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EU opens antitrust probe against Motorola following Apple and Microsoft complaints

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Complaints lodged by Apple and Microsoft over anticompetitive behavior and FRAND abuse have led to two European Union Competition Commission antitrust investigations into Motorola Mobility.

European Commission
European Commission

The EU has announced that it is formally opening two antitrust investigations into Motorola Mobility, looking to determine whether Motorola has "used certain of its standard essential patents to distort competition in the Internal Market in breach of EU antitrust rules" — in other words, breached its FRAND commitments. Apple requested that the EU's competition commission examined Motorola's behavior following a demand of royalties of 2.25 percent of revenues from the iPhone, a request which Apple sees as excessive for the patents in question. A similar request was made by Microsoft following what it sees as unreasonable requests over video standards.The statement by the EU says that by enforcing injunctions against flagship products from Apple and Microsoft, Motorola may have abused its market position to distort competition:

"Following complaints by Apple and Microsoft, the Commission will investigate, in particular, whether by seeking and enforcing injunctions against Apple's and Microsoft's flagship products such as iPhone, iPad, Windows and Xbox on the basis of patents it had declared essential to produce standard-compliant products, Motorola has failed to honour its irrevocable commitments made to standard setting organisations."

The patents in question cover both 2G and 3G communications, Wi-Fi technologies, and H.264 video compression — each with a standard that allows equipment from different manufacturers to be interoperable. Under FRAND rules, Motorola must offer licenses for patents essential to the standard for a reasonable rate to any buyer, which, it is claimed, it has not done. Samsung is currently under investigation over similar allegations.

The announcement comes after comments by EU Commissioner Joaquin Almunia over the weekend, who said that the market power afforded to standard-essential patent holders could harm competition, and that he is "determined to use antitrust enforcement" to prevent abuse occurring.