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Monday, December 09, 2013
Almunia Gives Update On Google, Samsung, Nokia And Motorola Cases

Joaquin Almunia, in charge of competition at the European Commission, on Monday talked about the connection between intellectual property and competition policy and the latest proceedings related to Google, Samsung, Nokia And Motorola cases.

Speaking at the IP Summit 2013 in Paris, Almunia commented on Europe's enforcement action involving intellectual property rights and the so-called smartphone wars. He underlined the need for standard-setting organisations to generally ask their members to commit to license on FRAND terms the patents that are essential to the standard.

"The requirement explains our concerns in the on-going Samsung and Motorola cases. Patent holders should not seek injunctions based on SEPs against companies that are willing to enter a licence on FRAND terms," he said.

Samsung has offered commitments to address Europe's competition concerns in relation to its use of injunctions. Samsung essentially proposes not to enjoin companies which are willing to have the dispute 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.

Samsung and Apple are battling each other in courts in more than 10 countries as they vie for control of the mobile market.

Almunia also refered to the Motorola case. He said the European Commission had received questions from the Mannheim District Court, which is one of the first courts in Europe conducting a "FRAND setting trial".

The questions regard the compatibility with EU competition law of Motorola's seeking and enforcing injunctions in Germany. ALmunia said the commission would "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 said.

Almunia also talked about the recent clearance the EC gave to the Microsoft-Nokia deal. He said there is a danger Nokia will now attempt to "extract higher returns" from its patent portfolio. "In other words...behave like a patent troll, or to use a more polite phrase, a patent assertion entity."

Almunia warned he will open an antitrust case against the company if it attempts to take "illegal advantage" of its patents.

Google was also mentioned at Almunia's speach. The European regulator has has asked Google not to discriminate against companies that don't want it to use their content in Google's specialized search results, such as price comparison for plane tickets or reviews of restaurants.

Almunia said the Internet search giant currently "creates a link" between sites that cooperate with the practice known as "scraping" and how the sites appear on Google's general search results.

"I have asked Google to sever this link" to improve competition, he said.

Google has offered to let companies opt out of its specialized results without consequences for their general results ranking, but has not yet implemented that.

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