EC drops Qualcomm antitrust probe

European regulators have dropped their investigation into Qualcomm's 3G licensing, after Ericsson and other companies that lodged a complaint withdrew

The European Commission has called an end to its antitrust investigation into mobile technology company Qualcomm, after the complainants in the case pulled out.

The antitrust complaint was brought against Qualcomm in 2005 by Ericsson, Nokia, Broadcom, Panasonic, NEC and Texas Instruments, which alleged that the San Diego-based company had abused its market position by charging unreasonably high royalties for patented 3G technology. The European regulators opened their investigation into Qualcomm in October 2007.

"The Qualcomm case has raised important issues about the pricing of technology after its adoption as part of an industry standard," the Commission said in a statement on Tuesday announcing it had closed formal proceedings against the firm. "In practice, such assessments may be very complex, and any antitrust enforcer has to be careful about overturning commercial agreements."

The Commission added that it had reached no formal conclusions, but had decided to drop the case as all of the complainants had either dropped their complaints, or had indicated that they would.

Ericsson decided to withdraw following decisions by Korean and Japanese antitrust regulators this year, the telecoms infrastructure firm told ZDNet UK.

"There were strong decisions by the Korean and Japanese authorities," said Nina Macpherson, head of the general counsel's office at Ericsson. "[Plus] we have limited resources."

Macpherson said Ericsson was satisfied Qualcomm would change its behaviour following the Korean decision in July, and the Japanese decision in September. In place of pushing for the antitrust investigation, Ericsson is concentrating on promoting open communications standards efforts in Europe, she added.

Qualcomm welcomed the Commission's move. "We are delighted with the decision to drop the case, common sense has prevailed," said Qualcomm executive vice president Andrew Gilbert in a statement. "From the outset we said that there was no case to answer, and this decision by the EC, after four years of investigation, vindicates that position."

Nokia, one of the companies that complained against Qualcomm in 2005, withdrew its complaint to the Commission in July last year after brokering a patent deal with Qualcomm.