Apple under fire from governments in both hemispheres over alleged anti-competitive practices

Apple may face an anti-trust investigation in Europe over its iPhone contracts with carriers as it defends itself against separate investigations for alleged price gouging in Australia.

Apple was informed last year that it would be required to attend a hearing by Australia’s Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications to explain why its pricing of digital content was higher in Australia than in the United States. The hearing is now underway, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, with Apple asked to explain why content sold through iTunes is marked up between 30 and 70 percent higher than in the U.S. Apple is blaming wholesale pricing agreements in the country.

“The pricing of this digital content is based on the wholesale prices which are set through negotiated contracts with the record labels, movie studios and TV networks,” said Mr King, who is Apple’s vice president for Australia, New Zealand and South Asia.

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Apple vs Samsung: Apple loses bid for US ban, new trial over juror misconduct denied, Samsung drops EU sales ban requests

apple-v-samsungToday, we have updates on Apple and Samsung’s ongoing court woes. A report from Bloomberg noted U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh in the San Jose, California case rejected Apple’s most recent request for a United States sales ban on 26 Samsung devices. According to the report, Koh said the decision was based on the fact that the “case involves lost sales—not a lost ability to be a viable market participant.”

“Samsung may have cut into Apple’s customer base somewhat, but there is no suggestion that Samsung will wipe out Apple’s customer base, or force Apple out of the business of making smartphones,” Koh said. “The present case involves lost sales — not a lost ability to be a viable market participant.”

As noted by The Verge, a second post-trial order delivered by Koh yesterday denied Samsung’s request for a new trial on the claims of jury misconduct. Koh claimed that juror Velvin Hogan disclosed his previous involvement with Seagate during the jury selection process, giving Samsung’s lawyers more than enough time to discover the litigation. From the court filing:

Samsung has waived its claim for an evidentiary hearing and a new trial based on Mr. Hogan’s alleged dishonesty during voir dire.  Prior to the verdict, Samsung could have discovered Mr. Hogan’s litigation with Seagate, had Samsung acted with reasonable diligence based on information Samsung acquired through voir dire, namely that Mr. Hogan stated during voir dire that he had worked for Seagate.

Samsung vs. Apple cases abroad are also making news today: FossPatents reported today that Samsung has dropped all requests for sales bans against Apple in Europe related to standard-essential patents. However, as pointed out in the report, Samsung will still attempt to win monetary compensation in its cases against Apple, but will no longer request courts to enforce bans on Apple products. FossPatents speculated on Samsung’s decision: Read more

Consumer groups in 10 more EU countries seeking alterations to AppleCare

We reported several times about Italian anti-trust authorities fining Apple $1.2 million for “misleading consumers” in relation to AppleCare warranties. The decision made by the Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato stated Apple’s 1-year AppleCare warranties were failing to inform consumers of a mandatory warranty of two years imposed by European Union law. Today we heard confirmation from Bloomberg that not just Italy, but consumer groups from 11 countries, requested that Apple make changes to its AppleCare policies and immediately halt its current “practices on the guarantees.”

Apple products say they come with a one-year warranty when European Union law requires manufacturers cover goods for two years, consumer groups in 11 countries, including Italy and Germany, said in an e-mailed statement today. The groups said they sent letters to national regulators seeking an immediate halt to Apple’s practices on the guarantees

The letter sent by consumer groups comes two days before Apple is set to appeal the $1.2 million fine imposed by Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato on March 21. Apple already published the initial anti-trust decision on its website, but the group is asking Apple to also alter its warranty policies and publish a notice to consumers about the changes it made on Apple.com.
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Apple gets a break as EU antitrust watchdog launches full-blown probe into Samsung over essential 3G patents

European Union regulators today announced the launch of a formal investigation of Samsung over mobile patents to determine whether the South Korean conglomerate breached EU antitrust rules in its legal dealings with competitors. The investigation is focused on so-called FRAND patents, a common rule that stipulates a patent applying to the standard must be adopted on “fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms” (FRAND). According to the press release, EU regulators want to figure out whether Samsung “used certain of its standard essential patent rights to distort competition in European mobile device markets, in breach of EU antitrust rules.”

