It seems that we can't go more than a few days without hearing more news related to the ongoing legal battle between Apple and Samsung, and today that trend continues. A German appeals court has upheld a preliminary injunction against the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, adding that the decision also covers the smaller Galaxy Tab 8.9. However, FOSS Patents points out that today's decision was based on German unfair competition laws rather than an Apple design right like an earlier decision. The good news for Samsung here is that, due to the uniqueness of Germany's unfair competition laws, today's ruling is unlikely to be repeated in other countries.
In other Samsung European legal news, the European Commission has announced that it's kicked off a formal investigation into whether or not Samsung has violated EU antitrust rules by attempting to use patents essential to wireless standards against competitors. The EU says that Samsung gave a commitment to license these 3G patents on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms back in 1998, so it'll be looking into the situation to determine if, by going after other device makers for alleged patent infringement, Samsung has broken its promise to fairly license the essential patents.
So far Samsung hasn't had much luck in using its 3G-related patents against Apple in Germany, as we've seen the courts reject two of the Korean company's patent claims in the past couple of weeks alone. It'll definitely be interested to see where this EU investigation goes, but unfortunately there's no mention in the announcement of how long it may be before we get any findings on the matter. To help pass the time until we do, you can find the full announcement from the European Commission down below.
Antitrust: Commission opens proceedings against Samsung
Brussels, 31 January 2012 - The European Commission has opened a formal investigation to assess whether Samsung Electronics has abusively, and in contravention of a commitment it gave to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), used certain of its standard essential patent rights to distort competition in European mobile device markets, in breach of EU antitrust rules. The opening of proceedings means that the Commission will examine the case as a matter of priority. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
In 2011, Samsung sought injunctive relief in various Member States' courts against competing mobile device makers based on alleged infringements of certain of its patent rights which it has declared essential to implement European mobile telephony standards. The Commission will investigate, in particular, whether in doing so Samsung has failed to honour its irrevocable commitment given in 1998 to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to license any standard essential patents relating to European mobile telephony standards on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. The Commission will examine whether such behaviour amounts to an abuse of a dominant position prohibited by Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU).
In line with the Commission's Guidelines on standardisation agreements (see IP/10/1702 and MEMO/10/676), standard setting organisations, including ETSI, require the owners of patents that are essential for the implementation of a standard to commit to license these patents on FRAND terms. This commitment serves to ensure effective access to the standardised technology. Such commitments were given to ETSI by many patent holders, including Samsung, when the third generation ("3G") mobile and wireless telecommunications system standards were adopted in Europe.
In order to guarantee undistorted competition and to reap the positive economic effects of standardisation it is important that FRAND commitments be fully honoured by the concerned undertakings.