EC slams Google-owned Motorola Mobility for Apple GPRS patent case

The European Commission (EC) could fine Motorola Mobility for anti-competitive behaviour in pursuing a GPRS patent infringement case against Apple

The European Commission (EC) has accused Motorola Mobility of abusing its dominant position in the mobile phone market when pushing for an injunction against Apple in Germany.

Last year the mobile manufacturer – now owned by Google – won a case against the iPhone maker for using GPRS technology owned by the firm. This led to Apple products being withdrawn from shelves in Germany and a long dispute over licensing fees.

However, the EC claims this went against the rules for standard essential patents (SEPs) that Motorola agreed to. These rules allow other companies to licence important technologies on a "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory" (Frand) basis to ensure interoperability between devices and more choice for the consumer.

“The protection of intellectual property is a cornerstone of innovation and growth, but so is competition,” said Joaquín Almunia, EC vice-president in charge of competition policy.

“I think that companies should spend their time innovating and competing on the merits of the products they offer – not misusing their intellectual property rights to hold up competitors to the detriment of innovation and consumer choice."

A statement of objection has been issued by the EC to Motorola Mobility, which is the first formal step taken during a competition commission investigation. Motorola will now have the chance to reply in writing, but if the complaint is upheld, it could face a fine of up to 10 % of the company’s annual worldwide turnover.

But Motorola continued to say it had played by the rules.

Katie Dove, a spokeswoman from the firm, said: "We agree with the European Commission that injunctions should only be sought against unwilling licensees and, in this case, Motorola Mobility followed the procedure established in the German Supreme Court’s Orange Book ruling."

"Apple had to make six offers before the court recognised them as a willing licensee."

Motorola’s parent company Google is currently embroiled in a number of cases with the EC.

Last month, lobby group FairSearch – which names Microsoft, Nokia, Oracle, Expedia and Trip Advisor as members – submitted a complaint to the EC claiming Google preloaded key applications, such as Maps or YouTube, onto mobile handsets in exchange for its Android operating system code, putting rival apps at a disadvantage.

It is also being investigated by a number of European organisations for the way it handles privacy and user data and for its behaviour in its dominant position in the search market.

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