The Commission reminds that Samsung a decade ago promised to let rivals license its mobile patents under FRAND terms. The full-blown investigation comes in the light of the lawsuits Samsung filed against Apple at courts in Germany, France, the Netherlands and other countries around the world, asserting copyright infringement related to patents essential to wireless telecommunications standards.

The case is “a matter of priority,” the document reads. Patent blogger explained, “The European Commission can’t wait until Samsung finally wins a ruling based on such a patent and enforces it, potentially causing irreparable harm.” The full text of the European Commission Antitrust Commission announcement can be found below.

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Apple to appeal $1.2M fine imposed by Italian regulators over AppleCare warranties

Apple plans to appeal a decision by Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato to impose $1.2 million USD fine for not providing consumers with a two-year warranty mandatory under European Union law and the Italian Consumer Code. An Apple PR representative apparently confirmed the decision to appeal the fines to The Register.

We reported earlier this week that Italian antitrust authorities were fining Apple Inc., Apple Sales International, and Apple Retail Italy $1.2 million USD related to “bad commercial practices that harmed consumers.” The Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato claimed Apple has not implemented a two-year product guarantee available to all consumers through EU law. Instead, Apple continues to push their own AppleCare warranties to consumers without indication of the consumer’s rights to the free two-year guarantee.

The Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato asked Apple “cease practice” of their current warranty policies, and “notify the Authority” of a new course of action. They also want Apple to publish clarification of the new policy on Apple.com to notify consumers. It is unclear if other authorities throughout the EU will take similar action.

Apple is also accused by the European Antitrust Commission of engaging in “illegal agreements or practices that would have the object or the effect of restricting competition in the EU or in the EEA” related to their iBooks business.

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Samsung claims Apple doctored Galaxy phone images in Netherlands court

According to a report from Dutch publication Webwereld (via Computerworld)Apple has once again submitted doctored evidence related to their claims of design patent-related infringement by Samsung, this time to a court in Netherlands. This further supports claims by Bas Berghuis of Simmons and Simmons (Samsung’s lawyer) that Apple has been “manipulating visual evidence, making Samsung’s devices appear more similar to Apple’s.”

“It surprises me that for the second time incorrect presentations of a Samsung product emerge in photographic evidence filed in litigation,” said Mark Krul, lawyer and IP law specialist at Dutch firm WiseMen. “This is not appropriate and undermines Apple’s credibility both inside and outside the court room.”

If you aren’t up to speed with the legal disputes between Apple and Samsung in Europe… a court in Germany already granted a preliminary injunction halting sales of Samsung’s Galaxy tab 10.1 tablet in the EU (which has been since lifted pending an appeal). We already heard about Apple manipulating images in that case related to the iPad and Galaxy tab. This time, however, the report claims Apple doctored images of the Samsung Galaxy S smartphone in comparison to the iPhone 3G.

Apparently the changes made the Galaxy S appear smaller than it actually is to closer resemble the dimensions of the 3G, which is odd given the fact Computerworld reports Apple has confirmed the Galaxy S does include “some non-identical elements, such as the slightly larger dimensions.” This supports the idea that Apple isn’t trying to secretly submit this evidence to the courts. Many have noted a German court’s decision to grant Apple with the original preliminary injunction on the Galaxy tab didn’t take the doctored images into account. In fact, patent expert Florian Mueller noted “the court’s decision was based on both Apple’s motion and Samsung’s pre-emptive opposition pleading” and also stated “Samsung is in a legally weak position against Apple. If Samsung wants to inspire confidence, it has to understand that half the truth is sometimes tantamount to a whole lie.”
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