Samsung has been thrown a curve ball in its European patent battle with Apple, with the European Commission (EC) opening a probe into the South Korean firm’s licensing policies.
The EC is investigating whether Samsung licenses essential 3G patents on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. Specifically, the Commission is probing whether the handset maker has skewed competition in the region by failing to license on those terms despite an agreement to do so with the European Telecommunication Standards Institute.
Ironically, it is Samsung’s own litigation against other handset vendors during 2011 that caught the EC’s eye, a statement explains. While the Commission doesn’t name those other vendors, it is likely referring to a stack of patent suits and countersuits between Samsung and Apple in a number of European courts.
It is the second probe opened by the EC as a result of the protracted battle between the two device makers, after it began investigating Apple in November.
Essential patents cover intellectual property (IP) considered vital to operating 3G services in Europe. All patent holders – typically other device vendors – must agree to license those technologies on FRAND terms, to maintain a level playing field for new entrants that may not have the same body of IP that established firms hold.