European Commission investigating Motorola for suspected patent abuse

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014


The European Commission announced on Tuesday that it has opened two formal investigations against Motorola Mobility, which were spurred by complaints from Apple and Microsoft.



Both Apple and Microsoft have accused Motorola, with complaints lodged in the European Union, of abusing its standard-essential patents. The complaints were enough to gain the attention of the European Commission, which will now formally investigate Motorola's licensing practices with FRAND patents.



In addition to reviewing potential unfair licensing practices, the commission said it will also investigate whether Motorola, by seeking injunctions against products like Apple's iPhone and iPad, has failed to honor the commitments it has made to standard setting organizations.



"In these commitments, Motorola engaged to license those standard-essential patents on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms," the commission said in a statement. "The Commission will examine whether Motorola's behaviour amounts to an abuse of a dominant market position prohibited by Article 102 on the Treaty of the Functioning EU."



Analyzing the announcement by the commission, patent expert Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents said the investigation is a sign that European Commission Vice President Joaquin Almunia is willing to fight for FRAND licensing harder than any of his predecessors did.





European Commission headquarters in Brussels, via Wikipedia.







"The press release routinely states, to put it differently, MMI (Motorola) is innocent until proven guilty," Mueller added. "But the launch of formal investigations (as opposed to merely preliminary ones) is a key step that follows a reasonably thorough (even though only initial) assessment of the issues."



Signs that the commission was prepared to launch a formal investigation into Motorola first surfaced last week, when Almunia indicated it was part of a broad reaching plan to reduce abuse of standard-essential patents by telecoms. At a lecture in Washington D.C., he said he wanted to "help bring more clarity into this area of competition control."



[ View article on AppleInsider ]

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Comments

  • monstrositymonstrosity Posts: 2,051member
  • josephwintersjosephwinters Posts: 107member
    Lol. The haha picture made me chortle.
  • macarenamacarena Posts: 316member
    Motorola must be regretting that bluster by their lawyer. This is the sort of statement that paints the company as a reckless aggressor, abusing Standard Essential Patents.



    Google might have managed to wriggle out of the Oracle mess (at least for now), but this noose looks like a tight one. Motorola is going to see the value of its patents evaporate pretty soon. If a $15 chip from Qualcomm comes fully licensed to the entire 3G stack, how much money could Motorola realistically expect to make from Apple?



    And for LTE, Apple has covered their bases quite well with the Nortel acquisition. In all likelihood, Apple might not have to pay too much to anyone for LTE - because it would be mostly offset by their own patents. That is the main reason Apple paid so much for the Nortel patents. Apple makes over 125M phones EVERY year. Their 2.5B share of the Nortel pool works out just $20 per iPhone made in a single year. Over 3-4 years, Apple would have recovered the money spent on the patents. And then it is just free money. Not a bad way to spend money that otherwise earned them just 2-3% return!
  • quinneyquinney Posts: 2,420member
    I wonder if this investigation could scuttle the Google takeover or, preferably, just make

    Motorola Mobility even more of an albatross around Google's neck.
  • gatorguygatorguy Posts: 14,530member
    Kudos to the EU if they establish some boundaries and basic FRAND principles that apply to all standards-setting agencies and groups. As it is they each have their own policies. Some modicum of commonality would be a big assist to those seeking licenses to essential IP.



    I suspect this exercise is intended more as a determination of what rules the various organizations have in place, how they're policed, and what terms should be considered acceptable or not generally permitted. I'd be surprised if punishment occurs. Assuming Motorola is following the policies set by the licensing agency it would be tough to explain. If they aren't following the established standards policies that's different and more could be at stake.
  • jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by quinney View Post


    I wonder if this investigation could scuttle the Google takeover or, preferably, just make

    Motorola Mobility even more of an albatross around Google's neck.



    Depends on how the acquisition is set up. If Google is simply buying assets, then any fines would go against Motorola Mobility and Google wouldn't have to pay them. The regulators would probably threaten to block the deal if Motorola (parent) doesn't pay them, but that simply makes it more imperative for Motorola to get their money from Google.
  • auclaucl Posts: 19member
    IMO if they loose the trials, they should be punished not (only) financially, but also by releasing the patents in question and related ones they own into public domain.
  • relicrelic Posts: 4,735member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by aucl View Post


    IMO if they loose the trials, they should be punished not (only) financially, but also by releasing the patents in question and related ones they own into public domain.



    Be careful what you ask for that could easily be turned around against Apple or any other company if such a thing was possible. Let's hope that the EU isn't practicing water boarding.
  • christophbchristophb Posts: 1,366member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by aucl View Post


    IMO if they loose the trials, they should be punished not (only) financially, but also by releasing the patents in question and related ones they own into public domain.



    Yikes! My take is that's a bit too far. I good with posting a bond to cover business losses, paying legal fees of the winning side and handing down fines when abuses defined in law are found but taking IP would discourage others from rightfully defending.
  • monstrositymonstrosity Posts: 2,051member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ChristophB View Post


    Yikes! My take is that's a bit too far.



