European Commission wades into global tech patents war

Thu Dec 20, 2012 11:31am EST
 
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By Ethan Bilby

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU regulators are poised to accuse Samsung of breaking competition rules in filing patent lawsuits against rival Apple, in the EU's first formal challenge to the consumer electronic industry's patent wars.

"We will issue a statement of objections very soon," the European Union's competition chief Joaquin Almunia said on Thursday, referring to the Commission's charge sheet.

Technology companies are increasingly turning to the European Commission as the EU's competition authority, to resolve their disputes, with the EC also investigating Google and Microsoft.

Apple and Samsung, the world's top two smartphone makers, are locked in patent disputes in at least 10 countries as they vie to dominate the lucrative mobile market and win over customers with their latest gadgets.

The filing of competition objections is the latest step in the Commission's investigation. After notifying Samsung in writing the company will have a chance to reply and request a hearing before regulators.

If the Commission then concludes that the firm did violate the rules, it could impose a fine of up to 10 percent of the electronic firm's total annual turnover.

Other current cases under investigation by the EC involve Google-owned phone maker Motorola Mobility, Microsoft and Apple. Microsoft has also complained about Google while Google has complained about MOSAID, a so-called patent enforcement company which makes money by licensing the use of acquired patents.

PATENT WAR   Continued...

 
The logo of Samsung Electronics is seen at the company's headquarters in Seoul July 6, 2012. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won