Apple has been waging a legal battle with Samsung over the look and feel of its Galaxy line of smartphones and tablets. In response, Samsung filed a series of its own patent infringement lawsuits against Apple that involve 3G technology. These countersuits may have landed Samsung in hot water with the European Union as some of these patents may be subject to FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) licensing terms.
FRAND extends to patents that cover industry standards like 3G technology. Any company that's involved in the development of a standard must license patents essential to the technology at a reasonable rate and with reasonable terms and conditions. These patents are not supposed to be used as weapons in a legal battle.
The European Commission has opened a preliminary investigation and is examining whether Samsung's lawsuits against Apple have abused FRAND standards. This investigation was first mentioned publicly in a recent court filing by Apple in California and later confirmed by Samsung in a statement released to Computerworld.
Samsung has at all times remained committed to fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing terms for our wireless standards-related patents. We have received a request for information from the Commission and are cooperating fully. Note that this is a preliminary investigation and the European Commission has not yet determined whether to conduct a full investigation.
The European Commission will now gather information from all parties involved and will determine whether there's enough evidence for a full investigation. If the EC continues, Samsung could be forced to withdraw its lawsuits against Apple. It could also face a possible fine.