Nokia has license agreements in place with approximately 40 companies, including 'virtually all the leading mobile device vendors'. Nokia itself has signed agreements with other companies holding similar patent positions (e.g. Ericsson); overall there is an interlocking pattern between the companies who have worked on industry standards.
"The basic principle in the mobile industry is that those companies who contribute in technology development to establish standards create intellectual property, which others then need to compensate for," said Ilkka Rahnasto, Vice President, Legal & Intellectual Property at Nokia. "Apple is also expected to follow this principle. By refusing to agree appropriate terms for Nokia's intellectual property, Apple is attempting to get a free ride on the back of Nokia's innovation."
Apple as a relative newcomer to the wireless industry will have fewer relevant patents and therefore is likely not in a position to do a 'patent swap' (a typical scenario between the big manufacturers).
Nokia notes that the patents cover 'wireless data, speech coding, security and encryption' and infringed by all Apple iPhone (Classic, 3G, and 3GS).
It is not clear whether Apple has refused to pay anything at all, or whether it refused to pay the price Nokia asked. There will, almost certainly, have been behind the scenes meetings negotiations. Past history suggest that Nokia takes legal action only after exhausting other options.
More information in the Nokia press release.
We will await developments with interest.