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Question of the Day
BRUSSELS (AP) - Samsung took a double-hit in its battle against archrival Apple when the European Union announced it would investigate whether it was illegally trying to hinder competitors and Germany blocked sales of some of its tablet computers.
The EU’s antitrust watchdog thinks the South Korean company may be overstepping the bounds and launched a formal investigation into whether Samsung is using lawsuits over key patents on 3G wireless technology to hinder competitors _ including Apple.
The European Commission, which is acting as the EU’s antitrust enforcer, said Tuesday it suspected Samsung of not giving other companies fair access to patents it holds on standardized 3G technology for mobile devices _ despite committing to do so in 1998.
Under EU patent rules, a company that holds patents for standardized products is required to license them out indiscriminately at a fair price.
If Samsung is found guilty of unfairly restraining competition, it can be fined up to 10 percent of annual revenue related to the investigation.
In the EU, Samsung has sued Apple in Germany, France, Italy, the U.K., the Netherlands and Spain. It also has legal proceedings against its competitor in the U.S., South Korea, Japan and Australia, Mueller said. However, Mueller said, Samsung may now be inclined to withdraw its lawsuits against Apple following news of the European investigation.
The battle between the two companies began in April, when Cupertino, California-based Apple sued Samsung in the United States, alleging the product design, user interface and packaging of Samsung’s Galaxy devices “slavishly copy” the iPhone and iPad.
A spokesman said the European Commission launched its probe after its own investigation of the market, rather than reacting to complaints from Samsung’s competitors. However, the Commission last year sent antitrust questionnaires to both Apple and Samsung.
The spokesman added that similar probes could also be launched against other companies strategically using patent lawsuits to stop competitors from selling similar devices.
By Michael P. Orsi
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