The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) today officially closed its investigation into Samsung’s possible abuse of patents. The decision was made following the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) decision to overturn previously awarded bans on Apple products in the U.S.
As part of the ongoing and years-long patent war between Samsung and Apple, Samsung was awarded sale bans on certain iPhone and iPad models in the U.S. The USTR reversed this ban today, citing the fact that the ban was not in the public’s interest.
The patents that Samsung had used to obtain the ban were so-called standards-essential patents (SEPs). Such patents are deemed essential to certain markets and must be licensed non-discriminatorily at fair market prices. The Department of Justice was investigating whether Samsung’s ban on Apple products may have violated antitrust laws. According to the DOJ, using SEPs to obtain product bans could represent an abuse of market power.
“While there are certain circumstances where an exclusion order as a remedy for infringement of such patents could be appropriate, in many cases there is a risk that the patent holder could use the threat of an exclusion order to obtain licensing terms that are more onerous than would be justified by the value of the technology itself, effectively exploiting the market power obtained through the standards-setting process,” said the DOJ in an official statement.
“The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) reviewed the exclusion order issued by the ITC against Apple at Samsung’s request and overturned it, determining that it was not consistent with the public interest. As a result of the USTR’s action, the Antitrust Division has determined that no further action is required at this time. The Antitrust Division is therefore closing its investigation into Samsung’s conduct, but will continue to monitor further developments in this area.”
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