The European Commission has announced it is launching a formal investigation into Samsung for anti-competitive business practices in Europe. The statement alleges that Samsung may have used its patent rights in a way that violated the European Union’s antitrust rules.
The investigation seems to stem from Samsung’s ongoing legal battle with Apple over patent infringement. Though Apple is never mentioned by name - and is apparently not a target of the investigation - the statement notes that in 2011 Samsung “sought injunctive relief... against competing mobile device manufacturers” on the grounds of patent infringement. The focus of the Commission’s investigation will be whether Samsung’s suits violated the company’s 1998 agreement with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute to license essential patents on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.
Samsung filed suit against Apple for infringement of several mobile device patents last year. In response to a suit filed in the U.S. by Apple to block sales of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1, Samsung initiated legal action in several countries. At the time Samsung’s suits were seen by many as retaliatory. It looks like the European Commission may agree. It is unclear what implications this will have, if any, on the law suits still working their way through several European courts.