* Tech companies, automakers fighting over access to patents, fees
* Standard essential patents key to internet-linked devices
* Protecting Europe’s technological sovereignty vs other sectors
By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS, March 31 (Reuters) - EU antitrust regulators are asking Daimler, Continental and other car parts suppliers for details of failed mediation talks with Nokia, raising hopes that enforcers may step in to resolve a patent licensing fee dispute.
Daimler and Continental, along with Bury Technologies, Valeo and Thales-owned Gemalto, complained to the European Commission last year about the fees Nokia was demanding for patents related to car communications.
The spat highlights a wider battle between tech companies and the car industry over royalties for technologies crucial to navigation systems, vehicle communications and self-driving cars.
With Nokia and Ericsson seen as champions, Europe wants to protect its technological sovereignty, while others say this should not be at the expense of other equally important European industries such as the auto sector.
Nokia earlier this year initiated mediation discussions with the companies which sources said ended earlier this month without agreement. EU competition enforcers now want to know what happened, the people said.
“We can confirm that the European Commission has sent us a request for information,” Daimler said in an emailed statement.
The Commission declined to comment, saying that its investigation was ongoing.
Nokia said it has made fair licensing offers to automakers, tier-1 suppliers and through a collective licensing pool to other players.
“Nokia has made several fair settlement offers to both Daimler and its tier-1 suppliers including Continental but unfortunately those offers have been rejected,” the company said in an email.
Continental, which is seeking a direct license for Nokia’s essential patents for 3G and 4G, said it would pursue its antitrust complaint against the Finnish telecoms equipment maker with the Commission following the failed mediation.
“Without access to the respective licenses Continental and other suppliers are not able to develop, manufacture or sell important technology for future automotive and non-automotive applications,” the German car parts maker said in a March 17 statement. (Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)