Samsung faces EC probe as German Galaxy Tab ban upheld

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Samsung's under investigation by the European Commission over possible monopoly abuse - just as the company learns it's failed in its attempt to overturn a ban on selling the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Germany.

The EC says it plans to look into whether Samsung - in contravention of a commitment it gave to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) - has failed to license essential phone patents on reasonable terms.

The decision to launch a formal investigation follows an initial anti-trust probe in November.

The move follows Samsung's attempts to win injunctions against several of its competitors, claiming they infringed its mobile patents. Samsung and Apple, in particular, have beeing suing each other all over the globe.

"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," it says in a statement.

"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."

Meanwhile, Samsung's had another knock-back in Germany, where it's been trying to overturn a ban on sames of the Galaxy Tab 10.1.

The Dusseldorf Higher Regional Court has concluded that the lower court was right to block sales of the device - although for the wrong reasons.

While the lower court's ruling was based on a finding of a violation of a Community Design - the European equivalent of a US design patent -
the appeals court based its decision on German unfair competition law.

But, says patent expert Florian Mueller, such design-related lawsuits have comparatively little value.

"Preliminary injunctions based on such claims can have a temporary disruptive effect, but the world-spanning dispute between Apple and Samsung primarily hinges on the outcome of the parties' technical patent infringement claims against each other," he says.