Nokia Should Face Antitrust Probe, Sierra Wireless Urges EU

Sierra Wireless Inc., a Canadian maker of communications equipment, complained to European Union antitrust regulators over Nokia Oyj’s royalty rates for key patents.

Sierra Wireless, based in Richmond, British Columbia, alleges that Nokia charges widely different royalty rates to license so-called standard-essential patents used for mobile phones, imposed “unfavorable and unreasonable” royalty terms, and has refused to license key patents for 3G technology, according to a statement. It also asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to investigate Nokia.

The EU is cracking down on patent abuses as Google Inc.’s Motorola Mobility unit, Microsoft Corp., Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co., trade victories in divergent court rulings across the world on intellectual property. The EU’s antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia has said he’s targeting “rules of the game” to prevent companies from unfairly leveraging their inventions to thwart rivals.

Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the Brussels-based EU watchdog, said the commission has received the complaint and is looking at it.

“Nokia regrets that Sierra Wireless is wasting the time of the European Commission” and other agencies with “its frivolous complaints, rather than honoring its agreement with Nokia,” said Mark Durrant, a spokesman for the company. “Sierra Wireless has been in breach of Nokia’s existing license terms for several years” and has failed to pay Nokia the royalty fees it owes, he said.

EU Probes

The EU has opened probes into the possible misuse of patent injunctions by Motorola Mobility and Samsung, which is seeking to settle a case triggered by a dispute with Apple. It has also received complaints from Huawei Technologies Co. against InterDigital Inc. and Google against Nokia and Microsoft.

Nokia, which is selling its handset unit to Microsoft Corp., is seeking to boost licensing of its patents, chief financial officer Timo Ihamuotila said this week. The Espoo, Finland-based company is retaining patents to generate licensing income.

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