updated 10:44 am EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
Proposal sees Samsung avoiding standard-essential patent lawsuits
The European Commission is requesting feedback on an offer by Samsung to stop suing other device manufacturers over specific types of patents. The proposal would prevent Samsung from suing over standard-essential patents (SEPs) for a five-year period, in order to cease the antitrust proceedings it is embroiled in, and to avoid a potential fine from the EC of $18.3 billion.
The Commission has been investigating Samsung's activities for some time, with the manufacturer having been advised last December that its attempt to sue Apple over an SEP relating to UMTS connections was anti-competitive. A settlement offer was found in September to be insufficient, with the EC opting to continue in its antitrust investigation. The details of this first settlement attempt were not disclosed at the time.
Samsung's new offer, according to the EC, is that it "agrees to abstain from seeking injunctions for mobile SEPs for a period of five years against any company that agrees to a particular licensing framework." The framework itself consists of a negotiation period of up to 12 months, followed by a third-party determination of FRAND terms by a court or arbitrator if no agreement can be made. The EC will now accept comments about the proposals from other parties for the next month, before deciding whether or not to make Samsung's proposal legally binding.
The proposal itself, if accepted, would affect Samsung only in the European Economic Area, under the supervision of an independent trustee. Despite its limited regional reach, this could also affect Samsung's business and other lawsuits the company is involved with in other countries.
"Enforcing patents through injunctions can be perfectly legitimate." said EC vice president Joaquin Almunia, continuing "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."