EU accuses Apple of dragging its feet on protections for ‘misleading’ IAP-driven free apps

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The European Commission has complained that Apple is taking too long to implement protections for freemium games in the App Store, reports BBC News. The Commission has decreed that both Apple and Google, the two biggest app store vendors, must make the “true cost of apps” clear before purchase. However, officials are upset that Apple has not yet committed to any such measures.

“Regrettably, no concrete and immediate solutions have been made by Apple to date to address the concerns linked in particular to payment authorisation,” the Commission said in a statement.

“Apple has proposed to address those concerns. However, no firm commitment and no timing have been provided for the implementation of such possible future changes.

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All Apple websites could be blocked in Belgium over AppleCare controversy

Image: belgium-iphone.lesoir.be

Belgian Apple Store concept image: belgium-iphone.lesoir.be

A Belgian judge is reportedly considering ordering local ISPs to block access to all Apple websites in the country in response to a long-running dispute over the company’s promotion of AppleCare warranties, according to local newspapers cited by Tech.eu.

A case brought by the consumer protection group FPS Economy argued that Apple misleads consumers by claiming a standard warranty of one year, and selling an optional AppleCare extension, when EU law means that manufacturers are legally obliged to offer a minimum warranty of two years as standard …  Read more

Report: EU authorities ready to accept Apple, publishers settlement in ebook price fixing investigation

According to a new report from Reuters, EU authorities are about to accept a deal with Apple and four book publishers in order to end an antitrust investigation into whether Apple conspired with publishers to prevent Amazon from undercutting Apple’s ebook pricing. The companies originally proposed the settlement in late August, and it would see Amazon go back to its original ebook pricing for two years. By making the deal, Apple and the publishers will be able to put an end to the antirust investigation and avoid related fines:

Apple, Simon & Schuster, News Corp unit HarperCollins, Lagardere SCA’s Hachette Livre, and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, the owner of German company Macmillan, made the proposal to the European Commission in September…Pearson Plc’s Penguin group, which is also under investigation, did not take part in the offer.

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Apple threatened with closure of Italian operations over AppleCare antitrust investigation

We have kept you updated on Apple’s warranty situation in Italy with the company forced to pay a $1.2 million fine imposed by Italian antitrust authorities after losing an appeal to the fine in March. Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato claimed Apple mislead consumers by selling its one-year AppleCare warranties without properly informing its customers of a two-year warranty mandatory by European Union law. Today, Reuters reported Apple is facing further fines and “temporary closure of its operations in Italy” if it doe not make changes to its warranty policies:

Apple Inc was threatened with the temporary closure of its operations in Italy and with further fines of up to 300,000 euros ($377,500) if it does not offer customers a free two-year warranty as demanded by Italian law… The AGCM said in its monthly bulletin that Apple was continuing to adopt unfair commercial practices in Italy and noted this could eventually lead to the closure of its Italian operations for up to 30 days.

In March, reports claimed that authorities from up to 10 other countries in the EU were considering requesting Apple make similar changes to AppleCare.

Update: Apple commented on the matter:

“We have introduced a number of measures to address the Italian competition authority concerns and we disagree with their latest complaint.”

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Tim Cook, Samsung CEO to begin to hash out patent settlement on May 21

Earlier this month, we reported Apple’s CEO Tim Cook and Samsung’s CEO Gee-Sung Choi agreed to an Alternative Dispute Resolution with Judge Lucy Koh in a California district court. The agreement, described as “semi voluntary” by media covering the case, would see the two chief’s and their legal counsels meet within 90 days for court-moderated, patent-related settlement talks. According to a new report from Foss Patents, Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero, who is overseeing the settlement talks, has now scheduled the meeting for May 21-22:

The meetings will take place in a San Francisco courthouse, while the litigation itself is before the San Jose division of the court… one of the things Magistrate Judge Spero wants the parties to do is to provide a settlement statement until May 9 including, among other things, “a candid evaluation of the parties’ likelihood of prevailing on the claims and defenses”

