Motorola Mobility's patent lawsuits investigated by EU

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Image caption Microsoft has acted to prevent shipments of its Xbox console being disrupted in Europe

Motorola Mobility's patent lawsuits have become the subject of two investigations by the European Commission.

It follows complaints by Apple and Microsoft after Motorola tried to block sales of their products.

They said that Motorola - which is in the process of being taken over by Google - had failed to license "essential" technologies on fair and reasonable terms.

Motorola denies any wrongdoing.

"The commission will examine whether Motorola's behaviour amounts to an abuse of a dominant market position,"a statement from the commission said.

The dispute centres on Motorola's use of Frand-type patents.

These involve technologies that are deemed to be part of an industry standard and therefore must be offered for a reasonable fee to anyone willing to pay.

"Motorola Mobility is confident that a thorough investigation will demonstrate that it has honoured its Frand obligations and complied with anti-trust laws," a statement from the firm said.

"[We] will continue to work closely with the European Commission to resolve this matter as soon as practicable."


Apple has clashed with Motorola over the amount it should pay for its use of a patent for a "method for performing a countdown functionduring a mobile-originated transfer for a packet radio system".

The dispute led a German court to order a ban of certain iPad and iPhone models in Germany last year - a ruling which was later suspended.

Apple has also been forced to suspend its push email service to German customers as a result of another clash.

Microsoft faces a separate complaint in Germany in a fortnight's time over its use of H.264 video-compression technology patents claimed by Motorola.

Microsoft announced on Monday that it was moving its European software distribution centre from Germany to the Netherlands in order to prevent a potential ban of shipments of its Windows 7 system software and Xbox 360 gaming consoles.

"We would have preferred to keep our European distribution centre in Germany, where it has been for many years," a statement from Microsoft said.

"Unfortunately the risk from disruption's from Motorola's patent litigation is simply too high."

Patent consultant Florian Mueller blogged that the commission's interventionmight influence the outcome of the case.

"Germany is the only EU member state in which Motorola is suing Apple and Microsoft over standard-essential patents," he wrote.

"The commission's decision to launch these formal investigations should serve as food for thought for certain judges in the largest EU member state who have shown a worrying tendency in recent years to put patent law far above anti-trust law."


The European Commission's action follows earlier warnings that it had concerns about Motorola's enforcement tactics, which it expressed after approving Google's takeover of the firm.

"The holders of standard-essential patents have considerable market power," said competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia.

"This market power can be used to harm competition... I don't need to tell you that this is unacceptable, and I am determined to use anti-trust enforcement to prevent such hold-up by patent holders."

The Commissionlaunched a related probe into Samsungin January after it sought sales injunctions against Apple linked to its Frand-related 3G patents.

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