The European Commission has confirmed it is investigating Samsung over its global lawsuits against Apple for the infringement of industry-standard 3G patents in the iPhone 4S.
The European regulator is looking into whether Samsung is acting against EU competition laws in suing Apple over UMTS 3G patents it holds that are standard for 3G devices across the globe, the commission confirmed to ZDNet Australia late on Friday.
"The Commission has indeed sent requests for information to Apple and Samsung concerning the enforcement of standards-essential patents in the mobile telephony sector," the commission said.
According to the European Commission, the requests for information are standard procedure in anti-trust investigations.
The investigation was first spotted by patents blog FOSS Patents, which noted that a recent counter-suit filing from Apple in California had referenced the investigation.
"Samsung's litigation campaign and other conduct related to its Declared-Essential Patents is so egregious that the European Commission recently has opened an investigation to determine whether Samsung's behaviour violates EU competition laws," the filing said.
Samsung told ZDNet Australia that it was cooperating with the preliminary investigation.
"Samsung has at all times remained committed to fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing terms for our wireless standards-related patents. We have received a request for information from the European Commission and are cooperating fully," Samsung said in a statement.
As part of the company's global retaliation for Apple's patent suits against Samsung's Galaxy Tab products, Samsung took Apple to court in Australia in mid October, claiming that the iPhone 4S infringes on three Australian patents relating to 3G services held by Samsung.
In court last week, Apple counsel Cameron Moore argued that these patents fall under the standards for 3G set by the international standards body — the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) — in partnership with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). He said that globally, Samsung had agreed to license these patents on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms, and that on this ground, Samsung should just be seeking licence fees from Apple for the iPhone 4S in the form of damages.
Samsung counsel Cynthia Cochrane had rejected Moore's claims that FRAND applies in Australia, saying that this would be the first time that FRAND would be tested here.
"There is going to be dispute about its force in Australia," she said, adding that licensing agreements for the patents were not automatic, and that Apple had rejected Samsung's invitation to license said patents.
"We say it's not an automatic procedure, and we offered a licence to Apple and they declined to negotiate. We're disputing that the agreement applies."
Samsung counsel indicated on Friday that the company had sought expert legal advice from France as to the global application of FRAND.