South Korean-based, Samsung Electronics has been off late, battling a host of patent infringement accusations from Apple, and this has caught the attention of the European Commission, the EU's antitrust agency. The body, in an official statement confirmed that it will now begin probing Samsung on the issue to check if the company has been indulging in unfair competition in the market. In their statement, European Commission stated that, “...formal investigation to assess whether Samsung Electronics has abusively, and in contravention of a commitment it gave to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), used certain of its standard essential patent rights to distort competition in European mobile device markets, in breach of EU antitrust rules.“
EC probe begins..
Essentially, the Commission seeks a confirmation from Samsung that they have been abiding by the norms of European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) it signed to in 1998, which, according to this statement is 'irrevocable'. The ETSI norms state that Samsung will license standard patents pertaining to European FRAND terms, which stand for being fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory. Further, the EC will also gauge if a possible abusive behaviour leads to, what they refer to as “abuse of a dominant position prohibited by Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU).” According to the official statement, Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) no entity is allowed to hold a dominant position in the market, for the fear of restricting competition.
The official statement further cleared that, “In line with the Commission's Guidelines on standardisation agreements (see IP/10/1702 and MEMO/10/676), standard setting organisations, including ETSI, require the owners of patents that are essential for the implementation of a standard to commit to license these patents on FRAND terms. This commitment serves to ensure effective access to the standardised technology. Such commitments were given to ETSI by many patent holders, including Samsung, when the third generation (“3G”) mobile and wireless telecommunications system standards were adopted in Europe.“
It has also been revealed that Samsung Electronics, along with the authorities of the Member States' competition have been informed by the Commission that the formal proceedings of the probe have begun.