    Agreed!
  • jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Relic View Post


    Be careful what you ask for that could easily be turned around against Apple or any other company if such a thing was possible. Let's hope that the EU isn't practicing water boarding.



    Which Standards Essential patents has Apple refused to license?
  • gatorguygatorguy Posts: 14,530member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


    Which Standards Essential patents has Apple refused to license?



    That's another issue that the EU will probably have to settle if their goal is to define FRAND standards and how they're established and policed. It's not unusual for an entity to become a member of a standards board, but not with the intent to cooperate in contributing their IP. Instead it sometimes happens that IP goes undeclared, whether on purpose or by oversight and that IP is then used to assert a claim for royalties once the standards are set.



    In some other cases they become a member to put up roadblocks to any standard they feel might negatively affect them. In either of these cases standards have the potential to be abused. That would be the claims the W3C is making with regard to Apple's membership in that group. Rather than cooperation they feel Apple's goal in joining is to stifle or at least severely delay the establishment of certain web standards.
  • auclaucl Posts: 19member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Relic View Post


    Be careful what you ask for that could easily be turned around against Apple or any other company if such a thing was possible. Let's hope that the EU isn't practicing water boarding.



    for the majority it would still be the best to give abused patents to public domain. No matter who the previous owner was.
  • macarenamacarena Posts: 316member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post


    In some other cases they become a member to put up roadblocks to any standard they feel might negatively affect them. In either of these cases standards have the potential to be abused. That would be the claims the W3C is making with regard to Apple's membership in that group. Rather than cooperation they feel Apple's goal in joining is to stifle or at least severely delay the establishment of certain web standards.



    Link please? This is the first I am hearing of such a conspiracy theory!
  • jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post


    That's another issue that the EU will probably have to settle if their goal is to define FRAND standards and how they're established and policed. It's not unusual for an entity to become a member of a standards board, but not with the intent to cooperate in contributing their IP. Instead it sometimes happens that IP goes undeclared, whether on purpose or by oversight and that IP is then used to assert a claim for royalties once the standards are set.



    In some other cases they become a member to put up roadblocks to any standard they feel might negatively affect them. In either of these cases standards have the potential to be abused. That would be the claims the W3C is making with regard to Apple's membership in that group. Rather than cooperation they feel Apple's goal in joining is to stifle or at least severely delay the establishment of certain web standards.



    A lot of FUD, but no evidence, I see. As usual for you.
  • gatorguygatorguy Posts: 14,530member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


    A lot of FUD, but no evidence, I see. As usual for you.



    I never post factual claims unless there's evidence to support them. You've been around long enough to know that, which disposes of your "as usual" mention.



    http://www.fosspatents.com/2011/07/a...-wide-web.html
  • jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post


    I never post factual claims unless there's evidence to support them. You've been around long enough to know that, which disposes of your "as usual" mention.



    http://www.fosspatents.com/2011/07/a...-wide-web.html



    Of course, if you read the case, it says nothing at all like what you claim it says.



    The consortium is trying to make a new standard and Apple said "wait a second - we have a patent that might affect your standard, so don't jump the gun". The consortium then went out of its way to try to get Apple's patent invalidated.



    So where did Apple agree to license a technology and then refuse to do so?
  • gatorguygatorguy Posts: 14,530member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


    Of course, if you read the case, it says nothing at all like what you claim it says.



    The consortium is trying to make a new standard and Apple said "wait a second - we have a patent that might affect your standard, so don't jump the gun". The consortium then went out of its way to try to get Apple's patent invalidated.



    So where did Apple agree to license a technology and then refuse to do so?



    They never agreed to, which is the point I made about why companies will sometimes join a consortium yet not contribute IP, and the reason for the EU to address the issue of putting up roadblocks to standards as long as they're investigating problems related to essential IP. Apple apparently didn't join the W3C standards consortium intending to be a cooperating and contributory partner IMO, but instead to keep a standard delayed as much as possible for their own reasons.



    I don't think you understand the standards setting process or some of the less-than-helpful reasons a company might join a standards consortium. I'll give you a link that might help you understand it if you have any real interest.
  • orlandoorlando Posts: 601member
    I wonder if Microsoft and others are now regretting pushing h264 over web-m.
  • freckledbruhfreckledbruh Posts: 520member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post


    They never agreed to, which is the point I made about why companies will sometimes join a consortium yet not contribute IP, and the reason for the EU to address the issue of putting up roadblocks to standards as long as they're investigating problems related to essential IP.



    I don't think you understand the standards setting process or some of the less-than-helpful reasons a company might join a standards consortium. I'll give you a link that might help you understand it if you have any real interest.



    I think you are overreaching. This is most likely regarding Motorola trying to sue others with patents that they willingly allowed into a standard. Nothing more, nothing less. Investigating one aspect of a situation doesn't mean that the EU will review every, single detail of that situation.
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