FRAND Stories June 25, 2013

Samsung could settle in EU antitrust case over use of essential patents against Apple

Reuters reports that Samsung is currently in preliminary discussions with EU regulators regarding a possible settlement related to charges that it abused its market dominance by blocking Apple from fairly using its essential patents in various ongoing patent disputes:

The talks came after the European Commission, which acts as EU competition regulator, told Samsung in December that it was acting unfairly by seeking injunctions against Apple over use of the essential patents.

“Samsung has been involved in settlement discussions for several months now. Samsung wants to settle,” said one of the sources, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

If Samsung does settle in the case, it could avoid as much as $17.3 billion in fines. However, it would presumably have to agree to license its essential patents on fair terms, which could have an impact on current cases related to the European Union’s 3G UMTS standard.

FRAND Stories May 6, 2013

As if we needed someone to tell us that the ongoing patent lawsuits between Apple and Motorola in Germany were getting a little out of control… Today the European Commission has finally stepped up calling Motorola’s enforcement of an injunction against Apple with mobile standard essential patents “abuse of a dominant position prohibited by EU antitrust rules.” The EU Commission, however, does note that the statement of objections sent to Motorola does not reflect the final outcome of its investigation into its use of standard essential patents (SEPs):

The Motorola Mobility SEPs in question relate to the European Telecommunications Standardisation Institute’s (ETSI) GPRS standard, part of the GSM standard, which is a key industry standard for mobile and wireless communications. When this standard was adopted in Europe, Motorola Mobility gave a commitment that it would license the patents which it had declared essential to the standard on FRAND terms. Nevertheless, Motorola Mobility sought an injunction against Apple in Germany on the basis of a GPRS SEP and, after the injunction was granted, went on to enforce it, even when Apple had declared that it would be willing to be bound by a determination of the FRAND royalties by the German court.

The EU Commission essentially states that Apple should be able to license the technology under fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms decided by a third-party, and that Motorola’s approach with its latest injunction could “distort licensing negotiations and impose unjustified licensing terms.” Back in February of 2012, Apple was for a short while forced to remove all 3G devices from its online store in Germany following the injunction, and at the time Apple noted that “Motorola repeatedly refuses to license this patent to Apple on reasonable terms, despite having declared it an industry standard patent seven years ago.” expand full story

FRAND Stories February 8, 2012

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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FRAND Stories January 31, 2012

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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