EU officially charging Samsung over potential patent misuse

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.

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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

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30 comments
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  • Good!

    It's about time someone opened their eyes and see what Samsung is really doing.
    athynz
    • But unlike you, I see the flaw in the EC's rationalization

      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.

      At no point has Apple agreed to actually license the Standard Essential Patents.
      Letophoro
      • Because the terms have not been UnFair, they have been UnReasonable...

        And discriminatory?

        Like Google, could Samsung be trying to go for UUAD terms and not FRAND.

        Could be???
        Bruizer
    • They seem to have judged that the patents are valid, hence abuse may be ppr

      Strange how this 'weakens' any case against Apple. Quite the contrary in that the EU is effectively siding with Samsung and delivering a knock-out decision to Samsung. This is gonna be good !
      johnmckay
  • Great news. Now they need to do the same thing to Googolrola

    Same sep abuse of frand patents.
    Johnny Vegas
    • They will, EU investigates Google/Motorola for the same FRAND-abuse

      The subject.
      DDERSSS
      • It's a shame you can't have an open mind.

        List what Apple are willing to bring to the table, against what they expect to take. They bring nothing but want it all. How many other devices can use an Apple connector? How many others can connect to itunes? I rest my case.

        And this story just proves Apple cannot contest the patents in question. It's that simple. Samsung hold 4 aces, maybe 5 (Apple zealots will believe that anyway).
        johnmckay
  • "Potential?"

    This is really messed up if someone can be charged for "potential" misconduct rather than "actual" misconduct.

    Let's see...I own a car, so I can be charged with potentially running someone over and potentially leaving the scene of the crime.

    I own a baseball bat, so I could be charged with potentially beating their pointy little heads to a pulp.

    I won't even comment on how many castrations I could potentially perform with my set of chef's knives.

    Since when is potential something that is legally actionable?
    jvitous
    • Just like someone is considered 'alleged' before conviction...

      there is no conviction here. It's an allegation.
      msalzberg
      • Also, intent is real "crime" in many cases; even if Samsung did not really

        ... succeed with banning Apple products over 3G patents, the intent itself could be punishable.
        DDERSSS
  • Eurocrats clearly inhabit a separate reality

    Can we get some of what they're smoking? Or is the wind just blowing towards Brussels from Amsterdam?
    Vesicant
  • It may seem unfair...

    But this is the whole point of FRANDing a patent... that you basically agree to license it fairly rather than using it defensively or offensively. While it's true Samsung is doing this in order to try and defend itself from Apple's aggressive legal actions, the fact remains that they're not allowed to do it.

    Unfortunately, the most likely outcome of this isn't to stop or punish Samsung for doing something inappropriate - it's going to cause everyone to stop and rethink how smart FRANDing is in the first place.

    FRAND patents are almost always critical. They represent very valuable and powerful patents and the company who does it inherently puts themselves at risk. The benefit is that by having standards like the 3G UMTS, the company with the patent gets an assured return on the patent and can generally make the most successful products by way of having the strongest knowledge of the technology.

    But it also means if someone goes after the company aggressively - their hands are tied when it comes to using their more powerful defenses.

    In the end, while I understand why the EU is doing this - and they're technically correct to do so - I think it will end badly for everyone.
    TheWerewolf
    • it is very unfair

      and the EU people will rise against this injustice!
      LlNUX Geek
    • Good post

      I think this is the best post so far.

      "it's going to cause everyone to stop and rethink how smart FRANDing is in the first place"

      So we end up without implementable standards. apple wins the battle, consumers lose the war.

      We already see apple withholding patents in order to embrace, extend, and extinguish the HTML standard and replace it with the webkit standard.

      http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2012/12/microsoft-offers-patches-to-webkit-to-aid-touch-compatibility/

      Here is the order of events:
      1. apple EMBRACES html.

      2. apple EXTENDS html with a proprietary extension called Touch Events.

      3. Mobile websites everywhere start using this extended proprietary API because 95% of all mobile web traffic is done with webkit browsers (is this beginning to sound familiar?).

      4. W3C drafts a standard based on Touch Events so that ALL browsers, even those that dare to not have a huge majority, can work with all mobile web sites (is this beginning to sound familiar?).

