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Sunday, 30 October 2005 13:26

Competitors accuse Qualcomm of IPR abuse

A number of global mobile communications technology companies have filed complaints against Qualcomm with the European Commission alleging anti-competitive conduct in the licensing of essential patents for 3G mobile technology.

Broadcom, Ericsson, NEC, Nokia, Panasonic Mobile Communications and Texas Instruments have each filed individual complaints to the EC accusing Qualcomm of violating EU competition law and failing to meet the commitments it has made to international standard bodies that it would license its technology on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.

They say that, without these commitments, the WCDMA 3G standard would not have been adopted.

"Qualcomm is infringing these rules by trying to exclude competing manufacturers of chipsets for mobile phones from the market and preventing others from entering; charging royalties for its WCDMA essential patents that are excessive and disproportionate; in particular by imposing the same royalty rate on WCDMA 3G handsets as it does for CDMA2000 3G handsets despite the fact that Qualcomm has contributed far less technology to the WCDMA 3G standard than it has to the CDMA2000 standard."

The claim that Qualcomm has committed a number of abuses, ranging from the refusal to licence essential patents to potential chipset competitors on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms to offering lower royalty rates to handset customers who buy chipsets exclusively from Qualcomm.

Qualcomm has responded saying it believes the claims are "meritless" and "belied by the more than 130 licenses that Qualcomm has granted to a broad range of companies, among them five of the six reported claimants."

It says that these licenses, including" agreements with the world's largest and most sophisticated manufacturers of wireless telecommunications equipment," make Qualcomm's patents the most extensively licensed portfolio in the cellular industry.

According to Qualcomm, "the widespread market acceptance of Qualcomm's licensing program conclusively demonstrates that Qualcomm's licensing practices are fair, reasonable and pro-competitive."

Qualcomm disagrees with any suggestion that it has contributed less significant technology to the WCDMA 3G standard, claiming "it is widely acknowledged that efforts to design around Qualcomm's fundamental innovations in formulating the UMTS/WCDMA standard were unsuccessful," and says "It is especially ironic that the complaints are being lodged by suppliers who voluntarily entered into license agreements with Qualcomm, acknowledging its leading WCDMA patent portfolio. This action appears to be nothing more than an attempt by these licensees to renegotiate their license agreements by seeking governmental intervention."

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