EC to take antitrust action against Samsung "soon"
Despite the Korean firm's decision to withdraw injunction claims against Apple, it is likely to face formal charges over patents
Published: 21 December, 2012
Despite Samsung's sudden decision not to pursue injunctions against Apple products in its European lawsuits against its rival, the European Union is set to charge the Korean firm with antitrust offences soon all the same.
Samsung's withdrawal of injunction claims this week (it will still pursue royalties) was widely seen as a bid to stave off EU action by addressing one of the concerns of an ongoing preliminary probe by the Competition Commission - the use of product bans in patent lawsuits, especially when the actions center on IPR that is essential to standards.
However, the Reuters news agency spoke to Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, who said his department will "issue a statement of objections very soon" against Samsung. He did not say what would be included in that, but it will follow a year-long investigation into the Korean giant's business practices, sparked by the legal tussles with Apple.
The European Commission announced last November that it had launched a preliminary investigation into Samsung's patent policies, particularly whether it used standards-essential IPR to disadvantage competitors or was violating its commitment to the ETSI standards body to offer Frand (fair reasonable and non-discriminatory) licensing terms.
In January, the EC said that Samsung had "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. The Commission will investigate, in particular, whether in doing so Samsung has failed to honor its irrevocable commitment given in 1998 [to ETSI] to license any standard essential patents relating to European mobile telephony standards" on Frand terms."
Samsung said when it withdrew its injunction bids: "Samsung remains committed to licensing our technologies on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms, and we strongly believe it is better when companies compete fairly in the marketplace, rather than in court. In this spirit, Samsung has decided to withdraw our injunction requests against Apple on the basis of our standard essential patents pending in European courts, in the interest of protecting consumer choice."
Also in patent-related news, Nokia and RIM have agreed to settle their litigation and sign a new licensing agreement, which includes a one-time payment and ongoing fees, all from RIM to Nokia. Beyond that, the terms were not disclosed. The agreement will result in settlement of all existing patent litigation between the companies and withdrawal of pending actions in the US, UK and Canada related to a recent arbitration tribunal decision.
Nokia signed a cross-licensing agreement with RIM covering standards-essential patents in 2003, a deal that was amended in 2008. RIM sought arbitration in March 2011 with the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, arguing the licence should be extended to cover WLan patents. The Swedish arbitrator ruled last month that RIM was in breach of contract and was not entitled to manufacture or sell WLan products without first agreeing royalties with Nokia. Nokia then sought to have the ruling enforced in the US, UK and Canada.