The European Commission announced today that it has opened two formal antitrust investigations against Motorola Mobility, seeking to asses whether it has abused its standard-essential patents to “distort competition” by breaching EU antitrust rules.
The investigation comes after both Apple and Microsoft issued complaints to the Commission, having both been the subject of patent lawsuits that sought injunctions to be placed on their products. Motorola moved to place import and sales bans on Apple’s iPhone and iPad and Microsoft’s Xbox console and Windows software.
The EC will determine whether Motorola’s enforcement of its fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) patents had resulted in a failure to “honour its irrevocable commitments made to standard setting organisations,” the Commission said in a statement.
Motorola will also be investigated over allegations by Apple and Microsoft that the company offered unfair licensing terms for its FRAND patents. The patents involved include 2G and 3G, H.264 video compression and WLAN standards.
The EC explains:
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.
In order to guarantee undistorted competition and to reap the positive economic effects of standardisation it is important that FRAND commitments be fully honoured by the companies concerned.
On January 31, the European Commission opened an investigation into Samsung’s enforcement of its FRAND patents, issuing a statement that it suspected the company of denying fair access to patents it holds on standardised technology for mobile phones.
The probe, which is currently ongoing, is looking into whether Samung illegally prevented competitiors, which also includes Apple, from using key patents it holds on mobile phone technologies, despite committing to doing so in 1998.
We reported in November that Samsung being investigated for possible misuse of fair, reasonable and and non-discriminatory (FRAND) patent licensing. FRAND licenses enable companies to share knowledge across the industry and work to develop open standards and technologies such as 3G or WiFi.
Google will be watching the investigation very closely. The search giant acquired Motorola Mobility last year for $12.5 billion but the company is also looking at facing additional EC probes after travel sites Expedia and Tripadvisor filed complaints to the watchdog over “anti-competitive and unfair practices by Google that harm the marketplace and consumer welfare”.