Europe: investigations opened into Samsung’s strategy against Apple
European regulators are putting together information about Samsung and Apple and their legal battles, with questions about the South Korean group’s use of the FRAND license and patents being asked.
At this time it is simply a request for more information, and not the launch of a legal procedure, but the European Union’s initiative could put Samsung in hot water in their ongoing patent war against Apple – a fierce competitor and essential partner.
While Apple opened the war by attacking the South Korean for patent violations and copying their mobile iOS devices, Samsung – after taking the hits, decided to fire back by stating that their competitor doesn’t pay enough in royalties for the use of their 3G technologies.
Numerous legal actions were opened against these two (including multiple in Europe), but until now, very little action has been taken by the various courts as there was a very big problem: the FRAND license (Fair, Reasonable and Non Discriminatory) which requires patent holders to that are involved in the development of industrial standards to not claim exorbitant licensing fees to try and maintain innovation in the affected sectors.
In numerous cases filed by Samsung, the judges have found that the South Korean group was in conflict with respecting FRAND, although nothing was followed through on. Questioning this system could have heavy consequences on the whole industry, with it leading to increased legal filings and requests of higher license fees, which would lead to degraded working conditions between companies.
We don’t play with the workings of FRAND
This aspect, and its consequences, has attracted the attention of the European Union which wants to know whether Samsung is trying to abuse their position of power through FRAND to gain cause against Apple. If this is the case, then Apple would find themselves in a rather strong position against the South Korean, adding to the numerous victories they have already scored.
Samsung picked up on the European Union’s threat rather quickly, indicating in a press release: "Samsung has at all times remained committed to fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing terms for our wireless standards-related patents. We have received a request for information from the Commission and are cooperating fully. Note that this is a preliminary investigation and the European Commission has not yet determined whether to conduct a full investigation."
While it is true that preliminary investigations are a common occurrence in this industry, it doesn’t rule out the possibility that the accusations could be founded and charged. If the procedure became formal, the Commission could force Samsung to abandon their complaints against Apple in Europe, which would have knock on effects in other countries where the battles are being fought between these two. They would also likely face a fine for their infraction.
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