EU takes issue with Motorola’s patent abuse against Apple


In a preliminary ruling, the European Commission on Monday found that Motorola Mobility had abused its dominance in wireless communications patents in seeking an injunction against Apple in Germany. The finding opens the door to a potential antitrust charges to be filed against Google. The EU in its formal statement of objections informed the Google-owned smartphone maker of its allegations that it had leveraged its market position and abused standards-essential patents in order to enforce an injunction against Apple…

The EU filed a statement Monday morning, quoting its competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia as 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.

The New York Times weighed in, writing that the EU’s preliminary finding “could lead to formal antitrust charges.”

The Commission wrote in a statement that dominant standards-essential patent holders “should not have recourse to injunctions, which generally involve a prohibition to sell the product infringing the patent, in order to distort licensing negotiations and impose unjustified licensing terms on patent licensees.”

Well, the EU got what it asked for.

In February 2012, European Union regulators cleared Google’s purchase of Motorola, but expressed concern by the possibility that Google could “abuse these patents, linking some patents with its Android devices.”

The acquisition approval, however, won’t exonerate any wrongdoing concerning patents “by Motorola in the past or all future action by Google,” Almunia underscored.

And now the EU has found Google guilty of just that.

By contrast, a potential licensee which remains passive and unresponsive to a request to enter into licensing negotiations or is found to employ clear delaying tactics cannot be generally considered as ‘willing’.

The final EU ruling will come down after Google has had the chance to defend itself at a hearing.

Because Motorola had initially agreed to license its patents on FRAND (Fair, Reasonable and Non-Descriminatory) terms, Apple fought Motorola injunctions in Germany arguing the handset maker was repeatedly refusing to commit to a reasonable licensing agreement.

Google, as you know, bought Motorola for a whopping $12.5 billion a year ago, mostly for its rich portfolio of patents concerning wireless and mobile technology. But with that patent windfall failing to materialize, media outlets such as Bloomberg and The Verge are questioning Google’s pricey acquisition.

According to patent expert Florian Müeller, the acquisition of Motorola has given Google “zero leverage” against Microsoft so far and “very limited” leverage against Apple.