Apple files complaint with the European Commission against Motorola Mobility over FRAND abuse

On 17 February 2012, in its Form 10-K (annual report), Motorola Mobility (“MMI”) stated that it received a letter from the European Commission notifying it that Apple submitted a formal complaint against MMI regarding the enforcement of certain standards-essential patents against Apple allegedly in breach of MMI’s FRAND commitments. Apple’s complaint seeks the Commission’s intervention with respect to standards-essential patents.

While the Commission has not yet opened a formal investigation against MMI, EU Competition Commissioner Almunia did state in a recent speech from 8 March 2012 that even if the Commission cleared the Google/Motorola transaction on 13 February 2012, “this merger clearance does not bless all actions by Motorola in the past or all future action by Google with regard to the use of these standard essential patents.” One may recall that one of the potential competition issues the Commission investigated in that case was whether, post-merger, the threat of injunctions could be used by Google to extract patent cross-licenses from competitors on terms to which they otherwise would not have agreed.  The Commission ultimately came to the conclusion that the market situation was not significantly changed by the transaction.

Almunia also stated that he is determined to use antitrust enforcement whenever necessary to prevent any anti-competitive conduct by holders of standards-essential patents in the future. [Gabriele Accardo]