complaint in December.

Apple argues Nokia's real motive is to force it to surrender access to proprietary technology that differentiates the iPhone from other smartphones.

Apple responded with its own patent-infringement claims that could result in Nokia phones being blocked from the US market.

But Apple may have even more riding on ITC cases against HTC and Motorola, which use Google's Android mobile operating system, according to Bloomberg.

Analysts believe Apple's goal is to stop Android, which was running on 26% of the world's smartphones sold in the third quarter, compared with almost 17% for the iPhone, according to Gartner.

Apple filed an ITC complaint against HTC in March, alleging HTC infringed several patents, including ones related to mobile phones. A trial is scheduled to begin in February. HTC has filed counter complaints against Apple.

A US unit of Motorola filed an ITC complaint against Apple in October, alleging it infringed 18 patents. In response, Apple filed a case against Motorola claiming the Droid and other Motorola smartphones are using Apple intellectual property without permission.

Apple has hired some of the top US patent lawyers as outside counsel, including Robert Krupka of Kirkland & Ellis, who negotiated a 2005 settlement in which Apple agreed to pay $100m to Creative Technology.

This year, Apple has also added an in-house attorney, Noreen Krall, to focus on intellectual property litigation.

Apple has been the most-sued technology company since 2008, the year after the iPhone was introduced, according to US litigation data firm LegalMetric.

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