Nokia's iPhone spat with Apple ratchets up

The spat brewing between two leading mobile phone firms is hotting up as Nokia and Apple escalate their war of words and break out the key to the bottomless bank account marked "legal".

Apple filed a fresh complaint about Nokia with the United States International Trade Commission on Friday, following Nokia's accusation in late December that Apple infringed seven Nokia patents in, "virtually all of its mobile phones, portable music players, and computers". Nokia's complaint followed a filing against Apple by the ITC.

Nokia had already filed a complaint alleging that Apple had infringed its patents relating to GSM and 3G technology.

In a counter-suit, Apple accused the Finnish company of "stealing" its technology and infringing 13 of its own patents.

"Nokia will study the complaint when it is received and continue to defend itself vigorously," a company spokesman told Reuters. "This does not alter the fact that Apple has failed to agree appropriate terms for using Nokia technology and has been seeking a free ride on Nokia's innovation since it shipped the first iPhone in 2007."

Nokia is owner of some key patents for mobile phone technology and remains the leading handset vendor in terms of volume. Apple makes more money with its iPhone, though.

The legal wrangling is likely to go on for years.