“The European Union’s competition watchdog on Tuesday opened two investigations into whether Motorola Mobility, which is being bought by Google, is unfairly restricting competitors from accessing essential patents,” Gabriele Steinhauser reports for The Associated Press.
“The formal investigations were announced after Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. complained to the European Commission that Motorola Mobility was using injunctions against its rivals’ key products — such as the iPhone, iPad or Xbox — as a way of gaining an edge in the market,” Steinhauser reports. “The Commission is now investigating whether the price Motorola Mobility is demanding for licensing its patents to Apple and Microsoft is excessive and whether its court cases against the two companies break EU competition rules.”
Steinhauser reports, “The Commission said it ‘will assess whether Motorola has abusively, and in contravention of commitments it gave to standard setting organizations, used certain of its standard essential patents to distort competition.’ Under EU competition law, companies that hold patents that are essential for industry standards have to make these available to rivals at a fair price. Standards ensure that devices from different producers can interact seamlessly with widely used networks, technologies and each other.”
“Asked whether the probe was also targeting Google, Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the Commission, said only that the investigation was focused on Motorola Mobility’s present and past behavior, adding that the merger between the two companies has not yet been concluded,” Steinhauser reports. “If the probes confirm the Commission’s suspicions, it could fine Motorola Mobility up to 10 percent of its annual revenue. It is unclear whether Google could ultimately be responsible for paying that penalty since that depends not only on the timing of any offenses but also on the legal details of the takeover agreement between the two companies. Alternatively, Motorola Mobility or Google could also seek to settle the case with the Commission, for instance by promising a change in behavior.”
Read more in the full article here.
Florian Mueller writes for FOSS Patents, “Today’s announcement by Europe’s top antitrust authority also comes at a very interesting timing with a view to developments in Germany, not only Europe’s but even the world’s hotbed of FRAND patent abuse. Germany is the only EU member state in which Motorola is suing Apple and Microsoft over standard-essential patents.”
“The Commission’s decision to launch these formal investigations should serve as food for thought for certain judges in the largest EU member state who have shown a worrying tendency in recent years (and especially in recent months) to put patent law far above antitrust law,” Mueller writes. “Motorola was essentially begging for these investigations… The handset maker kept ratcheting up its aggressive pursuit of injunctive relief against both Apple and Microsoft. In February it also became publicly known that Motorola likens standard-essential patents to bullets in a gun, claiming literally that ‘it only takes one bullet to kill.'”
Mueller writes, “Google is already being investigated by the European Commission for suspicions of abuse of its dominant positions in search and online advertising. Now its $12.5 billion acquisition target Motorola Mobility is being investigated, and if and when Google closes the deal, it will effectively buy itself into two more EU antitrust investigations. It’s time for some people in Mountain View to realize that a multi-front war against competition authorities, on three continents in parallel, is a war that they won’t be able to win.”
Read more in the full article – recommended – here.
MacDailyNews Take: FRANDelicious!
EU considers investigation of Motorola Mobility over complaints brought by Apple and Microsoft – April 2, 2012
Motorola’s alleged double-dipping on iPhone 4S could be massive EU antitrust violation – March 1, 2012
Apple racks up FRAND win against Motorola Mobility in Germany – February 27, 2012
Microsoft joins Apple in FRAND patent fight in EU against Motorola Mobility – February 22, 2012
EU launches full-blown investigation of Samsung’s suspected abuse of FRAND-pledged patents; Motorola on notice – January 31, 2012
EU opens antitrust investigation into Samsung over patents – January 31, 2012