The European Commission [official website] on Monday sent a Statement of Objections informing Motorola Mobility, a telecommunications equipment corporation owned by Google [corporate websites], of its preliminary view [press release] that the company's seeking and enforcing of an injunction against Apple [corporate website] in Germany is an abuse of its market position. The use of injunctions on mobile phone standard-essential patents can be considered abusive when the potential licensee is willing to enter into a license on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms. Such moves generally involve a prohibition to sell the product infringing on the patent, which could distort licensing negotiations and impose unjustified licensing terms on the patent licensees. Joaquin Almunia [official profile], Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy, said of this style of patent abuse:
The protection of intellectual property is a cornerstone of innovation and growth. But so is competition. I think that companies should spend their time innovating and competing on the merits of the products they offernot misusing their intellectual property rights to hold up competitors to the detriment of innovation and consumer choice.The sending of a Statement of Objections does not prejudge the final outcome of the investigation, nor does it question the availability of injunctive relief for standard-essential patent-holders outside the specific circumstances present in this case.
The Statement of Objections is the latest of Motorola's legal battles. The US International Trade Commission (USITC) ruled in April that Apple did not infringe a Motorola patent [JURIST report] covering proximity sensors, stating that the concept at issue was too obvious to merit patent protection. In February, a US District Court restricted a patent lawsuit by Motorola [JURIST report] against Microsoft, ruling that certain parts of three different Motorola patents were not valid. In January, Motorola filed a motion [JURIST report] with the ITC to drop two key patents from it case against Microsoft. The claim alleged that Microsoft infringed on Motorola Mobility's patents related to technology used in the Xbox. The withdrawal of the claim was required in an agreement Google made with the Federal Trade Commission. In December, the ITC ruled [JURIST report] for Apple in a patent dispute with Google.