EU warns Nokia not to become a "patent troll"

Nokia smartphone

Nokia warned not to make aggressive use of its patent portfolio once Microsoft deal is completed

The vice president of the European Commission's Competition unit has warned Nokia not to become a "patent troll".

The blunt warning came in a wide-ranging speech which referred to a number of technology patent cases, including those involving Samsung and Google.

Joaquín Almunia's strongest language was reserved for Nokia, which is in the process of selling its devices business to Microsoft, giving rise to fears that the remaining part of Nokia will make more aggressive use of its patents portfolio.

If Nokia were to take illegal advantage of its patents in the future, we will open an antitrust case

Almunia said that the commission had dismissed the possibility that "Nokia would be tempted to behave like a patent troll" when it cleared the way for Microsoft to acquire Nokia's devices division – but warned that "if Nokia were to take illegal advantage of its patents in the future, we will open an antitrust case."

"I sincerely hope we will not have to," said Almunia.

Google warning

Almunia also said the Commission was pressuring Google to stop punishing companies who don't pay to use its specialised search services - such as Shopping - in its organic search results.

"Google creates a link between getting the right to use material from other sites on its specialised search services and the appearance that these sites have on Google's general search results – a practice that allows Google to benefit from investments made by other firms," said Almunia.

"I have asked Google to sever this link to restore competitive incentives."

Almunia noted that website publishers are growing increasingly exasperated with the way Google exploits their content. "Recently several European publishers have asked us to go further and put in place mechanisms that would allow them to tell Google exactly how it can use their content – which they claim to be IP protected," he added.

"The reasons for their demands are not difficult to understand, but it is important to realise that competition-law tools have their limits. They cannot be a panacea for issues that relate solely to the nature of IP protection."

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