Nokia Sues Two Chinese Cell-Phone Makers for Copyright Infringement

Nokia (NOK), the world's biggest cellphone maker, has sued two Chinese competitors in its first Chinese legal action alleging illegal product copying, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

A Beijing court on June 12 officially agreed to hear the case against two cellphone makers based in the south China boomtown of Shenzhen, Shenzhen Telsda Mobile Communication Industry Development Co. and Song Xun Da Zhong Ke Electronic Shenzhen, said Nokia spokesman Thomas Jonsson.

He added Nokia would issue a statement regarding the case later in the day.

In the lawsuit, Nokia is asking the court to force the two manufacturers to stop making and selling models that allegedly infringe on designs for its own mid-range 7260 model. Nokia is also seeking 500,000 yuan ($62,500) in damages.

The lawsuit is Nokia's first in China related to product design, marking a milestone for the Finnish giant in what has become company's single biggest global market.

Foreign companies are turning increasingly to China's fledgling legal system to protect their intellectual property and trademarks, as Beijing attempts to address one of the biggest complaints by foreign governments and multinationals doing business there.

Retail giants from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) and Starbucks Corp. (SBUX) have filed trademark lawsuits in China to protect their logos and names, and Intel Corp. (INTC) has also sued in the market to protect its intellectual property.

China became Nokia's single biggest market last year, when sales there passed those in the United States.

China is the world's biggest mobile market, with more than 400 million subscribers and about 100 million cellphones sold in the past year, according to various industry data.

In a nod to China's importance, Nokia, the market's leading vendor, with about 27 percent share, said in May it would invest about 50 million euros ($63 million) in a new Chinese headquarters.