Samsung waves white flag on patent wars

The Korean electronics giant said it will no longer bring rivals to court over certain patent infringement cases for the next five years.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor
Image: CNET

Samsung said it will no longer bring certain patent infringement cases against rivals for the next five years, ending a long-running spat with the European Commission over the alleged abuse of the patent system.

The company, which has an ongoing major rivalry with Apple, is backing down as it faces a significant fine in the European Union, after it was accused of using patent lawsuits to get ahead of its arch-rival.

The Commission said in a statement on Thursday it hoped the move will "bring clarity" to the industry.

Under the terms of the deal, Samsung said it will not seek injunctions based on "standards-essential patents — required for interoperability between devices and necessary to the industry — against a company that agrees to a licensing framework under fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.

Should a licensing deal fail for longer than 12 months, the courts can be involved to arbiter the dispute. 

But it's far from a done deal yet. The move is part of the latest round of concessions offered by Samsung in a bid to end a massive antitrust fine in the 28-member state bloc.

Rivals and competitors in the smartphone space will give their feedback, and based on that, the Commission will find the best course of action going forward.

The Korean smartphone maker sought lawsuits and sales injunctions in various European countries in 2011 against Apple's use of its patents. But because those patents are deemed vital to the technology industry, the EU hit back claiming the move was anti-competitive.

Samsung faces a fine of up to $18.3 billion — or 10 percent of its 2012 global annual revenue.

"Enforcing patents through injunctions can be perfectly legitimate," EU Competition Commission Joaquin Almunia said in remarks. "However, when patents are standard-essential, abuses must be prevented so that standard-setting works properly and consumers do not have to suffer negative consequences from the so-called patent wars."

Editorial standards