Samsung escapes US patent probe for now

Samsung escapes US patent probe for now

Summary: The Justice Department has closed down its antitrust investigation into Samsung's tactics against Apple concerning standards-essential patents.

TOPICS: Samsung, Patents

The US Justice Department announced on Friday that it had dropped its investigation into Samsung's use of standards essential patents (SEPs) to seek bans on the sale of Apple products in the US.

Until now, the focus of in DoJ's antitrust investigation was on Samsung's pursuit of US import bans on Apple products based on SEPs. Companies are meant to license SEPs to industry rivals on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.

Samsung last year won a exclusion order tied to SEP patents against some iPad and iPhone models at the US International Trade Commission. That ruling was overturned by a US Trade Representative in August, who believed it was not in the public interest to uphold the ban.

One of the Trade Representative's main concerns was over SEP holders "asserting the patent to exclude an implementer of the standard from a market to obtain a higher price for the use of the patent than would have been possible before the standard was set, when alternative technologies would have been chosen".

The Justice Department said that while exclusion orders for SEPs could be an appropriate remedy in some circumstances, in many cases the threat of an exclusion could amount to "exploiting the market power obtained through the standards-setting process".

But, while agreeing that Samsung's use of SEPs may have been anti-competitive, the department believes its own investigation was unnecessary given that the US Trade Representative's veto on the ITC's remedy already.

"As a result of the USTR's action, the Antitrust Division has determined that no further action is required at this time. The Antitrust Division is therefore closing its investigation into Samsung's conduct, but will continue to monitor further developments in this area," the Justice Department said.

More on Samsung and patents

Topics: Samsung, Patents

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • It shouldn't be the Trade Representative's job

    His job is negotiating trade agreements with foreign governments and making sure they're followed (which means he should be under the State Department). Antitrust is the job of the Justice Department and the FTC (a little redundancy is actually not a bad thing here, as it reduces the probability that an Administration will give monopolists a break for political reasons).
    John L. Ries
  • who will offer SEP patents in future?

    If Apple can "borrow" samsung tech and not pay for it because they don't think it should cost more than cents and then sue Samsung for Patent infringement of non SEP patents and win.....

    makes you wonder what the benefits of SEP patents are to the holders if you can't use them to defend yourself.... Remember, Apple actually refused to pay for them and said they would not accept the judges decision on their value unless it was less than $1 a phone.

    Who will donate their IP to SEP patents if you are essentially giving the tech and your research away for free?