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EU finds that Google's Motorola abused its patent power in seeking an injunction against Apple


The New York Times reports that the European Commission issued a preliminary finding which holds that Motorola abused its patent power in seeking an injunction against Apple in Germany for alleged patent infringement.

The EU investigation was precipitated by complaints from Microsoft and Apple who both alleged that Motorola was attempting to extract unfair licensing terms for standards essential patents.

While companies aren't ordinarily required to license their patents out to competitors, patents which have been deemed essential to particular technological standards must be licensed out on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms, otherwise known as FRAND.

That said, the EU ruling found that Motorola-owned patents relating to GSM mobile and wireless technologies were not offered to Apple at fair rates. When Apple refused to pay the royalties demanded by Motorola, the company subsequently filed a motion seeking to halt sales of the iPhone in Germany.

Motorola's actions, the EU found, constituted "an abuse of a dominant position prohibited by E.U. antitrust rules."

"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," EU executive Joaquin Almunia explained in a news release.

Again, the EU's finding was merely preliminary, but the ruling could eventually lead to a formal antitrust charge down the line. The Times has previously noted that the EU can fine companies found to be in violation of antitrust laws upwards of 10% of their annual income.

For what it's worth, Motorola's misguided attempt to secure an injunction against the iPhone first went into motion before they were acquired by Google. And seeing as how Google is now Motorola's parent company, the search giant would now would now be held liable for any damages levied against Motorola.

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