Daimler must buy operating licences from Nokia to use patented 4G technologies in its cars, a German regional court has ruled, delivering a blow to the Mercedes-Benz owner in a long-running intellectual property dispute.
Should Nokia decide to enforce the ruling, Daimler could be forced to stop selling some of its vehicles in Germany, or strip its models of the ability to connect to the internet.
However, Nokia would need to place a €7bn deposit in order to do so, to cover any counterclaims in the event of the ruling being overturned by a higher court.
“We do not understand the decision of the Mannheim Regional Court and will appeal against it,” Daimler in a statement, adding that it did “not expect any stoppage of production or sales”.
The case is one of 10 filed by Nokia in various German courts, alleging that unlike most other major automakers, Daimler has refused to buy a licence for the use of 2G, 3G and 4G cellular technologies installed in its cars that are crucial for navigation services and semi-autonomous driving.
A similar case was dismissed by the Mannheim court earlier this year.
In its legal filings, Nokia maintains that it offered Daimler a fair price for the licences and that it is entitled to recoup the costs associated with the research and development of its technologies, which amounted to more than €4bn last year.
However, the Stuttgart-based carmaker says its suppliers, including Continental, who build the telematic control units in which connected technologies are housed, should be the licensees, rather than the car manufacturer itself.
Daimler and Continental also claim that Nokia has refused to grant the supplier a licence directly, a claim denied by the Finnish telecoms company.
Separately, a complaint has been filed by Daimler and Continental with the European Commission, alleging anti-competitive practices.
In its ruling on Tuesday, the Mannheim court said neither Daimler nor Continental “were seriously willing or prepared to conclude a licence agreement with the applicant on [fair and reasonable] terms”.
Nokia said the ruling was a “major endorsement of the long-term engineering work by innovators at Nokia and the important principle that innovators should receive a fair reward for the use of their inventions”.
“We hope that Daimler will now accept its obligations and take a licence on fair terms,” it added.
Continental said it found the Mannheim decision “incomprehensible” and that, as a result, “intervention by the European Commission seems more important than ever”.
Earlier this month, Daimler announced it would spend more than $2.2bn to settle various outstanding claims in the US over the diesel emissions of 250,000 passenger cars and vans.
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