Nokia accused of 'unfair' patent rates as Sierra Wireless takes 3G fight to EC

Sierra Wireless takes its dispute with Nokia over standard essential patent royalties to Europe's competition regulator.

Canadian device maker Sierra Wireless is pressing Europe's competition regulator to force Nokia to reveal the rates it uses for its standards essential 3G patents.

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Sierra Wireless has accused Nokia of applying "widely different, and therefore unfair, royalty rates" for the standards essential patents (SEP) it holds for 3G and GSM technologies and wants the European Commission to force Nokia to reveal the rates it charges other licensees.

The maker of wireless and embedded devices has also accused Nokia of refusing to license 3G SEPs for wireless modules, despite, as it argues, Nokia's obligation to do so.

"Sierra Wireless is urging the EC to investigate and require Nokia to reveal the pricing for 2G and 3G SEP licenses with other licensees, end the breaches outlined in the complaint, sanction Nokia, and require these patent licenses to be granted on FRAND [fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory] terms," the company said in a statement on Thursday.  

Sierra Wireless has also requested the US Federal Trade Commission investigate. 

The complaint follows the EC's separate warnings earlier this year to Samsung and Motorola Mobility over their use of SEPs.

EC competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia fired off a warning to Google-owned Motorola Mobility over using its SEPs in litigation against Apple in Germany, saying that Motorola would violate EU competition by using its SEPs to enforce an injunction when Apple was willing to enter into a licence on FRAND terms.

A Nokia spokesperson told ZDNet that Sierra's complaints are "frivolous", and said that Nokia has licensed SEPs to more than 50 companies.

"Sierra Wireless has been in breach of its existing licence terms with Nokia for several years and, despite many years of good faith attempts by Nokia to resolve the disagreements, Sierra has failed to pay Nokia the royalties which Sierra owes under the licence. Nokia regrets that Sierra Wireless is wasting the time of the European Commission and ETSI [the European Telecommunications Standards Institute] with its frivolous complaints, rather than honouring its agreement with Nokia," they said.

"As Sierra is now pursuing these abusive tactics, seeking to continue to use Nokia's innovations without paying the agreed royalties, Nokia will take whatever steps are necessary to protect our intellectual property, our rights and our reputation."

Having sold its devices and services business to Microsoft earlier this month, patents have become an even more important part of the company's revenue stream. With a current run rate of around €500m a year for its patents business, Nokia has said in future it plans to increase the number of companies that license its patents and start licensing some patents that it had previously kept to itself. 

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