It was almost a year ago to the day that the European Commission began investigating Motorola over reported abuse of its standard-essential patents (SEPs), and now the regulators have a little more to say on the matter. The Commission has issued Motorola Mobility a Statement of Objections, which doesn’t mean any judgment has been reached, but lets the company know its preliminary view, and it ain’t good news.
According to these initial findings, Motorola wanting an injunction against Apple in Germany based on some of its GPRS-related SEPs — the particular legal encounter that was the catalyst for a complaint by Cupertino and ultimately, the EC’s investigation — “amounts to an abuse of a dominant position prohibited by EU antitrust rules.” Motorola originally said it would license these patents under FRAND terms when they became standard-essential, which Apple was happy to pay for. However, the company pursued an injunction nonetheless.
The Commission’s statement goes on to say that while injunctions can be necessary in certain disputes, where there is potential for an agreement under FRAND terms, companies with bulging SEP portfolios should not be allowed to request injunctions “in order to distort licensing negotiations and impose unjustified licensing terms on patent licensees.” Joaquín Almunia, the Commission Vice President who’s responsible for competition policy, echoed what we’ve heard from other important folks entrenched in the never-ending patent battlefield (such as Judge Koh), saying: “I think that companies should spend their time innovating and competing on the merits of the products they offer — not misusing their intellectual property rights to hold up competitors to the detriment of innovation and consumer choice.” So, what happens next? Motorola will first have its right to address the statement before the EC makes a final decision, but it’s looking like a fine is headed the company’s way. Hopefully, the outcome will also have a wider impact on patent cases of the future, so companies will spend more time making shiny things for us, and less on courtroom squabbles.
SOURCE: European Commission