European antitrust regulators: Global patent battle could be 'used as tool for abuse'

European antitrust regulators: Global patent battle could be 'used as tool for abuse'

Summary: Europe's antitrust chief warns that the global dispute between technology companies over mobile phone patents could be "used as a tool of abuse"

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European regulators investigating both Apple and Samsung over their ongoing patent dispute are worried that intellectual property rights could be used as weaponry by companies, in order to subdue their rivals or limit innovation, Europe's antitrust chief said today.

The European Commission earlier this month asked both Apple and Samsung for additional details on the disputed patents, used as standards in the cellular industry.

Both companies are locked in a bitter patent battle which began in April, that has since spread to over 10 countries.

Speaking to reporters, Europe's Competition Commissioner said: "We requested information from both Apple and Samsung. We have not yet received the answers. We need to look at this because intellectual property rights can be used as a distortion of competition but we will need to look at the answers".

"In the IT sector, it is obvious it is not the only case. Apple and Samsung is only one case where intellectual property  rights can be used as an instrument to restrict competition", he said, adding that both standardisation and intellectual property rights are two instruments that can be "used as a tool of abuse".

It is thought that companies could gain advantage over others, particularly direct rivals or competitors, if sales bans are granted in courts, previously seen in Germany and Australia where Apple secured injunctions against the sale of Samsung's Galaxy Tab products.

Samsung's Galaxy Tab is thought to be the greatest competitor to Apple's iPad. The tablet recently underwent a design face-lift in a bid to appease Apple's lawyers, after Samsung's tablet was blocked for sale in October. A U.S. district judge said only last month that Apple's patents were infringed upon by Samsung, after Samsung's lawyers struggled to determine which tablets were which, when held up by the judge.

But Apple has not been completely on the winning-stick of the patent war, after a regional court in Germany temporarily banned U.S. based Apple Inc. from marketing or supplying its iPhone or iPad in the country, following a suit brought by Motorola.

If European antitrust rules are broken, companies can be fined up to 10 percent of their global turnover, which could end up in tens of millions of Euros, the region's single currency.

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Topics: Apple, Enterprise Software, Government, Government US, Hardware, Legal, Mobility, Samsung, Smartphones

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7 comments
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  • RE: European antitrust regulators: Global patent battle could be 'used as tool for abuse'

    Are you watching Microsoft, I sure do hope B&N give you a good spanking.
    Alan Smithie
    • Apple and Samsung have more to worry about with this

      @Alan Smithie
      MS isn't under investigation for being a patent troll. Both Apple and Samsung are. So Apple and Samsung have far more to be worried about. And Apple is the only major company in a long time to actually get products banned and to actually bankrupt competitors with their patent attacks.

      In fact, it would be interesting to see who has benefited (and been hurt) by patents. There is no doubt that Apple is reaping the benefits of patent trolling but MS has probably paid out far more patent related money than they have ever collected. Adding oversight to the patent troll situation would actually hurt Apple and help MS a lot.
      toddybottom
      • RE: European antitrust regulators: Global patent battle could be 'used as tool for abuse'

        @toddybottom <br>Ok, so you have no idea about the situation between B&N and Microsoft (which is what the OP was commenting on and what you replied to).<br><br>As for Apple and Samsung. I would think it's beneficial for both companies if regulators stepped in to stop them from getting each others products banned. Apple probably violates some of Samsung's patents and vice-versa; given our current patent system, it's almost impossible to be otherwise. If they continue on their current path, I would imagine both sides would be banned from some markets.<br><br>As for MS, they paid for intentionally infringing on the IP of other smaller companies as was proven in court. No matter how laws change, I would hope that kind of behavior will still not be allowed. If they want to make money from their products, then they should come up with their own technology. What should be changed is bullying tactics used to get people to pay for patents that have 43 pages of prior arts.
        anono
      • RE: European antitrust regulators: Global patent battle could be 'used as tool for abuse'

        @anono
        Ok, so you have no idea about the situation between Apple and Samsung and the EU investigation (which is what the topic of the article is about and somebody else was hi-jacking this thread by throwing an unrelated spin on Microsoft and B&N).

        As for Apple and Samsung. Don't forget who drew first blood. For the obtuse, it is Apple who started all this legal mess by suing Samsung first and it is Apple who is acting as a patent troll, attempting to prevent competition through litigation...

        A monopoly isn't illegal. Anti-competitive behavior is.

        [i]~~~~~~~~~~
        If you can't compete, litigate!
        {Marketing 101}

        The man who strikes first admits that his ideas have given out.
        {Chinese Proverb}[/i]
        WinTard
  • A Patent Is A Monopoly.

    Monopolies are, by definition, anti-competitive. Since a patent is a monopoly, this means patents are anti-competitive, simple as that. They are a hangover from the (pre-capitalist) mercantilist-protectionist era, when it was thought that competition was bad for business. They have no place in a modern, competitive free market.
    ldo17
    • There are still a lot of people...

      @ldo17 <br>...who believe that competition is bad for business. The attitude is not incompatible with capitalism, as long it's consumers competing for goods and workers competing for jobs; not entrepreneurs competing for employees and customers.

      Edit:

      Let's rephrase that, shall we? Competition is a necessary element of a free market, but it is not a necessary element of capitalism. The late John D. Rockefeller (the world's first billionaire) even advocated a "cooperative capitalism" on the theory that economic competition was bad for everyone. In practice, I think most people think that economic competition is good for "other people" (not themselves) and corporate executives are not an exception.
      John L. Ries
      • Competition isn't essential for Capitalism, it is for a working version

        Capitalism simply requires private ownership of economic inputs. Competition is what benefits consumers in a capitalist economy.

        The patent system (much like the stealing by governments) is designed is anti-competitive, designed by rent seeking corporations. Companies should use every legal tool to maximise returns for shareholders, but as the Commission is flagging it is not in the interest of consumers.

        Adam Smith's invisible hand works best with a competitive marketplace for buyers and sellers.

        OT: It's wonder classical economics theories are returning to prominence as ridiculous Keynesian aggregate demand continues to fail in big government response to economic challenges.
        Richard Flude