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Wednesday, 04 April 2012 13:18

EC investigates Motorola Mobility over possible patent abuse

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The European Commission has opened two formal antitrust investigations against Motorola Mobility to determine if its violating prior commitments given to licence patents essential to standards for cellulr and video technologies fair, reasonable and non-discriminator (FRAND) terms.

The investigations have been lodged in response to complaints by Apple and Microsoft and follow legal actions initiated against these two companies by Motorola Mobility.

Motorola Mobility is going after Apple for alleged breaches of its IP relating to cellular standards. Its action against Microsoft related to IP in the H.264 video standards.

Standard setting organisations require the owners of patents that are essential for the implementation of a standard to commit to license these patents on fair reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. This commitment serves to ensure effective access to standardised technology.

According to the EC, "Motorola gave such FRAND commitments to the relevant standard setting organisations when the second and third generation (2G and 3G) mobile and wireless telecommunications system standards, the H.264 video compression standard and the standards for wireless local area network (WLAN) technologies were adopted."

The EU says that the outcome of the investigation should not be prejudged, but according to intellectual property blogger, Florian Mueller, it would have been initiated only after fairly extensive investigation by the EC. "The launch of formal investigations (as opposed to merely preliminary ones) is a key step that follows a reasonably thorough (even though only initial) assessment of the issues," Mueller wrote.

The Commission said it would investigate:

- "Whether by seeking and enforcing injunctions against Apple's and Microsoft's flagship products such as iPhone, iPad, Windows and Xbox on the basis of patents it had declared essential to produce standard-compliant products, Motorola has failed to honour its irrevocable commitments made to standard setting organisations," and

- "The allegation by both Apple and Microsoft that Motorola offered unfair licensing conditions for its standard-essential patents in breach of Article 102 TFEU [the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union]."


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