updated 10/1/2007 8:40:27 AM ET 2007-10-01T12:40:27

European Union antitrust regulators are investigating U.S. wireless technologies company Qualcomm for possible abusive business practices, European officials said Monday.

Qualcomm, the world's second-largest chipmaker for cell phones, may have violated EU competition rules by refusing to share licensing terms for its mobile phone technology, EU spokesman Jonathan Todd told reporters. EU investigators had upgraded their probe to "priority status" to complete the investigation as soon as possible, he said.

The probe could still take up to two years, Todd said. Six mobile phone companies including Broadcom Corp., NEC Corp., Nokia Corp., LM Ericsson, Panasonic Mobile Communications and Texas Instruments Inc., had filed complaints with the EU over Qualcomm's practices, Todd said.

Competitors say Qualcomm's royalty fees for next-generation mobile phone chips were too high and thus broke agreements among patent holders to keep costs at a reasonable level.

"They claim that Qualcomm is not making the necessary intellectual property rights available ... on conditions that are fair, reasonable and non discriminatory," Todd said.

Steve Altman, president of Qualcomm Inc., said the EU probe would give the company the opportunity "to demonstrate that the complaints are without merit and are motivated by commercial considerations."

Altman said in a statement that the complaints were being used by Qualcomm rivals "stifle the competition" his company brings to market.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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