Motorola has avoided a fine from the European Commission (EC), despite being found to have misused standard essential patents (SEPs) to wage a patent war against Apple.
The case related to a legal challenge that Motorola had brought against Apple in Germany over a key patent relating to General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) technology, used for data connections in smartphones. Motorola had previously agreed to provide the ability to license this patent, as part of the wider European Telecommunications Standardisation Institute GPRS standard.
However, the EC said Motorola had then abused this by trying to claim an injunction against Apple based on this patent, despite Apple having agreed to pay the necessary licence fee for its use.
Competition vice president for the EC Joaquín Almunia said the case underlined the importance of avoiding patent spats by ensuring firms with key SEPs did not see this as a chance to harm rivals, and ultimately consumers.
"The so-called smartphone patent wars should not occur at the expense of consumers. This is why all industry players must comply with the competition rules. Our decision on Motorola provides legal clarity on the circumstances in which injunctions to enforce standard essential patents can be anti-competitive,” he said.
“This will also contribute to ensuring the proper functioning of standard-setting in Europe. While patent holders should be fairly remunerated for the use of their intellectual property, implementers of such standards should also get access to standardised technology on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.”
V3 contacted Motorola for any comment in response to the ruling but had received no reply at the time of publication. Apple had also not responded to a request for comment.
Motorola avoided a fine because the EC ruled there was not enough prior case law to determine what, if any, sort of penalty should be handed down, as numerous national courts have given divided responses to such situations.
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