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EU patent rule, disputed by Nokia and Ericsson, gets key EU lawmakers' vote

FILE PHOTO: Nokia releases third quarter results

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU draft rules aimed at avoiding spats over patents essential to technologies for telecoms equipment and connected cars were approved by a key EU lawmakers' group on Wednesday, despite criticism from Nokia, Ericsson and other patent holders.

The European Commission proposed the draft rules in April last year, seeking to end costly and lengthy litigation over patents used in technologies for telecoms equipment, mobile phones, computers, connected cars and smart devices.

The draft rules need to be thrashed out with European Union countries and EU lawmakers before they can become law.

A committee at the European Parliament tasked with preparing lawmakers' position backed the proposals on Wednesday, which will need approval from the legislative assembly in the coming weeks before kicking off negotiations with EU governments.

Nokia, Ericsson and Siemens, in a joint letter to EU lawmakers published earlier this month, drew the committee's attention to concerns from the European Patent Office, standard-setting body ETSI and other bodies on the draft rules, asking it to take a closer look.

Nokia's head of IP policy Collette Rawnsley told Reuters last year that the proposals appeared one-sided, with additional obligations, burdens and costs falling on so-called standard essential patent (SEP) owners rather than implementers.

Lobbying group IP Europe, which counts Nokia, Ericsson and Qualcomm as its members, told EU lawmakers that the proposed rules would compromise European leadership in 5G and 6G and other critical technologies and redistribute revenues in favour of foreign device manufacturers.

Lawmaker Bart Groothuis, who opposes the draft rules, questioned the necessity for them.

"The SEP proposal is a solution looking for a problem. Of course, we see cases in courts but they are functioning," he told Reuters, saying it may even prompt China to propose a similar policy to the disadvantage of European businesses.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Mark Potter)