Apple-Samsung Legal Battle Comes Under EU Spotlight

Top officials from the European Union's antitrust unit have launched an investigation into the legal arguments Samsung is using to stop Apple (NAS: AAPL) from selling its products.

The disputes between the two technology firms, which now spans 10 countries, has led the EU to focus on whether Samsung has breached EU antitrust laws with patent infringement claims against Apple. The investigation, which the EU said is standard procedure, will look into whether Samsung is abusing the principle of fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licensing in its action against Apple.

Samsung has acknowledged the EU request for information, according to Reuters, claiming that it had "at all times remained committed to FRAND licensing terms for our wireless standards-related patents."

However, the South Korean company saw a Dutch court dismiss its legal arguments last month, saying its 3G patents were part of essential standards that should be open to license under FRAND terms.

Commenting on this latest twist in the war between Samsung and Apple, Florian Mueller, an independent intellectual-property specialist, said that such tactics should cause concern among regulators.

"Samsung went too far by trying to shut down Apple's products with its 3G patents in nine different countries on four continents. That's a recipe for triggering antitrust intervention," he told Reuters. "This investigation has huge implications for Apple's dispute with Samsung, but way beyond those two companies, it's about the kind of licensing commitment the entire technology industry relies upon."

In the event of the EU ruling that Samsung is guilty of antitrust infringements, not only could Samsung be forced to drop its legal actions against Apple in Europe, but the EU could also fine the company 10% of its global turnover if it is found to have violated EU rules.

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