The European Union's competition commissioner said his office could investigate Apple and Samsung over possible anti-competitive actions related to the firms' ongoing patent dispute.
Joaquin Almunia was quoted by Reuters as saying his office had asked the firms for details on as many as 20 patents. The commissioner suggested that the European Commission could bring charges against the firms for potentially misusing the courts to block competition.
"Apple and Samsung is only one case where IP rights can be used as an instrument to restrict competition," Almunia said.
"Standardisation and IP rights are two instruments that in this new IT sector can be used as a tool to abuse."
Florian Mueller, an intellectual property activist and expert who has been following the disputes between Apple and Samsung, told V3 the scope of the investigation suggests that Samsung is more of a target than Apple.
"Patents are government-granted monopolies and therefore inherently in conflict with competition rules, but not every use of patents is necessarily anti-competitive," Mueller explained.
"It depends on many factors, and patents related to industry standards are far more likely to raise competition issues than other patents."
Almunia's comments are the latest twist in what has already been a months-long legal battle between Apple and Samsung in Europe. Apple has scored key victories in early decisions, winning bans on Samsung products in the Netherlands and Germany.
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