Nokia smartphone maker HMD Global files EU antitrust complaint against VoiceAge EVS

FILE PHOTO: A cyclist rides past a Nokia logo during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - HMD Global Oy, the exclusive licensee of Nokia-branded smartphones, has filed a complaint to EU antitrust regulators against VoiceAge EVS's patent practices and royalty rates.

Disputes over royalties have dogged the telecoms industry since the last decade. The most high profile were between Apple and Samsung Electronics, and Apple versus Qualcomm which the companies eventually settled among themselves.

HMD and VoiceAge EVS (VAEVS), which was set up in 2018 to license Canadian tech company VoiceAge Corp's enhanced voice services patent portfolio, are fighting in courts in Germany, the United States and Brazil over various patents for technology related to voice calls.

HMD took its grievance to the EU competition watchdog on Thursday, according to a statement on its website.

"HMD has now also filed competition law complaints against VAEVS before the European Commission in order to seek the authorities to intervene in issues such as over-standardization, requirements for open standards and apparent non-FRAND demands and behaviour," the company said.

FRAND refers to fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms and conditions for patents essential to a technical standard.

The EU competition watchdog said it had received the complaint and would assess it based on the standard procedures. VoiceAge EVS did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

"VAEVS' published purported programmatic royalty rates, as available on its website, exceed the average royalty rates actually collected globally by almost all far larger licensors at the average sales price of HMD smartphones," HMD said.

"VAEVS' demands and VAEVS' behaviour more broadly breaches against voluntary FRAND licensing commitments binding on VAEVS and made for the patents now owned by VAEVS. This causes continued harm to HMD and the consumers," the company said.

The European Commission typically takes several months to decide whether a complaint merits an investigation. Cases can take several years before a decision is issued.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Susan Fenton)