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EU Competition Commissioner voices concerns over Apple and Samsung dispute

Patent battle might breach EC competition laws
Tue Nov 22 2011, 15:47

EU COMPETITION COMMISSIONER Joaquín Almunia has expressed concern over the potentially anti-competitive nature of the patents war between Apple and Samsung.

The commissioner was speaking at the European Parliament, where he voiced concerns about injunctions banning rival products from being sold, which could be seen as a move to quash competition.

The case particularly relates to the legal battle between Apple and Samsung, both of which have been using their large collections of patents to obtain bans against each others products in multiple regions around the world. Samsung's Galaxy Tab, seen by many as the primary rival to Apple's Ipad, was banned in Germany, with another temporary ban imposed in Australia. Samsung has retaliated by attempting to get Apple's Iphone 4S banned in Australia.

"We requested information from both Apple and Samsung. We have not yet received the answers. We need to look at this because IP rights can be used as a distortion of competition but we will need to look at the answers," said Almunia, according to Reuters. "In particular, in the IT sector, it is obvious it is not the only case. Apple and Samsung is only one case where IP rights can be used as an instrument to restrict competition. Standardisation and IP rights are two instruments that in this new IT sector can be used as a tool to abuse."

While the European Commission has not made any formal decisions against either party in this dispute, it could fine them up to 10 per cent of their annual revenue throughout the world, not just within Europe.

The INQUIRER spoke to Amelia Torres, spokesperson for competition policy at the European Commission. "The Commission only commented publicly on this case because Apple has publicly referred to our investigation in a US Court document," she told us. "Following this and in reply to journalists' questions we confirmed a couple of weeks ago that the Commission had sent requests for information to Apple and Samsung concerning the enforcement of standards-essential patents in the mobile telephony sector. Such requests for information are standard procedure in antitrust investigations to allow the Commission to establish the relevant facts in a case. We will not make any other comments until we have reached a conclusion."

Torres added that patent law is a matter for individual member states, but that the EC looks at competition issues that might arise from the exercise of patent rights. She said that horizontal co-operation guidelines were released in December of last year, which gave suggestions on how competitors should act. µ


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