Samsung, Apple quizzed by antitrust watchdog

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Samsung, Apple quizzed by antitrust watchdog

Samsung Electronics and Apple have been questioned by European Union antitrust regulators over the use of smartphone patents, the European Commission said.

The two companies were sent requests for information on “the enforcement of standards essential patents in the mobile telephony sector,” according to a spokeswoman for the Brussels-based regulator, who declined to be identified, citing office policy. The requests are standard procedure, she said.

“This is all about Samsung,” said Florian Mueller, a Munich-based consultant who has done work for rival mobile phone operating system maker Microsoft. “Apple does not assert any standards essential patents in court.”

Apple and Samsung have filed at least 30 lawsuits against each other in 10 countries, according to Samsung. While Apple has also sued Motorola Mobility Holdings and HTC over phones using the same operating system, the company’s late founder Steve Jobs took particular interest in Samsung devices because of what he saw as blatant similarities to the sleek look of its iPhone and iPad tablet computer.

Apple said in a filing in a California court case last week that Samsung faced an EU antitrust investigation into its “egregious” misuse of patents. The California-based company did not indicate whether it also received a request for information in the filing. And Apple would not say whether it was asked by the EU to provide details.

Samsung is cooperating with the EU request and “has at all times remained committed to fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory licensing terms for our wireless standards related patents,” according to a statement from Brendon Gore, Samsung’s European spokesman.

“Samsung’s litigation campaign and other conduct related to its declared essential patents is so egregious that the European Commission recently has opened an investigation to determine whether Samsung’s behavior violates EU competition laws,” Apple said in the Oct. 28 federal court filing.

Apple’s court filing was previously reported on Mueller’s Foss Patents blog. Mueller said last month that Microsoft has asked him to write a report on the use of standards essential patents in litigation in licensing.

Microsoft makes an operating system that competes with Google’s Android, used by Samsung and others, and has sued companies that refuse to pay it royalties on products that run on Android. Samsung agreed in September to pay Microsoft royalties for using Android on its mobile phones and tablets.

The fight over intellectual property is particularly intense because of the complex relationship between Apple and Samsung. Samsung is the second- largest component supplier for Apple and gets about 7.6 percent of its total revenue from selling memory chips, displays and other components for the iPhone and iPad, according to Bloomberg data.


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