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South Korea probes 'mobe patent bully-boy' Samsung

Apple takes phone feud to rival's home turf

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South Korea's Fair Trade Commission is investigating whether Samsung abused its position as a wireless patent hoarder following a complaint by Apple.

The competition watchdog will assess whether Sammy used its patents, which cover technology deemed essential for meeting telecommunications standards, to bully mobile-phone makers in business dealings. The commission is expected to look into the two rivals' smartphone market shares as well as the patents, the Korea Herald reported.

"It is true that we have launched an investigation into the case. We are following our usual probe proceedings. But we cannot elaborate further on an ongoing investigation,” Noh Sang-sub, an official at the FTC’s anti-monopoly bureau, told the daily English-language paper.

Samsung told The Reg in an emailed statement that it wasn't able to comment on the matter specifically.

"[But] we have at all times met our obligations to the fair licensing of our telecommunications standards patents," the South Korean electronics giant added.

Apple has frequently accused Samsung of demanding far too much in licensing fees for its 3G patents and abusing the "monopoly power" granted by those protected designs.

The fruity firm's whinges have been enough to spark a US Congress hearing on whether standards-essential patents should be permitted in preliminary injunction attempts to ban sales of products.

And the European Commission has opened up investigations into Samsung and Motorola Mobility's use of patents in their lawsuits.

The regulatory complaints and investigations are just one aspect of an all-out war that Apple has declared on a multitude of smartphone-makers. Recent decisions have gone both ways, with Apple winning a massive victory in the States, including $1.05bn in damages and prospective permanent bans on Galaxy SII phones.

Samsung's wins have been small in comparison, with a Tokyo court deciding that one patent brought by Apple wasn't infringed by Sammy stuff. ®

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