EU Investigating Samsung for Potential Patent Abuse

Samsung is facing a new legal headache, although this time it thanks to a European Commission investigation into potential abuse related to FRAND patents instead of an Apple lawsuit. The focus of the investigation is to determine whether or not Samsung has abused its control over patents that have been deemed essential to 3G wireless technology.

The investigation came to light, according to Foss Patents, thanks to a recent counter-claims filing by Apple in California. The filing stated, in part:

Samsung’s efforts to coerce Apple into tolerating Samsung’s imitation have not been limited to the counterclaims here [in California]. Samsung has launched an aggressive, worldwide campaign to enjoin Apple from allegedly practicing Samsung’s patents. Samsung has sued Apple for infringement and injunctions in no fewer than eight countries outside the United States. Indeed, Samsung’s litigation campaign and other conduct related to its Declared-Essential Patents is so egregious that the European Commission recently has opened an investigation to determine whether Samsung’s behavior violates EU competition laws. Apple brings these Counterclaims In Reply to halt Samsung’s abuse and protect consumers, the wireless telecommunications industry, and Apple from further injury.

The EU Commission confirmed it is conducting an investigation through a statement to Reuters.

EU investigating Samsung for patent abuse“The Commission has indeed sent requests for information to Apple and Samsung concerning the enforcement of standards-essential patents in the mobile telephony sector,” the agency said. “Such requests for information are standard procedure in antitrust investigations to allow the Commission to establish the relevant facts in a case.”

The agency’s request for information from Apple isn’t an indicator that it is under investigation as well, Instead, it the EU is collecting as much information as it can about Samsung’s patent-related actions, and Apple is in a very good position to offer up details.

Apple and Samsung have been fighting 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.

A German court upheld an injunction blocking the sale of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet in the country, and the company filed an appeal in hopes of overturning that ruling. Apple was also awarded a temporary injunction through a Dutch court blocking the sale of some Galaxy devices in the European Union, along with an injunction blocking the sale of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet in Australia.

Samsung has requested depositions related to its patent fight from Apple’s vice president of industrial design Jonathan Ive, along with other key Apple employees. Those depositions are due by December 1.

The Commission’s current investigation into Samsung’s patent licensing practices is preliminary, and will help to determine whether or not a full investigation should be conducted.