Google Inc. filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission against Microsoft Corp. and Nokia Oyj, saying the companies are using patents to thwart competition.
The complaint focuses on a transfer Nokia and Microsoft made last year of some 2,000 patents and patent applications to Mosaid Technologies Inc., a Canadian company known for its patent litigation, said Jim Prosser, a spokesman for Google. Most of the patents relate to industry standards for wireless technology, and Microsoft has publicly pledged it wouldn’t use such patents to block competitors from the market.
“Nokia and Microsoft are colluding to raise the costs of mobile devices for consumers, creating patent trolls that side-step promises both companies have made,” Mountain View, California-based Google said in an e-mailed statement, using a pejorative term for companies that use patents only to demand royalties rather than to make products.
“They should be held accountable, and we hope our complaint spurs others to look into these practices,” Google said.
Microsoft and Nokia get a share of any proceeds Mosaid raises from licensing the patents.
Google’s complaint may prompt an investigation by the same European Union antitrust authority that is probing Google’s Motorola Mobility over its use of so-called standard-essential patents in litigation against Microsoft and Apple Inc. The EU investigations were triggered by complaints by those two companies.
A copy of Google’s complaint wasn’t available.
Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the European Commission in Brussels, confirmed that regulators had received the filing and said they would examine it.
Nokia hasn’t yet seen the “frivolous” complaint, Mark Durrant, a spokesman for Nokia, said in an e-mailed statement. Nokia has made several patent divestments over the past five years and has transferred any commitments for standard-essential patents to the acquirer while existing licenses for the patent continue, he said.
“Had Google asked us, we would have been happy to confirm this, which could then have avoided them wasting the commission’s time and resources,” Durrant said. “Google’s suggestion that Nokia and Microsoft are colluding on intellectual property rights is wrong. Both companies have their own IPR portfolios and strategies and operate independently.”
Nokia had been the world’s largest handset manufacturer, only to see its market share eroded by competition from Apple’s iPhone and devices that run on Google’s Android operating system. Last year, Espoo, Finland-based Nokia agreed to switch from its own Symbian and Meego operating systems to Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform.
Companies get together to establish standards so that products can work together, such as for Wi-Fi, video compression or digital transmissions. Those that help establish the standards pledge to license their patents on fair and reasonable terms.
Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft has criticized Motorola Mobility, which Google acquired earlier this month, for its use of standard-essential patents to seek orders that would block sales of Microsoft’s products. The software maker is awaiting a judge’s ruling on claims Motorola Mobility breached its obligations.
Patents have become a central weapon in the global battle over market share for smartphones and tablet computers, with billions of dollars being spent to buy patents, and lawsuits being filed across four continents.
Earlier this month, Nokia filed patent-infringement complaints in the U.S. and Germany against HTC Corp. over its Android phones and against ViewSonic Corp., which makes tablet computers that run on Android.
Mosaid hasn’t seen Google’s complaint and so couldn’t comment, said Michael Salter, a Mosaid spokesman. The company was taken private in December in a transaction led by Chicago-based Sterling Partners.
Mosaid’s Core Wireless unit, which holds the patents obtained from Microsoft and Nokia, filed a patent suit in February against Apple over some of the standard-essential patents.
Mosaid sold five patent families for $11 million in September. Google was later identified as the buyer.