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EU to quiz Apple and Samsung on Frand deals

Some discrimination is more reasonable than other kinds

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The EU is chasing up Samsung, and Apple, for details of the Frand licensing dispute, so make sure everyone is playing in a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) fashion.

The EU investigation came to light in court documents filed by Apple in the ongoing dispute between the two companies. In the filing Apple claims that the EU is investigating possible breaches of competition law by Samsung, a claim which was spotted by patent watcher Florian Mueller and confirmed to El Reg this morning.

European Commission's Directorate-General for Competition told us that it had requested information from both Samsung and Apple regarding "the enforcement of standards-essential patents in the mobile telephony sector".

Samsung confirmed that it has received the request, and reiterated that it has always "remained committed to fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing terms for our wireless standards-related patents".

In common with many companies who've been in the wireless business for a while, Samsung has a handful of patents which have been incorporated into the 3G standard, but a condition of having one's patents used is that one agrees to license them on a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (Frand) basis. So everyone has to pay a similar licence fee, and no one can be refused a "reasonable" licence.

Samsung is accusing Apple of infringing its patents, and claims to be happy to offer Apple a licence, but Apple counter-claims that it has been asking for such a thing for months without sensible response, which is probably why the EU has stepped in to mediate.

The EU only adopted the 3G standard on the condition that all the patent holders agreed to Frand restrictions, so its lawmakers will be very upset if Samsung isn't playing the game. But Samsung is fighting a tit-for-tat battle with Apple within which its standard-essential patents are an important weapon.

The EU investigation hardly warrants the name just yet, the Directorate-General has only asked for information from the parties involved, but if it develops it could see a considerable proportion of Samsung's ammunition removed from the field of battle. ®

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