EU sends Motorola antitrust charges over Apple patent litigation

EU sends Motorola antitrust charges over Apple patent litigation

Summary: The smartphone making division of Google is sent a formal list of complaints by the EU for allegedly abusing its position in the market over recent patent litigation with Apple.

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The European Commission has sent Motorola, a division of Google, a formal list of complaints over how it conducts its patent litigation and subsequent enforcement.

The EU said in a statement today that Motorola had been informed of its allegations — what is known as a formal "statement of objections" — claiming that the smartphone maker had abused its market position by seeking and enforcing a patent-related injunction against Apple.

The iPhone and iPad maker was told by a court in Germany that it must stop using a networking patent relating to GPRS technology. But Motorola could find itself in trouble because while a court sided with Motorola, Apple declared it was willing to pay royalties to its rival.

Arguing that these patents are essential to the wider industry for interoperability and core functionality, such injunctions can be brought against other firms but not if a potential licensee was willing to agree on negotiated terms.

Apple filed a complaint with the Commission accusing Motorola of turning its back on "fair and reasonable" (FRAND) licensing terms.

Licensing deals of patents essential to the industry requires companies' license out their inventions under conditions that do not harm competition, or could be seen as extortionate or too expensive for rival firms.

The Commission said in a statement today that "considers at this stage that dominant [standards-essential patent] holders should not have recourse to injunctions, which generally involve a prohibition to sell the product infringing the patent, in order to distort licensing negotiations and impose unjustified licensing terms on patent licensees."

Arguing this in breach of European competition and antitrust law, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in prepared remarks:

The protection of intellectual property is a cornerstone of innovation and growth. But so is competition. I think that companies should spend their time innovating and competing on the merits of the products they offer — not misusing their intellectual property rights to hold up competitors to the detriment of innovation and consumer choice."

If EU antitrust laws have been broken, as its parent company, Google could be fined up to 10 percent of Motorola's global annual revenue for infringing years, amounting to as much as $1.3 billion (€0.99bn).

Topics: Patents, Google, Smartphones

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38 comments
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  • get the government off Google's back!

    the EU bureaucrats should stop immediateley harrassing US companies and let the market decide the winner.
    LlNUX Geek
    • Awesome Logic!

      By your reasoning, Microsoft would be ruling the world by itself right now. Microsoft could have locked out so many companys by not allowing them in on their operating system that there would not be an iOS right now, or any other. How would you like it if Microsoft only allowed IE and Bing on their operating system? There would be no Google today, or Android. Laws such as FRAND make the market more competitive, and competition spurs innovation. Competition is good for the consumer. If you allowed a company to block out whoever it wants from using a technology, the world would be run by monopolies.
      rickgarrison
      • Really?

        Where are the Apple clones? As I remember it, Apple was unwilling to license there OS to other computer manufacturers. Apple basically builds PCs now, they use the same hardware to the point where Windows will run on a Mac. They add an extraneous piece of circuitry, without which, OS X will not run on a PC.
        pfrench@...
        • OS X is not essential to the competition

          The ruling was about the essential nature of Motorola's patent. OS X is essential only to Apple.
          jomali3945
          • Microsoft

            How is Windows any different that OS X?

            Quote from the article I responded to:

            "Microsoft could have locked out so many companys (sic) by not allowing them in on their operating system that there would not be an iOS right now, or any other."

            You Apple fans are all alike, Apple can do no wrong.
            pfrench@...
          • Dunce

            No, you're just not able to understand.
            furious00
          • It's not that Apple can do no wrong

            They can and have - but YOU cannot see the flaw that completely invalidates your theory.
            NonFanboy
          • Absolutely not an Apple fan!!!!!

            If that is what you gleaned from my response, you are an idiot. I am completely anti-Apple. I think Apple runs their company like borderline Socialists/Communists. If I buy a product, I should have the right to put whatever I want on it, or make any changes to it I want, especially if I pay more for that product. I will never buy a Mac, and constantly try to talk people out of buying one. The only way I would advertise an iphone, is only if it is jailbroken. Apple would not even exist today without Microsoft. Apple was about to go under in the 90's, during the time the Governement was after Microsoft about them becomming a monopoly. So Bill Gates bailed out Apple by purchasing a large amount of shares of the company, which kept Microsoft in tact, and kept Apple afloat, until they came out witht he iPod, and started generating a profit again. I am an IT tech/Networking admin, so I am naturally a PC man.
            rickgarrison
          • Why do ignorant people keep telling the same lie??

