updated 08:40 am EDT, Mon May 6, 2013
Motorola suffers major setback in FRAND patent case against Apple
Motorola has been issued a formal warning by the European Commission for potential FRAND patent abuse against Apple in a case underway in Germany. The EU Commission has formed a preliminary view that Google-owned company's case against Apple violates the EU's antitrust rules and that its misuse 'could ultimately harm consumers.' The development is a major blow to Google, which purchased Motorola for $12 billion in large part to use Motorola's patents as a defense against Apple's legal attacks on its Android partners.
"The protection of intellectual property is a cornerstone of innovation and growth. But so is competition," said Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy, Joaquín Almunia. "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," he urged.
The EU first raised its concerns in April when it emerged that Almunia was considering an investigation into Motorola's case. It follows a similar determination by the European Commission that Samsung was in danger of being found guilty of similar antitrust violations in its use of standards essential cellular patents subject to FRAND requirements. Samsung withdrew its cases against Apple in several European countries following the preliminary determination.
While Motorola has the opportunity to respond to the European Commissions concerns, it may find its position difficult to defend. Apple has not been subject to similar investigations by the European Community for its legal cases against its competitors. The patents that Apple has accused its Android competition of violating have been related to hardware and software innovations. Standards essential patents require companies that possess them to license them to competitors on fair and reasonable terms. Apple claims that the standards essential patents it has been accused of infringing have not been offered under those conditions. [via The Verge]