European Union moves to end smartphone patent wars

Tue Apr 29, 2014 11:45am EDT
 
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By John O'Donnell

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union's antitrust enforcer has told two top smartphone makers to stop filing aggressive patent lawsuits against rivals such as Apple, aiming to end a patent war and open the market to freer competition.

The European Commission reprimanded Motorola Mobility on Tuesday for taking such action against Apple, hoping the ruling will halt a rising tide of legal disputes among rivals vying for profit in the global smartphone market.

The EU's anti-trust enforcer also said that Samsung Electronics must keep a promise not to seek injunctions against rivals if they sign a licensing agreement.

"The so-called smartphone patent wars should not occur at the expense of consumers," said Joaquin Almunia, the European commissioner in charge of anti-trust enforcement.

The landmark ruling will help draw a line under a long-running feud between smartphone makers and a slew of legal action against rivals by manufacturers who claimed their designs had been copied.

Although no fine will be imposed on Google Inc's Motorola, the Commission ruled that the company had been wrong to seek an injunction against Apple in Germany for copying a 'standard-essential' patent, for which Apple had bought a license.

Such patents, which cover basic mobile technology such as the mechanism to make and end a phone call, have become the scene of bitter legal confrontation.

Phone companies often argue that their technology, such as Apple's slide-to-unlock keypad, should be covered by such legal protection to prevent rivals stealing a lead.   Continued...

 
European Union Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia adjusts his glasses during a news conference at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels April 29, 2014. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir