Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/11/22/patents_unfair_competition/

EU: Apple-Samsung row could be stifling competition

Standardisation, IP could be TOOLS OF EVIL

By Brid-Aine Parnell

Posted in Government, 22nd November 2011 16:19 GMT

The EU has said it is concerned about the Great Patent Wars being a cover for unfair competition practices by IT firms.

Despite no complaints being filed, the European Commission decided to open an investigation into the warfare between Apple and Samsung involving 3G standards patents.

"We requested information from both Apple and Samsung. We have not yet received the answers," EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told reporters. "We need to look at this because IP rights can be used as a distortion of competition but we will need to look at the answers."

"In particular, in the IT sector, it is obvious it is not the only case. Apple and Samsung is only one case where IP rights can be used as an instrument to restrict competition," he said, according to a Reuters report.

"Standardisation and IP rights are two instruments that in this new IT sector can be used as a tool to abuse."

It was only a matter of time before the patent disputes between the tech giants and telcos, particularly in the smartphone sector, sparked the interest of competition regulators. Recently, firms seem very fond of going down the preliminary injunction route, which bans their rival's product from the shelves and kills off competition at an early stage.

As the number of big players in this sector has dwindled, it increases the chances that if any of the big firms - Google, Microsoft or Apple - win IP battles against other companies, they'll effectively create monopolies in the process. ®