Only a week since Motorola was given the go-ahead by the European competition authorities to be acquired by Google for $12.5 billion, its sister authority for antitrust matters has been asked by Apple to look into Motorola Mobility for abuse of its patent position.
Apple sent a letter to the European Commission accusing Motorola of violating a promise to licence essential industry-standard patents on fair and reasonable terms.
Also known as FRAND terms, it requires companies with patents to license them out under conditions which do not harm competition, or could be seen as extortionate or too expensive for rival firms.
It was discovered in Motorola's annual report, a 10-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. As the letter was received by Motorola on Friday, it shows that the company only just heard about it.
Explained at the end of page 37:
"On February 17, 2012, the Company received a letter from the European Commission, Competition Directorate-General, (the “Commission”) notifying it that the Commission has received a complaint against Motorola Mobility, Inc. (“MMI”) by Apple, Inc. (“Apple”) regarding the enforcement of MMI’s standards-essential patents against Apple allegedly in breach of MMI’s FRAND commitments.
Apple’s complaint seeks the Commission’s intervention with respect to standards-essential patents."
As sister site CNET nicely puts it: "Apple wants to be left alone."
Apple and Motorola have been engaging with tit-for-tat patent battles for months. Apple has, however, found luck in seeking the help from authorities in relation to its patent disputes. Samsung is already under investigation by European authorities for its handling of patent licensing. If Apple succeeds a second time, Motorola could face a formal antitrust investigation.
The European Commission, which oversees competition and antitrust matters across 27 European member states, can fine companies up to 10 percent of its global annual turnover should it be found to be flaunting Europe's rules.
Image source: Ashleigh Ozment/Flickr
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