updated 12:50 am EDT, Fri November 4, 2011
Allegation could up-end lawsuits
The ongoing legal battle between Apple and Samsung over various design and patent infringements took another turn when court papers filed by Apple revealed that a European Commission panel on competition has "opened an investigation to determine whether Samsung's behavior violates EU competition laws." The investigation, which has not yet been formally announced, could force Samsung to withdraw most of its complaints against Apple, IP analyst Florian Mueller reports.
Apple's main defense against some of Samsung's countersuits is that the patents they accuse Apple of violating are in fact essential to the 3G industry, and thus subject to FRAND (Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory) licensing. This requires Samsung to license the patents in dispute to Apple (and any other company) at equitable terms, something the company has opted not to do with Apple. The previous Samsung suit in The Netherlands was dismissed due to the judge believing Samsung was not honoring its FRAND obligations.
Samsung's abuse of FRAND licensing presents a danger to the entire industry if the company succeeds in its strategy against Apple, and may trigger anti-trust investigations in other countries, particularly those that could be impacted by a change in the status of FRAND agreements. Word of the investigation was discovered in a recent court filing by Apple in California. Apple says that the company's behavior could have ruinous effects on the entire 3G industry if it continues to pursue an aggressive campaign based on FRAND-bound patents.
By contrast, the patents Apple is accusing Samsung of infringing are not common to the industry and thus not required to be FRAND-licensed. The development will simultaneously provide a strong incentive for Samsung to cease its aggressive counter-suing strategy and severely lessen the chances of any injunctions against Apple. Samsung has scored minor legal victories in some of the cases but has yet to actually defeat Apple and its efforts to win injunctions against Samsung products in court. [via Florian Mueller]