Ericsson, Sendo begin antitrust legal fight

Companies launch patent infringement, anticompetitive practices lawsuits

Sweden's Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson on Wednesday launched a patent infringement lawsuit against U.K. mobile phone maker Sendo Holdings, the same day Sendo filed documents with the European Competition Commission accusing Ericsson of anticompetitive practices.

Ericsson, based in Stockholm, is seeking an injunction against the continued sale and marketing of Sendo products and is seeking damages, Ericsson said in a statement. Ericsson did not disclose any financial details of the lawsuit.

Saying that it had "no choice," Ericsson is taking the legal action in Germany, the Netherlands and the U.K., claiming that Sendo has not signed a licensing agreement with Ericsson to use its patents covering GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) technologies.

Sendo, in Birmingham, England, said it had been negotiating the issue with Ericsson and was surprised when it learned of Ericsson's actions, calling the lawsuit "unprovoked and unnecessary."

Neither Sendo nor Ericsson officials were immediately available Wednesday to comment further on the issues.

In Sendo's complaint to the European Union's Competition Commission, it charged Ericsson of seeking to license its patents to third parties on an unfair, anticompetitive, abusive and discriminatory basis leading to the charging of excessive royalty rates. That practice in turn restricts competition and excludes new market entrants from operating effectively or at all in the GSM market, Sendo said.

The relatively small Sendo -- it sold about sold 5 million handsets in 2004 -- has proven in the past it is unafraid of legal battles with large corporations. In December 2002, Sendo accused Microsoft of stealing its proprietary technology and trade secrets to use as part of the Redmond, Washington, software giant's efforts to enter the mobile phone market. Last September, the companies reached a settlement before the lawsuit, and Microsoft's counter lawsuit, came to trial.

Though the financial terms of Sendo's settlement with Microsoft were confidential, Microsoft agreed to relinquish its 4 percent stake in Sendo.


Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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