      5. apple EXTINGUISHES the html standard by forcing the W3C to abandon the standard after apple refuses to commit to offering royalty free access to apple patents involved in implementing the standard. apple doesn't want an html standard, they want a webkit "standard" defined by whatever apple feels like including in webkit and suing the authors of all competing browser engines who attempt to be compatible with the non standard proprietary apple extensions that web developers are using because apple has such a huge monopoly on the mobile web browser engine market. This FORCES every other browser to either implement webkit or die.

      6. Microsoft, Google, Mozilla, Opera, jQuery, and a few other big players contribute to a new W3C standard called Pointer Events: "Microsoft, unlike Apple, is participating in W3C's standardization process and has made the intellectual property commitments that W3C demands"

      7. Microsoft implements Pointer Events in webkit and submits it.

      8. apple refuses to accept Microsoft's patch because: "Pointer Events spec had (unspecified) problems and that there was no point in supporting Pointer Events until real Web content used it." No point in supporting a standard until real web content used it? Huh. Back when every web developer was supporting MS "standards" apple certainly didn't have that attitude.

      9. apple is given every opportunity to join in the design process but they refuse: "Another Google developer invited Apple to join the Pointer Events Working Group to help improve the specification and address those unspecified problems, but thus far Apple appears to be unwilling to participate."

      Now, before you guys freak out and respond with "but MS did this" remember that this is the point. MS did this. They got in trouble for doing it. They got slammed for doing it. So slam apple now for their Embrace, Extend, and Extinguish tactic on web standards. We were promised that apple would be nicer. We were lied to.
      toddbottom3
      • tl;dr

        But I bet I can summarize:

        1: Apple sucks.
        2: Apple sucks.
        3: Apple sucks.
        4: [insert obligatory defamatory lie here]
        5: Apple sucks.
        .
        .
        .
        9: Apple sucks.

        What do you think, Gutless todd? Pretty much captured it, yeah?
        msalzberg
        • So where in your post did you

          Deny anything Todd said, or disprove anything he said?

          Sorry fail on your part!
          I agree fully that company's should be pulled up if they try and unfairly block others, I'm all ways surprise how often people fail to see how Apple tries (and in some areas are succeeding) to control and eliminate competition!
          iPod's are the first and most obvious proof of this, what's wrong with the MP3 or other open formats? But no, not only did they use their own format the tied it in with their own iTunes software and cloud. Surely that's anti-competitive?
          martin_js
          • Where in my post did I ...

            try to disprove anything he said? I didn't read his post: I didn't need to. He's been posting the same rabid anti-Apple stuff for years under different names.

            As to the iPod, remember that the record labels forced them to use DRM. Look it up. That 'own format' they used? AAC, otherwise known as MP4, the industry standard successor to the MP3 format. The iPod also played MP3's, which didn't have to be purchased at the iTMS. Seriously, did you sleep through the last decade?
            msalzberg
          • Why did you comment on his post then?

            If you didn't read his post, why bother commenting?
            Jules_01
          • I think he explained that

            FYI, Bottom = perennial plonker, not worth a pint, will always pillory Apple even if they cured cancer, got world peace sorted and provided everyone with beer and crisps. Will always praise Microsoft even if they caused the apocalypse or molested hobbits. Really, he's only worthwhile reading if you're contemplating something dire.

            Mind you, most bloggers aren't much better. Perhaps this is just a sign of the collapse of sanity in the wider world.
            ego.sum.stig
      • todd .. couldn't agree more

        I smell rotten Apples in this whole, gawd awful sh!tty mess. methinks the EU Commission are brought to us by, and apparently paid for by, none other than Apple Corporation.

        So when Apple patent troll .. it's all kosher ... but when MS, Google, Samsung, etc do it they get slammed for completely bogus and phony Anti-Trust law-suits.

        " ... So we end up without implementable standards. apple wins the battle, consumers lose the war. "

        You're dead right. This happy horsesh!t putting all the cards in Apple's hands MUST end or the Customer really is pooch scr3wed - for true choice & price - in the long run.
        thx-1138_