Motorola Mobility Catches EU Complaint for Patent Abuse Towards Apple
May 6, 2013 11:15 AM
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The European Commission said that this EU complaint concerns Motorola Mobility’s issues with Apple in Germany
Motorola Mobility was slapped with a European Union antitrust complaint for seeking injunctions to block Apple's use of certain patents.
Motorola Mobility, which was
purchased by Google in 2011
for $12.4 billion, received a complaint from the EU stating that the company may be abusing its dominant position by seeking injunctions against Apple in Germany. This would block Apple from using patents that are essential for products to comply with industry-agreed technical standards.
Industry-standard technology makes sure that products -- like mobile phone antennas and GPS -- can operate together, even when they're made by different manufacturers.
The EU opened an antitrust investigation into Motorola Mobility in April 2012 after Apple and Microsoft complained that Motorola Mobility was seeking injunctions to block their use of patents -- which Google said was essential for creating standard-compliant products.
The European Commission said that this EU complaint concerns Motorola Mobility’s issues with Apple in Germany, but the part of the investigation concerning Microsoft products is "continuing."
"The protection of intellectual property is a cornerstone of innovation and growth," said Commission Vice President Joaquín Almunia. "But so is competition. I think that companies should spend their time innovating and competing on the merits of the products they offer – not misusing their intellectual property rights to hold up competitors to the detriment of innovation and consumer choice."
Just last month, U.S. District Judge Robert Scola -- a federal judge in Miami, Florida -- said that Apple and Motorola Mobility are
wasting the court's time
with patent infringement lawsuits that they have no intention of solving.
“The parties have no interest in efficiently and expeditiously resolving this dispute; they instead are using this and similar litigation worldwide as a business strategy that appears to have no end,” said Judge Scola. “That is not a proper use of this court.”
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5/6/2013 4:13:52 PM
For better or for worse, that's where this is heading. Courts clamping down on the types of suits you can file with a FRAND patent due to fear of abuse -> FRAND patents being worth less -> nobody wanting to submit their patent under FRAND -> balkanization of the electronics industry and the disappearance of compatibility. It's important to realize that preventing abuse isn't the only goal here. We're trying to walk the tightrope between preventing abuse, while simultaneously allowing FRAND to be lucrative enough for companies to
submit their patents under FRAND.
FRAND patents have typically had a lower royalty rate than regular patents (OP is slightly wrong here); it's just offset by increased units sold due to the patent being a standard. The danger is that if the courts continue ruling as they are, the total of
(FRAND royalty per device) * (FRAND units sold)
may become less than the total of
(regular patent royalty per device) * (units sold).
When that happens, the "prevent abuse" line crosses the "lucrative" line, and the tightrope ceases to exist. FRAND will still be around - small two-bit companies will submit their mediocre patents to it to try to increase their name recognition. But nobody who's competitive will use it. They will be using their own proprietary and incompatible schemes (e.g. Logitech's wireless mice not using bluetooth) because they're so much better than the FRAND-based "standard".
"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad
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