LONDON Six leading communications industry companies have filed separate complaints with the European Commission alleging that Qualcomm Inc. is unfairly withholding intellectual property.
Broadcom Corp. Ericsson, NEC, Nokia, Panasonic Mobile Communications and Texas Instruments Inc. have each asked the EC to investigate and stop alleged anticompetitive conduct by San Diego-based Qualcomm in the licensing of essential patents for 3G mobile technology.
Qualcomm is a pioneer of the use of code-division multiple access (CDMA) technology in wireless communications. It also holds several key patents and was in the middle of negotitations in the 1990s over the adoption of a family of standards, all based on CMDA, for the third-generation of mobile communications technology.
The protesting companies claimed that Qualcomm is violating European Union competition law and failing to meet the commitments it made to international standard bodies that it would license its technology on standard fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.
The six companies states at a joint press conference that without these statements by Qualcomm the wideband CDMA 3G standard would not have been adopted.
The six claimed that Qualcomm is infringing European Union regulations by trying to stop other mobile phone chip set manufacturers from competing or entering the market. Specifically, they charged that Qualcomm’s alleged abuses include the refusal to license essential patents to potential chip set competitors on standard terms to offering lower royalty rates to handset customers who buy chip sets exclusively from Qualcomm.
They also alleged that Qualcomm is charging excessive royalties for its essential wideband CDMA patents and that royalties are disproportionate because Qualcomm charges the same royalty rate on WCDMA 3G handsets as it does for CDMA2000 3G phones.
The six argue that Qualcomm has contributed less technology to the WCDMA 3G standard than it has to the CDMA2000 standard and, therefore, WCDMA royalties should be lower.
Late Friday (Oct. 28) Qualcomm said in a released statement the allegations by the six companies are factually inaccurate and legally meritless (see separate story).
Qualcomm is no stranger to legal battles. One of the companies filing a complaint, Broadcom Corp., in May filed multiple lawsuits against Qualcomm in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California alleging the company infringed ten of its patents related to communications semiconductors.
Broadcom followed up with an antitrust suit in July, citing anticompetitive and exclusionary practices by Qualcomm.
Spencer Chin contributed to this report