European Commission Opens Investigation into Samsung's Patent Threats Against Apple
The patent dispute between Apple and Samsung has certainly been well-documented as it has expanded to encompass numerous lawsuits and other complaints filed by both sides in a number of different countries. The offensive portion of Samsung's case has centered on 3G-related patents that it owns, but Apple has argued that those patents are essential to basic device operation and must therefore be licensed under FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) terms. Apple's lawyers have also argued that Samsung's proposed licensing terms for those patents have so far not been made in compliance with FRAND standards.
As first reported by FOSS Patents, a new legal filing by Apple in a U.S. case has revealed that the European Commission is indeed investigating Samsung over potential abuse of FRAND-related patents. From the filing:
Samsung has launched an aggressive, worldwide campaign to enjoin Apple from allegedly practicing Samsung's patents. Samsung has sued Apple for infringement and injunctions in no fewer than eight countries outside the United States. Indeed, Samsung's litigation campaign and other conduct related to its Declared-Essential Patents is so egregious that the European Commission recently has opened an investigation to determine whether Samsung's behavior violates EU competition laws.
Reuters also reports that the European Commission has issued a statement acknowledging the investigation, noting that it has requested information from both Samsung and Apple as it enters the early stages of a potential antitrust inquiry.
"The Commission has indeed sent requests for information to Apple and Samsung concerning the enforcement of standards-essential patents in the mobile telephony sector. Such requests for information are standard procedure in antitrust investigations to allow the Commission to establish the relevant facts in a case. We have no other comments at this stage," the EU executive said in a statement.
Apple has won a number of injunctions against Samsung over claims that several Android-based tablets and smartphones infringe upon Apple's design patents. Samsung initially adopted a primarily defensive stance against Apple, but has recently gone on the offensive to assert its 3G patents in an attempt to strengthen its hand in the courts and any potential settlement talks. But with some observers and Apple having argued that Samsung's asserted patents are subject to FRAND terms and judges and regulatory authorities beginning to agree with or at least consider that position, Samsung's efforts may yet backfire on the company.