Not surprisingly, the mediation and statements submitted by both companies throughout the process will apparently remain confidential. In the report, while noting pending disputes between the two companies exist in as many as 10 countries, Foss Patents broke down how the court’s decisions could impact up to 31 countries:
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Apple explains stance on e-book price fixing and the ‘Kindle threat’ in court documents

Yesterday, reports from The Wall Street Journal claimed the United States Justice Department was planning to launch an antitrust case against Apple and the country’s five largest book publishers related to claims of e-book price fixing. The European Commission announced in December that it would begin investigating whether Apple and book publishers “engaged in illegal agreements or practices that would have the object or the effect of restricting competition.” Many believe the probes are a direct result of Steve Jobs’ comments documented in Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography where the late CEO said: “Amazon screwed it up.”

“We told the publishers, ‘We’ll go to the agency model, where you set the price, and we get our 30 percent, and yes, the customer pays a little more, but that’s what you want anyway… They went to Amazon and said, ‘You’re going to sign an agency contract or we’re not going to give you the books.’ “

Today, new court documents from a request by Apple to throw out a class action case over e-book price fixing revealed Apple’s stance on the issue. PaidContent explained: “Apple argues that its business plan was to sell as many e-books as possible and that it had no incentive to raise prices.” Meanwhile, Apple argued: “Why would Apple offer Amazon’s Kindle app on the iPad.” The company’s comments sidestepped all claims about Apple allegedly conspiring to slow Amazon’s entrance into the tablet market with Kindle Fire:

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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 unveils micro USB adapter for iPhones in Europe

It’s been long time coming and it’s finally here. The U.K. online Apple Store now lists the Apple iPhone Micro USB Adapter, available for £8.00 and shipping October 14. From Apple:

The Apple iPhone Micro USB Adapter allows you to use third-party micro USB cables and chargers to sync or charge your iPhone. Simply connect your iPhone to the Micro USB Adapter, then connect a micro USB cable or charger to the Micro USB Adapter

Standards bodies in Europe had agreed last year that all mobile phones sold in Europe should drop proprietary connectors in favor of standard USB jacks. Apple’s been ignoring the initiative up to the point when some watchers questioned whether the European Union should fine the Cupertino, California-based gadget maker.

As it turns out, Apple has elegantly addressed those concerns with this dongle. What it does for Apple is it lets them follow the letter of the law without redesigning the iPhone or, worse, risk incompatibility problems with a billion dollar ecosystem of accessories that take advantage of Apple’s 30-pin dock connector.

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Ahead of the launch, Samsung wants iPhone 5 banished from Korea


An artist’s rendition of iPhone 5.

The Korea Times reports that Samsung “is seeking a complete ban” on the iPhone 5 sales in Korea – even before the handset is even released, let alone officially announced. Local carriers KT and SK Telecom have so far sold about 3.1 million iPhones in the country. The paper quotes an unnamed Samsung senior executive:

Just after the arrival of the iPhone 5 here, Samsung plans to take Apple to court here for its violation of Samsung’s wireless technology related patents. For as long as Apple does not drop mobile telecommunications functions, it would be impossible for it to sell its i-branded products without using our patents. We will stick to a strong stance against Apple during the lingering legal fights.

Another Samsung executive is “quite confident” about “a big breakthrough” provided Samsung wins in Germany, adding that “so will other envisioned efforts against such products as the iPhone 5″. The report goes on to mention that iPhone sports an LG Display-made screen, LG Innotek’s eight-megapixel camera, Samsung-made NAND flash and A5 chip and an NFC chip for wireless payment.

The twist in this case, of course, is the fact that Apple is Samsung’s biggest customer, buying displays, NAND flash memory and custom-built A4 and A5 chips for its products. It has been reported that Samsung may soon lose its iOS device processor contract as Apple turns to rival TSMC.

The manufacturing relationship means Samsung gets information about the innards of Apple’s non-released devices months before the actual manufacturing ramp up. This early access to Apple’s designs could have led Samsung to move with the iPhone 5 ban in Korea ahead of Apple’s official launch. On the other hand, Apple did not accuse Samsung yet of abusing its manufacturing contract to rip off Apple’s upcoming devices with its own products.

