EC Hints at Smartphone Patent Probe

6:00 AM -- The European Commission 's vice president for competition, Joaquin Almunia, has for the first time publicly voiced his concern about how certain high-tech companies may be using intellectual property rights unfairly to thwart rivals and distort competition, reports Reuters.

Almunia's decision to speak publicly could signal that an official investigation is in the works.

In particular, the European Commission is looking into the spate of smartphone patent battles between Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Samsung Corp. , but it has not yet launched an official probe. The EC requested information from Apple and Samsung, but Almunia said he has not received answers. (See Euronews: Vodafone Guns for UK Govt Deals.)

And now it appears that Almunia is looking beyond Apple and Samsung and broadening the scope of a potential investigation to include other companies.

Speaking to reporters, Almunia said: "In particular, in the IT sector, it is obvious it is not the only case. Apple and Samsung is only one case where IP rights can be used as an instrument to restrict competition," he said. "Standardisation and IP rights are two instruments that in this new IT sector can be used as a tool to abuse."

Patent blogger Florian Mueller says he thinks Motorola Mobility LLC could be next to get a request for information from Almunia's team regarding its patent litigation against both Apple and Microsoft in Germany.

With the possibility of a European antitrust investigation looming -- which could result in hefty fines of up to 10 percent of a company's revenue -- the smartphone patent wars could get a whole lot messier.

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

Michelle Donegan 12/5/2012 | 5:43:59 PM
re: EC Hints at Smartphone Patent Probe

The European Commission announced today that it opened proceedings against Samsung to determined if the company has "abusively" used its essential patents to distort competition in the European mobile device market.  



Michelle Donegan 12/5/2012 | 5:43:56 PM
re: EC Hints at Smartphone Patent Probe

So with this, Samsung gets the honor of being the first smartphone vendor to be investigated by the EC for how it uses patents.

Shot in the Dark 12/5/2012 | 4:48:12 PM
re: EC Hints at Smartphone Patent Probe

Standards benefit the user community/carriers by commoditizing products and hence driving down the price i.e. everyone is producing the same yellow widget. On the other hand they are anti innovation as equipment vendors can spend huge sums to develop the first of a product and then watch the fruits of their investment evaporate by fast follower immitators competing purely on price. Apple is unique in their "look and feel" inovation which fortunately for them cannot be fully "standardized".

As for the EU anti-trust investigation it is interesting to note that none of the companies supposedly targets are European. Perhaps the EU should concentrate on developing their own technology IP and not using anti-trust litigation as a "revenue source".


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