EC tipped to investigate Motorola over patent misuse

Motorola is tipped to find itself on the receiving end of an investigation over its patent infringement cases against Microsoft and Apple.

Samsung is already in hot water with the European Commission over its use of FRAND (fair reasonable and non-discriminatory) licensing agreements in patent infringement cases.  This is due to Samsung attempting to use commonly held FRAND standards, in this case pertaining to 3G communication, in a bid to shut down parts of Apple’s business, namely its iPhone 4S handset.

Industry watchdogs tend to view FRAND patents favourably, and it seems that the EC is none too happy about firms using them as strategic weapons, as in Samsung’s ongoing barney. 

The EU’s competition commissioner, vice president Joaquín Almunia, has hinted that its antitrust inquiry into the Samsung spat is not the only one on the boil at the moment.

Almunia has stated that this is “not the only case”, and patent expert Florian Mueller reckons that it could be Motorola Mobility which is about to draw the ire of the EC.

According to his FOSSPatents bog, Motorola is hitting Apple and Microsoft with patent infringement cases in Germany.  These concern three or more patents which are essential to two sets of industry standards, and could be perceived as misuse.

This means that if Samsung is reprimanded for its use of industry essential patents then it is likely that Motorola will receive the same treatment, if it has not already received a request for information.

As Mueller points out, the EC started its investigation into Samsung of its own volition so there is nothing to say it won’t be giving Motorola the same treatment.

With Google on its way to completing its big bucks acquisition of Motorola Mobility this could cause some problems as it is already undergoing wider anticompetitive investigations from the EC and enforcer arm DG COMP. 

According to Mueller the ways in which Google may use Motorola Mobility’s standards patents “could also raise regulatory concerns” as it awaits clearance.