EU officially charging Samsung over potential patent misuse

Summary:Talk about a lump of coal for Samsung today as the European Commission officially files to charge the tech giant over potential misuse of patents.

After speculation reported earlier this week , the European Commission has filed a formal complaint against Samsung, charging the Korean phone maker over "potential misuse of mobile phone standard-essential patents."

See also: Could Samsung cripple Apple by withholding the next big innovation in mobile?

Published on Friday from the Commission's headquarters in Brussels, the agency is arguing that Samsung has basically "abused" its petitions for injunctions against Apple in the pair's international legal battle.

Here's a snippet:

The European Commission has informed Samsung of its preliminary view that Samsung's seeking of injunctions against Apple in various Member States on the basis of its mobile phone standard-essential patents ("SEPs") amounts to an abuse of a dominant position prohibited by EU antitrust rules. While recourse to injunctions is a possible remedy for patent infringements, such conduct may be abusive where SEPs are concerned and the potential licensee is willing to negotiate a licence on Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (so-called "FRAND") terms. The sending of a Statement of Objections does not prejudge the final outcome of the investigation.

Joaquín Almunia, the vice president in charge of competition policy for the European Commission, didn't mince words in prepared remarks by adding, "When companies have contributed their patents to an industry standard and have made a commitment to license the patents in return for fair remuneration, then the use of injunctions against willing licensees can be anti-competitive."

The patents in question have to do with the European Telecommunications Standardisation Institute's 3G UMTS standard, an adopted industry-standard for mobile and wireless communications.

The Commission described in the statement that "when this standard was adopted in Europe, Samsung gave a commitment that it would license the patents which it had declared essential to the standard on FRAND terms."

But the Commission is peeved now, explaining that Samsung started seeking injunctions against Apple products in various courts around Europe based on alleged infringements regarding 3G UMTS.

The Commission officially opened the investigation back in January. Moving forward into next year, Samsung will have a chance to reply in writing and request an oral hearing to present its case.

After that, the Commission will make a final decision. But if the Commission concludes that there is enough evidence against Samsung, then the government body could slap Samsung with a fine of up to 10 percent of the company’s annual worldwide turnover.

Topics: Legal, Government, Mobility, Patents, Samsung

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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