EU to Qualcomm competitors: So how's that competition going?

Sell mobile chips in Europe? Regulators have questions

Qualcomm may have settled its antitrust issues in China but EU regulators are still scrutinizing the chipmaker closely, a new report claims.

The European Commission has sent questionnaires to Qualcomm competitors in Europe, Reuters reports, asking them to weigh in on the US firm's business practices.

Among the roughly 40 items on the survey are questions about how companies feel about patent cross licenses and mutual non-assertion pacts, where Qualcomm and other companies agree not to sue over each other's respective patents.

The EC would also like input on Qualcomm's practice of passing rights to patents it has licensed from other companies on to its partner phone makers.

Such probes have become a worrying nuisance for Qualcomm, which has just settled a dispute with China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) by paying a fine of nearly $1bn.

China's regulators had ruled that Qualcomm held a monopoly over mobile chips in the region and that it had abused its dominant position by charging Chinese firms unfair and discriminatory prices, particularly when it came to licensing its extensive portfolio of patents covering mobile phone technologies.

Qualcomm denied the charges but decided to pay the fine rather than face the wrath of the Chinese government, which potentially could have shut it out of all-important Asian markets. No sooner had Qualcomm and the People's Republic made nice, however, than South Korea launched an antitrust probe of its own over similar allegations of market abuses.

The current EC inquiry into Qualcomm's practices is just one of two challenges the chipmaker faces in Europe. The other probe was launched by a complaint from Nvidia's Icera wireless modem chip division – which, ironically perhaps, Nvidia said this week that it plans to wind down.

The companies that received the EC's questionnaire reportedly have until mid-May to respond. ®

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