Earlier this week, Samsung dropped all of its European injunctions and injunctions requests against Apple, ostensibly in the interests of “protecting consumer choice.” In actuality, the move was a last-minute bid to appease the European Union, which has been toying with the idea of charging the Korean electronics maker with antitrust violations for its flood of patent lawsuits.
It didn’t work. Today, the head of the European Commission told Reuters that it will level formal antitrust allegations at Samsung very shortly. “We will issue a Statement of Objections very soon,” Joaquin Almunia told Reuters.
Once the Statement of Objections and its full list of charges are issued, Samsung will be able to rebut the claims in writing or request a hearing. Though the SO is technically a preliminary step in an antitrust investigation, the Commission only tends to issue them when the organization is fairly certain of the misconduct involved.
Indeed, the Statement of Objections is the result of more than a year’s worth of work by EU investigators. The European Commission started peering more closely at Samsung’s litigation all the way back in November of last year, though the organization didn’t formally announce its investigation until this past January.
Samsung’s behavior regarding standards-essential patents—in other words, patents that are crucial to the central industry standards—lies at the heart of the matter. If a patent is considered to be standards-essential, it must be licensed under fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms to any and all comers—even rivals like Apple. We’ll have to wait for the formal SO to see the specific charges, but it’s likely that the Commission will accuse Samsung of using such patents as a litigious hammer against Apple, rather than licensing the technology under the aforementioned FRAND terms.
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