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Samsung targets iOS devices in France as Apple puts brakes on Motorola until Google merger is completed


This is a Samsung-branded Windows 8 tablet Microsoft is giving away to BUILD attendees today. 

The latest in the ongoing patent saga involving Apple, Google, Motorola and Samsung includes an unexpected twist as Samsung goes after iPhone and iPad with a complaint filed before a Paris district court in July. The filing alleges infringement of Samsung’s three technology patents, reports AFP. The first hearing is expected in December of this year.

Meanwhile, patent expert Florian Müller notes on his blog FOSSPatents that Apple has filed motions to temporarily halt two Motorola lawsuits until Google completes its $12.5 billion acquisition, which shook the technology world last month. Put simply, Apple argues Motorola waived its rights to sue when it transferred patents to Google. Apple wrote:

To further its pending acquisition by Google, Motorola has surrendered critical rights in the patents-in-suit, such that Motorola no longer has prudential standing to pursue this action. According to the publicly-filed Merger Agreement, Motorola has ceded control of the most basic rights regarding the patents-in-suit

As you know, Google has transferred some of the Motorola patents to HTC, in addition to the ones acquired from Palm and Openwave Systems. HTC then used those patents to counter-sue Apple. Back to Apple vs. Samsung…

Financial Times today opined that Samsung needs to hit the reset button, predicting a licensing agreement of sorts provided Apple succeeds in blocking Galaxy products in the U.S. next month. Contrary to the reports, the publication thinks “Apple is restricted from taking its chip business to Samsung’s rivals in Taiwan because Samsung offers a complete package of components that other firms cannot match”. However, there are indications that Apple’s been lowering Samsung orders for some time and it’s widely believed the company is eager to take its silicon business to TSMC beginning next year.

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Wow, Apple actually got Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 banned in Germany

The verdict is in.  German consumers won’t soon be able to pick up a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

A Dusseldorf court today upheld the temporary sales ban it issued Aug. 9, rejecting Samsung’s bid to overturn it for the most part. The judges won’t ban sales in other European Union countries as Apple had sought, Presiding Judge Johanna Brueckner-Hofmann said when delivering the verdict.

The judge stopped at German borders instead of issuing a full EU wide ban but further rulings could see the ban spread.

“The court is of the opinion that Apple’s minimalistic design isn’t the only technical solution to make a tablet computer, other designs are possible,” Brueckner-Hofmann said. “For the informed customer there remains the predominant overall impression that the device looks” like the design Apple has protected in Europe.

The ruling is a big victory for Apple and as the Verge puts it, “the decision could foreshadow the future of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 7.7 and, honestly, any number of rectangular-shaped tablets in Germany as well.”

FOSSPatents mentions some other “oddities” which could play a role in the widening scope of the case:

 The Community design that the Düsseldorf Regional Court deems valid and infringed was also presented by Apple in its Dutch proceeding, but a judge in The Hague threw it out.

If the face of the Galaxy Tab is what is at issue, it isn’t Samsung that is at fault, it is Android.  Cross-posted at 9to5Google.

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Apple’s EU Honeycomb sue-age may carry a huge risk

Yesterday, Apple blocked Samsung’s Galaxy Tab in the EU as it had in Australia previously. Today, it is blocking Motorola’s XOOM.

According to Reuters, this is a high risk strategy for Apple maintaining its market share lead. The cases could take months, if not years to come to court and Apple will have to provide more substantial evidence in subsequent court cases that the design of the Galaxy infringed its patents or copied their designs in order to make any bans permanent. So, they aren’t done deals. And if Apple Loses, it will owe Samsung a lot of money.

If Apple loses it will be liable for the business lost by Samsung in the meantime.

“Apple has a strategy of filing patents, getting some protection and trying to prevent other people from entering the market in the short-term,” said Nathan Mattock, an intellectual property lawyer at Marque Lawyers in Sydney. “If Apple’s wrong it will have to pay Samsung a considerable amount of damages, so it’s potentially quite risky.”

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