EC to investigate Samsung over FRAND patent abuse

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The European Commission has launched an anti-trust investigation into Samsung, over allegations that it's abused FRAND patents as part of its war with Apple.

Samsung's been claiming that Apple violates its patents - which it says Apple doesn't have license to use - and has called for iPads and iPhones to be banned in Europe.

But some of the patents concerned are claimed to be essential to the Universal Mobile Telecommunications Standard (UMTS), and thus licensed under 'Fair, Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory' (FRAND) terms.

The patents Apple is asserting against Samsung, by contrast, relate to proprietary technology.

If the EC concludes that samsung has been acting in an anti-competitive manner by asserting the patents, its case against Apple could crumble.

"In my view, FRAND patent holders can ask for reasonable compensation, but they are not allowed to overcharge or to shut down products as long as an alleged infringer is willing to take a license on FRAND terms (if there actually is an infringement of valid patents)," says patent expert Florian Mueller.

"That view was also shared by a judge in The Hague, Netherlands, who dismissed a Samsung request for a preliminary injunction and held that Samsung had failed to honor its FRAND licensing commitment."

Apple's commented on the FRAND patents in a court filing in California.

"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," reads the filing.

"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."

The weight of legal opinion around the world seems to be shifting in favor of Apple. As well as the knock-back from the Dutch court, Samsung's seen its tablets banned in Australia.