EU opens antitrust investigation into Samsung over patents

The European Commission has opened a formal investigation to assess whether Samsung Electronics has abusively, and in contravention of a commitment it gave to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), used certain of its standard essential patent rights to distort competition in European mobile device markets, in breach of EU antitrust rules. The opening of proceedings means that the Commission will examine the case as a matter of priority. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

In 2011, Samsung sought injunctive relief in various Member States’ courts against competing mobile device makers based on alleged infringements of certain of its patent rights which it has declared essential to implement European mobile telephony standards. The Commission will investigate, in particular, whether in doing so Samsung has failed to honour its irrevocable commitment given in 1998 to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to license any standard essential patents relating to European mobile telephony standards on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. The Commission will examine whether such behaviour amounts to an abuse of a dominant position prohibited by Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU).

In line with the Commission’s Guidelines on standardisation agreements (see IP/10/1702 and MEMO/10/676), standard setting organisations, including ETSI, require the owners of patents that are essential for the implementation of a standard to commit to license these patents on FRAND terms. This commitment serves to ensure effective access to the standardised technology. Such commitments were given to ETSI by many patent holders, including Samsung, when the third generation (“3G”) mobile and wireless telecommunications system standards were adopted in Europe.

In order to guarantee undistorted competition and to reap the positive economic effects of standardisation it is important that FRAND commitments be fully honoured by the concerned undertakings.

Source: European Commission

MacDailyNews Take: This is what Samsung gets for trying to use FRAND patents against Apple to defend against their indefensible slavish copying of Apple’s patented (non-FRAND) IP. May Samsung be hit with maximum pain.

[Attribution: Reuters. Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]

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Apple scores legal victory over Samsung in Italy – January 9, 2012
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Samsung threatens to step up patent fight with ‘free riding’ Apple Inc. – September 23, 2011
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  1. The European Commission has serious indications of abuse otherwise they wouldn’t have started a formal investigation. Samsung is in big trouble. It’s also a warning for Motorola not to use FRAND patents against Apple.

  2. Oh, Gawd, but I am happy today! Sometimes (but not always, of course) it is just as good to see your enemies LOSE as it is to see your allies WIN. And if both happen at the same time . . . EUREKA!

  3. BOOM.
    Many of us watched Samsung’s attempted abuse of FRAND patents against Apple, but did we really believe it would (rightfully) come back to bite Samsung?

    This is great news for Apple and all other fair players, and consumers, in the technology world.

  4. Looks like all these lawsuits are finally going to produce a meaningful outcome. I was beginning to get disheartened.

    It has already been far too long though. I don’t see why they can’t just throw cases out right away that are obviously frivolous, like Samsung suing against their FRAND patents. Doing that and slapping a huge fine would definitely thin out the system and speed up the time for verdicts on the suits that actually matter.

  5. About time, samesung need a good swift kick in the bank account for their shameful behaviour.

    Tis also about time the European Commission made themselves usefull for once (I live in the UK).

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