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Samsung and Motorola Mobility Censured Over European Patents Behaviour

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The European Commission has settled two separate but related patent disputes with Samsung and Motorola Mobility covering standards essential patents.

Both companies had tried to use their patents in lawsuits against Apple, but were investigated over allegations that they abused their position in holding patents that are essential to mobile phones.

The regulator ruled Motorola had abused its position while Samsung settled its case.

Samsung has offered binding commitments to the European Commission not to seek future injunctions in Europe on the basis of its standard essential patents (SEPs) for smartphones and tablets against licensees who sign up to a specified licensing framework. Under this framework, any dispute over what are fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms for the SEPs in question will be determined by a court, or if both parties agree, by an arbitrator.

For Motorola, the Commission found that the company's attempt to seek and enforcement of an injunction against Apple before a German court on the basis of a smartphone standard essential patent constitutes an abuse of a dominant position prohibited by EU antitrust rule.

The Commission also found it anticompetitive that Motorola insisted, under the threat of the enforcement of an injunction, that Apple give up its rights to challenge the validity or infringement by Apple's mobile devices of Motorola SEPs.

The Commission has ordered Motorola to eliminate the negative effects resulting from it.

The Motorola Mobility SEPs in question relate to the European Telecommunications Standardisation Institute's (ETSI) GPRS standard, part of the GSM standard, which is a key industry standard for mobile and wireless communications. When this standard was adopted in Europe, Motorola Mobility declared some of its patents as being essential and gave a commitment that it would license the patents which it had declared essential to the standard on FRAND terms.

Motorola only managed to avoid a fine because that there is no case-law by the European Union Courts dealing with the legality of SEP-based injunctions and that national courts have so far reached diverging conclusions on this question.

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Tags: european union  motorola mobility  samsung