            Here is clue to the ignorant: MS was PAYING OFF a legal debt to Apple when they were found guilty for LITERALLY stealing Apple code to develop Media Player.

            This crap about Bill Gates bailing out Apple is nothing but pure BS perpetuated by ignorant people who does not spend 5 seconds verifying the garbage they read on the web.
            wackoae
          • In fact

            Apple was at one time in serious trouble and yes Microsoft did help them out albeit for their own reasons. Suggest you check your facts.
            rickscr
          • You must be an Apple Fanboy

            Nice little rant there wackoae. You should have heeded your own advice before you made it. If the garbage you are referring to is what I read on Marketwatch, WSJ, and on the SEC's official website, then you are in true denial. This was an official transaction, that has an official filing with the SEC. Shares traded hands. ANd Bill Gates did not buy shares of Apple to pay off a legal debt. He did it so Microsoft would not be declared a monopoly by the US Governement, and broken up the way AT&T was went they went through the same thing.
            Do a little bit of research, you will be surprised that you can add knowledge. But, maybe you are past the point of that, and can only resort to bashing accurate facts on discussion threads. Hint: This bailout mysteriously happened just before Steve Jobs came back to Apple.
            rickgarrison
        • Flawed logic

          Apple builds the whole device which is no different from an xbox or a tv. They support their device with their own software. They tried the clone idea once before and almost suffered the fate of every other computer company that was around when they started. Microsoft makes software that controls the businesses of thousands of pc makers, that oddly, compete against Apple who is no dependent on Microsoft. Before Microsoft there was diversity of OS because companies designed their own OSs. Where MS went foul is they started killing companies that could compete with them by preventing the manufacturers from including other software and threatening to pull windows if they did. Now if MS was also the manufacturer then this would not have been an issue.
          Genovelle
        • And?

          It would be one thing if Apple's OS was essential to computing but - as much as I'm sure the Apple zealots hate to hear this fact - it's not. And that "...extraneous piece of circuitry..." does not really exist or can be bypassed - just google "hackintosh" for yourself. Heck even my old Dell XPS can run a flavor of OS X. And Windows WILL run on a mac - with a piece of software.
          NonFanboy
        • The OS X *operating system* is open source!

          Yep, the *operating system* known as Darwin is open source and it can be modified, compiled and run on any hardware you like.

          The GUI is *not* open source, and this includes various graphics libraries, including Quartz.

          A company (like Apple) is only required to license its intellectual property under FRAND conditions if the IP is crucial to implement some standard. Apple do licence the OS X *operating system* under FRAND terms by publishing the source code; the GUI is not crucial to any standard that I know of.
          StandardPerson
      • ... yet another Apple fanboy...

        Frankly; I wish the iOS didn't exist. It's a mess. Granted, it did a few things right, but most things wrong.

        After experiencing an Apple product first hand, I'm not buying it again, and I'm actively telling people not to use any Apple products.

        PS: This includes the atrocious iTunes.
        drcancerman
      • They did.

        That was why that part of their contracts with manufacturers got voided by the court.
        jessepollard
      • Convenience

        Microsoft NEVER did anything to its' competitors EXCEPT offer integrated free utilities that were NOT the class of the market. Even the integration of IE did NOT prevent the USE of competing products. Yet , in spite of the road blocks, it remains the SINGLE most popular web browser.
        theccur@...
    • Intriquing

      I'm tempted to agree with you but I strongly suspect your reasoning for government inaction is due to Motorola turning it's back on FRAND licensing because the company they turned their back on is Apple. Then again you are FOR government involvement when Apple is on the receiving end... end the hypocrisy.
      NonFanboy
    • Yes sure

      As if the Americans never seize the opportunity to fine companies from outside the US? Good Job EU!
      rhon@...
    • Except that....

      The US only pay lip service to protect it's citizens but the EU actually does something. You are a Linux guy but only the EU has done anything to force MS and other companies to provide proper documentation protect open standards.
      jsargent