EU Investigating Samsung for Patent Abuse

The European Commission has launched an investigation into Samsung to determine whether or not the electronics maker is engaging in antitrust-related activities by using its patents to try to control the mobile device market throughout Europe.

Samsung gets an EU investigation over anticompetitive practicesSamsung gets an EU investigation over anticompetitive practices

The commission said in a statement,

In 2011, Samsung 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 honour its irrevocable commitment given in 1998 to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to license any standard essential patents relating to European mobile telephony standards on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.

Samsung has been fighting in courts around the world over claims companies are using its patents without authorization — most notably Apple. Apple has fired back with its own patent infringement lawsuits and has managed to get Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet banned from sale in Germany.

Apple and Samsung have been locked in a legal battle over patent infringement claims for several months. Both companies have alleged that the other’s mobile devices use patented technologies without proper licensing, and have filed lawsuits against each other in the U.S. and other countries. Samsung, however, has been including FRAND-related patents in its cases against Apple.

FRAND refers to patents that are deemed necessary for industry standards, and should be licensed in such a way as to make it reasonable for other companies to use the related technology in their products.

The commission hasn’t said how long it expects the investigation to take. Assuming it rules Samsung has, in fact, engaged in anticompetitive practices and abused its patents, its headaches will likely get bigger as Apple and other tech companies use that to their advantage in court.