EU warns tech giants, says patent wars sacrifice consumers

LOGO CE_Vertical_EN_quadriThe European Commission has ruled today that Google’s Motorola Mobility is abusing its market strength by not granting basic tech licenses to its rival Apple, even though the latter has accepted to pay for, and then seeking an injunction to stop the sale of its products. The Commission explained that the long patents wars between technology companies should not harm the consumers, and the disputes must be resolved through arbitration before taking it to the courts.

“The so-called smartphone patent wars should not occur at the expense of consumers,” said Joaquin Almunia, the European commissioner in charge of antitrust enforcement. He said that they also accepted a pledge by Samsung Electronics not to seek injunctions against rivals if they agree to sign a licensing agreement for smartphones or tablets.

Apple, Samsung, Google have been in a long-running patents feud with each other, clashing in courts in over 10 countries across the world, trying to halt the sales of their rivals. Microsoft and Nokia have also joined the game in some markets.

The EU’s decision means that tech patents cannot be used easily to blackmail the rivals anymore. Almunia said smartphone technology giants must seek first to license patents on reasonable terms, rather than using them as a tool as a threat. He said recent court battles around the world ultimately hinder innovation and harm consumers.

Almunia added, “While patent holders should be fairly remunerated for the use of their intellectual property, implementers of such standards should also get access to standardized technology on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.”

The antitrust enforcer said he will not levy any fine on Motorola Mobility this time, because European national laws have issued conflicting rulings in patent and licensing suits.

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