The European Union’s antitrust chief said probes are close to completion into whether Samsung Electronics Co. and Google Inc. (GOOG:US)’s Motorola Mobility abused key mobile-phone patents in their struggle for supremacy with Apple Inc.
The European Commission’s approach on standard-essential patents will be “clarified” in two separate cases, one concerning Samsung, the other Motorola Mobility, Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said today at an event in Florence, Italy. Decisions are in the “pipeline,” he said. The timing of the decisions “does not depend only on the commission side.”
The EU is cracking down on patent abuses as Google’s Motorola Mobility, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT:US), Apple and Samsung trade victories in divergent court rulings across the world on intellectual property. Almunia has sent statements of objections to Samsung and to Motorola Mobility, laying out the EU’s concerns about possible antitrust violations. Almunia has said he is targeting “rules of the game” to prevent companies from unfairly leveraging their inventions to thwart rivals.
“We have some others in the pipeline but not as advanced as these two” cases, Almunia said. In the Samsung case, the Brussels-based EU regulator is “trying to reach an agreement.”
“I am not anticipating the date of the decision, because it doesn’t depend only on my will,” Almunia told reporters.
Samsung failed to deflect the EU complaint when it announced on Dec. 18 it planned to withdraw injunctions in Europe that seek to block sales of Apple (AAPL:US) products.
Under phone industry agreements on standards, companies owning the rights to essential technology must usually license it to competitors on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms, known as FRAND.
Samsung began seeking injunctions against Apple in courts in EU member countries in 2011, based on alleged infringement of patents for 3G technology, according to the commission.
Samsung’s spokeswoman Rhee So-Eui declined to comment.
The EU opened a similar probe into Motorola Mobility, which makes smartphones that run on Google’s Android software, in April 2012, following complaints by Microsoft and Apple.
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