May 7, 2013
EU Cracks Down On Motorola Mobility In Germany
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
The European Commission said on Monday that Google-owned Motorola Mobility may have abused its leading market position in Germany by denying Apple the right to use some of Motorola´s core mobile phone technology.
Motorola Mobility had sought and obtained an injunction from a German court preventing Apple from using its standard-essential patents (SEPs), which are critical to smartphones and tablets.
In a statement, the Commission said it had reached a "preliminary view" on a probe it opened in April 2012, and had decided that Motorola Mobility's action amounted to “an abuse of a dominant position prohibited by EU anti-trust rules."
Motorola has two months to respond to the charges, and could face steep fines.
The Commission´s findings are part of its work to ensure companies do not use their patent portfolios to block others from using technologies that are vital for the development of popular consumer electronics.
"The protection of intellectual property is a cornerstone of innovation and growth. But so is competition,” said European Union competition commissioner, JoaquÃn Almunia, in a statement.
“I think that companies should spend their time innovating and competing on the merits of the products they offer – not misusing their intellectual property rights to hold up competitors to the detriment of innovation and consumer choice.”
The Commission said that while recourse to injunctions is a possible remedy for patent infringements, “such conduct may be abusive where standard-essential patents (SEPs) are concerned and the potential licensee is willing to enter into a license on Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (so-called "FRAND") terms.”
Katie Dove, a spokeswoman for Motorola Mobility, said the company agreed with the Commission that injunctions should only be sought against unwilling licensees.
However, “in this case, Motorola Mobility followed the procedure established," she said, referring to the German court ruling.
EU regulators have been concerned that certain national courts, particularly those in Germany, have made it easy to win injunctions in cases such as Motorola´s, which could ultimately result in a company having to take a popular device off the market.
Google completed its $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility last year, seeking to take advantage of patents to boost its Android operating system. The Internet search giant acquired 17,000 patents, including many relating to wireless devices that Motorola had pledged to license on fair and reasonable terms. Those promises were made to technology standards bodies, and intended to assure that technology innovations were broadly available to spur growth in the industry.
The acquisition won regulatory approval in Europe last year, although Almunia had warned at the time that his approval would not exonerate any past wrongdoings by Motorola.
Almunia announced a formal probe against Motorola Mobility last April, following complaints by Apple over access to other wireless patents for the iPhone and iPad, and by Microsoft, which had voiced concerned about access to video and wireless patents.
Much of the behavior under investigation in the Commission´s probe occurred before Google acquired Motorola Mobility, European Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd told the Associated Press.
But Google, as the parent company, may still face hefty fines for these past behaviors.
Google has already settled a similar case in the US by agreeing to license its SEPs on fair and reasonable terms. The company also agreed not to seek court injunctions and to halt the shipment of smartphones and other devices that use its standard patents.