The European Commission (EC) has accepted commitments from Samsung that it will not engage in legal spats with rivals over standard essential patents (SEPs) used in smartphones and tablets.
Instead, the firm has agreed to provide a framework by which other firms can licence these patents for at least 12 months. If no agreement is reached on a licensing deal, an independent third party will step in to broker an agreement, thereby avoiding the need for expensive, time-consuming court battles.
EC vice president in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia said ensuring protection of intellectual property was important to ensure innovation in areas such as technology, but this must not come at the expense of the consumer.
“It is essential that intellectual property is not misused to the detriment of healthy competition and, ultimately, of consumers. In this context, I welcome Samsung's commitment to resolve disputes on standard essential patents without having recourse to injunctions in a way that could harm competition.
Almunia added that the decision should help others in the industry decide on how to set up license frameworks for standard patents under fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.
“I would also encourage other industry players to consider establishing similar dispute resolution mechanisms," he added.
Samsung welcomed the ruling in a statement: “Samsung Electronics believes that the agreement with the European Commission will reduce uncertainties and create greater clarity in the industry,” it said.
“Moreover, it demonstrates Samsung Electronics’ commitment to finding solutions which balance the interests of both IP licensors and licensees.”
The decision comes amid numerous ongoing patent spats in other areas, most notably between Samsung and Apple, where the jury has now begun its deliberations in the latest round of that case. Samsung will be hoping for a better outcome than last time, when it faced a potential bill of $1bn.
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