EU to investigate Motorola for patent abuse

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The European Commission has opened two formal antitrust investigations against Motorola Mobility, following complaints from Apple and Microsoft.

It says it plans to examine whether Motorola used certain standard
essential patents to distort competition. The EC recently approved
a merger
between the company and Google, but only on condition that
it licensed its patents on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory
(FRAND) terms - something Apple and Microsoft claim it's failing to
do.

The move makes Google's position increasingly difficult, as it's already facing a European investigation over its dominance in search and online advertising.

The Commission's particularly interested in Motorola's decision to
enforce injunctions against the iPhone, iPad, Windows and Xbox on the basis of patents it had declared essential for standard-compliant products.

By doing so, say Apple and Microsoft, it's failed to honor its FRAND commitments.

It gave these to the relevant standard-setting organisations when the 2G and 3G standards, the H.264 video compression standard and the standards for wireless local area network (WLAN) technologies were adopted.

The EC will also examine Apple and Microsoft claims that Motorola offered unfair licensing conditions for its standard-essential patents, demanding overly-high royalties.

"The case against Motorola's royalty demands is exceptionally strong," says patent expert Florian Mueller.

"It's never easy to determine the appropriate royalty level for patents, but in this case it's a no-brainer that Motorola's demands are, by a huge factor, outside of the FRAND ballpark."