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EC competition chief points troll-hunting guns at Nokia

Withholds fire, for now

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The EU is erecting the “troll-free zone” signs around the tech sector, with European Commission competition chief Joaquín Almunia saying the EC will guard against US-style patent trolling.

Speaking to the IP Summit 2013 in Paris, Almunia said the EC approved Microsoft's $US7.2 billion acquisition partly because it did not currently expect Nokia to undergo a troll-metamorphosis.

“Since Nokia will retain its patent portfolio, some have claimed that the sale of the unit would give the company the incentive to extract higher returns from this portfolio”, he told the summit (wire stories, such as this from AP, omit the key words “some have claimed” to cast Almunia's remarks as his own belief that Nokia will go a-trolling).

“These claims fall outside the scope of our review. When we assess a merger, we look into the possible anti-competitive impact of the company resulting from it. We cannot consider what the seller will do,” he continued.

“If Nokia were to take illegal advantage of its patents in the future, we will open an antitrust case – but I sincerely hope we will not have to.”

He added that “the claims we dismissed were that Nokia would be tempted to behave like a patent troll or – to use a more polite phrase – a patent assertion entity” (emphasis added).

While specifically excluding excluding Nokia from the list of current concerns, Almunia did note that “these are organisations whose only commercial activity consists in licensing and enforcing patents”, and that while trolling has been less in evidence in Europe than in the US, the EC will continue its watching brief.

The EC “will hold patent trolls to the same standards as any other patent holder”, Almunia said.

The mis-reporting of Almunia's remarks has already led to snipes from the other side of the Atlantic, with Forbes calling his statements about patent assertion entities “manifestly untrue”. ®

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