Microsoft has lodged formal competition charges against Motorola Mobility, the mobile and handset division of Motorola, with the European Commission for alleged abuse of licensing terms for standards-essential patents.
The filing follows a similar antitrust complaint from Apple which came to light on 17 February and could lead to a full investigation of Motorola's Mobility's (MMI) patent licensing agreements, according to software patent expert Florian Mueller.
"With two industry leaders complaining about MMI's alleged abuse of FRAND-pledged, standard-essential patents, the prospects of formal investigations have certainly increased," Mueller said.
"Under its best practice guidelines, the European Commission will presumably make a determination on the launch of full-blown investigations within a few months," he added.
FRAND (Fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) licensing terms apply to technologies that are an essential part of a standard, and as such mean that agreements must be fairly reached.
"Standard-essential patents aren't powerful because of their technical merits. Most of the time they aren't particularly innovative. They're just critical because they cover mandatory parts of standards," Mueller said. "That's the only reason they can't be worked around once they are part of an industry standard. It's key that the owners of such patents act responsibly, and if some of them don't, antitrust intervention is needed."
Both Motorola and Apple said earlier in February that they would not seek injunctions based on standards-essential patents. Google — which was recently given the green-light by US and EU regulators for its purchase of MMI — also said it would not bring legal action based on standard-essential patents.
The EU is already investigating Samsung over patent licensing deals relating to European mobile standards.