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European officials looking into Apple-Samsung dispute, report says

Europe's top competition enforcer requests 'standards-essential' patent data from the companies to determine if antitrust laws may have been breached.

November 05, 2011|By David Sarno, Los Angeles Times

The legal war between Apple Inc. and Samsung Corp. continues to escalate, and has arrived in the halls of the European Union.

The European Commission, Europe's top competition enforcer, has contacted Apple and Samsung, according to a statement posted by patent maven Florian Mueller on his FOSS Patents blog.

"The commission has indeed sent requests for information to Apple and Samsung concerning the enforcement of standards-essential patents in the mobile telephony sector," the statement says. "Such requests for information are standard procedure in antitrust investigations to allow the commission to establish the relevant facts in a case. We have no other comments at this stage."

As Mueller points out, "standards-essential patents" — protections on technology that's used to build common phone features — make up the heart of Samsung's legal case against Apple, not the other way around. If the commission feels that Samsung is overstepping its bounds by suing over standard technology that many manufacturers rely on, it could hurt the company's counterattack against Apple, Mueller said.

"This investigation has the potential to force Samsung to withdraw most of its claims against Apple," Mueller wrote on his blog. "But let's not forget that the underlying issue concerns the technology industry at large. Everyone — not just Apple — relies on ... [technology] standards."

Apple is suing Android makers in six countries over what it perceives as a wholesale theft of the technology that makes its iPhone distinctive. Samsung has countersued, claiming Apple is infringing on a variety of its telecommunications patents, including those found in standard technology.

david.sarno@latimes.com

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