EU Challenges China Over Telecom Patents

EU flags in front of the Berlaymont, the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels.

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The European Union has filed suit against China to protect companies’ telecom technology patents, according to a report. 

The European Commission alleged that companies from the EU’s member countries were being discouraged from protecting certain patents in foreign courts. The legal challenges allege Chinese courts have been threatening these companies with heavy fines if they persist, as Reuters reported. In one case, the fines were 130,000 euros (more than $147,000) per day. 

The companies are seeking to protect their standard-essential patents covering mobile tech like 5G connectivity, which smartphone makers license so their devices can meet international standards. The financial pressure to stop protecting their SEP patents has put the companies at a disadvantage when negotiating license fees with Chinese phone manufacturers, according to an official EU statement.

The EU says that since August 2020, Chinese courts have been handing European companies’ “anti-suit injunctions” to prevent them from going to non-Chinese courts to legally protect the companies’ patents, and threatening fines if they do. The European Commission has filed these legal challenges against China with the World Trade Organization, and if the dispute isn’t settled in 60 days, the EU can escalate by requesting the organization set up a ruling panel.

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