The European Commission fired warning shots at Nokia and Samsung related to their patent licensing activities.
In a speech yesterday, Joaquin Almunia (pictured), EC VP responsible for competition policy, said that “this issue, grown in importance with the rise of the knowledge economy, is becoming even more crucial in the current juncture”.
With regard to Nokia, Almunia noted the company’s change in position following the sale of the rump of its Devices & Services unit to Microsoft, while retaining its core intellectual property portfolio.
The Finnish company has recently come under fire for its activities related to standard essential patents, with wireless module company Sierra Wireless alleging that Nokia had acted anti-competitively by attempting to levy “unfavourable and unreasonable” royalty terms.
“If Nokia were to take illegal advantage of its patents in the future, we will open an antitrust case – but I sincerely hope we will not have to,” he said.
It was pointed out that in its review of the Nokia/Microsoft deal, Nokia’s patent plans were beyond its scope.
“When we assess a merger, we look into the possible anticompetitive impact of the company resulting from it. We cannot consider what the seller will do,” Almunia said.
With regard to Samsung, the politician noted that the South Korean handset number one has offered commitments related to its use of standard essential patents (SEPs), proposing not to look for injunctions in such cases and instead to have disputes settled by a court or arbitrator.
“We have market-tested these commitments and will take account of the feedback when we discuss with Samsung possible improvements to their commitments in the coming weeks,” Almunia said.
And touching on Motorola’s German actions involving SEPs, he noted: “The Commission will try to give the court a useful answer as quickly as possible. To repeat and to put it very simply, I believe that injunctions should not be available when there is a willing licensee.”
“Ideally, this principle should be implemented by the standard-setting organisations themselves. But since that is not happening, I am willing to provide clarity to the market through competition enforcement,” Almunia continued.