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Ericsson, Sendo in Patent Spat

Two European mobile players are sparring over the licensing rights of some GSM and GPRS technologies.

Sweden-based Ericsson and U.K.-based Sendo wasted little time in their respective claims of patent infringement and unfair business practices.

Ericsson started the ball rolling Thursday when it filed legal papers accusing Sendo of using its technologies in several countries without paying the proper licensing fees. Ericsson is asking the courts in Britain, the Netherlands and Germany for an injunction against the continued sale and marketing of Sendo's mobile phone products, as well as an undisclosed amount of cash for the damages it claims it suffered.

Ericsson said it couldn't understand why Sendo is holding out on the payments since most of the world's manufacturers of GSM/GPRS mobile phones have already joined its patent licensing program.

"Basically, all we ask is that companies who use technology invented by Ericsson compensate us for this, the same way we are prepared to compensate others for our use of their technology," Kasim Alfalahi said. "We believe that Sendo is using Ericsson-patented technology, but they have so far not signed a license agreement with Ericsson. Under these circumstances, we have no choice but to take Sendo to court."

Sendo CEO Hugh Brogan told BBC News that the company was taken aback by the lawsuit.

"We do not want a free ride," Brogan said. "We respect other people's intellectual property. We will pay a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory royalty."

But later in the day, Sendo filed its own complaint with the European Competition Commission under Articles 81 and 82 of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) rules.

Sendo charges that Ericsson licenses its patents to third parties on an "unfair, anti-competitive, abusive and discriminatory basis leading to the charging of excessive royalty rates."

Sendo's claim is that the GSM standard, which was partly funded by the European Union and the corresponding ETSI rules, define the conditions of competition in the market for GSM technology -- not Ericsson.

Sendo has recently been working on expanding its global image. The company, which sold about five million handsets in 2004 compared to the 684 million sold elsewhere around the world, recently unveiled its first handset with a color display and 3D feature screen, as well as its first Bluetooth headset/handset combination.

Sendo has gone head-to-head with larger companies before. The handset maker settled its lawsuit against Microsoft in September 2004.

Sendo accused Microsoft of having a "secret plan" to plunder its proprietary information and technical expertise.