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European Union formally accuses Samsung of antitrust violations in patent investigation (update)

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We heard yesterday that the European Union was going to be bringing charges against Samsung for unfairly trying to prevent Apple and other competitors from using some of its standards-essential patents, and today the other shoe dropped. Reuters is reporting that the EU sent the company a formal Statement of Objections earlier today, which said that it has come to the conclusion that Samsung was taking advantage of its position unfairly.

It's the result of an antitrust investigation that has been festering since January, with the EU concerned that Samsung had been using several standards-essential patents it owns to block competition and innovation, rather than licensing them to competitors under the fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms required. Of specific concern have been Samsung's attempts to seek injunctions over the accused infringement of FRAND patents — an issue that the FTC has now raised numerous times as well.

As for next steps, Samsung will have the opportunity to review the statement and request further discussions with EU regulators, possibly even before the full details of the complaints become public knowledge. "Intellectual property rights are an important cornerstone of the single market," EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement. "However, such rights should not be misused when they are essential to implement industry standards, which bring huge benefits to businesses and consumers alike."

Update: Samsung has provided us with a written statement in response to the news:

"The European Commission announced today that it sent to Samsung a Statement of Objections regarding the enforcement of standard essential patents. We are studying the statement and will firmly defend ourselves against any misconceived allegations. We will continue to fully cooperate with the Commission. Samsung is confident that in due course the Commission will conclude that we have acted in compliance with EU competition laws."

Update 2: Samsung has now distributed a revised statement, taking on a much more defensive tone and blaming Apple for forcing its hand.

"Samsung has been and remains committed to licensing our standard essential patents (SEP) on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. Samsung had no choice but to seek injunctions based on SEPs due to Apple's unwillingness to enter into good-faith negotiations and to defend ourselves against Apple which sued us first.

No injunctions have been granted against Apple in any EU Member State and we already decided to withdraw our injunction requests against Apple on the basis of our SEPs pending in European courts. We will continue to fully cooperate with the Commission and are confident that in due course the Commission will conclude that we have acted in full compliance with EU competition laws."