Apple pressures EU regulators to set FRAND licensing rules

After taking a beating by Motorola over FRAND patents this month, Apple issued a letter to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute asking the body to establish consistent royalty fees for patents deemed essential to wireless standards, reported the Wall Street Journal. The body has a role in setting the standards related to GSM, 3G UMTS, and 4G LTE radio technologies.

Apple is involved in nasty patent disputes with Motorola, HTC and Samsung in courtrooms around the world, and it previously asserted in court documents that handset maker Motorola refused to license its essential patents on “Fair, Reasonable, and Nondiscriminatory” (FRAND) nature at rates offered to Nokia, Samsung and other vendors. According to the Journal:

Many mobile technology companies, such as Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., hold patents that became part of industry-wide standards. Standards bodies often require the patent holders to offer to license their patents to any company on a basis known as Frand, or fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory. Questions about such commitments have arisen amid a flurry of patent suits between rivals in the mobile-device market.

Apple’s lawyer wrote in the letter: “It is apparent that our industry suffers from a lack of consistent adherence to FRAND principles in the cellular standards arena.” A copy of Apple’s letter was posted online by the FOSS Patents blog. Motorola recently likened its enforcement of FRAND patents to bank robbery: “It only takes one bullet to kill.” Samsung and Motorola reportedly demanded that Apple pay a 2.4 percent and 2.25 percent royalty, respectively, illustrating what the iPhone maker called are unreasonable FRAND licensing terms.

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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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