Intellectual property rights may be unfairly used by some firms against their rivals to stifle competition, the EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said this week.
The regulator has expressed his concern over the increasingly bitter patent wars plaguing the mobile industry. The EU is currently investigating Apple and Samsung over a series of patent disputes and says it has asked Apple and Samsung for details on patents used as standards in the mobile telephone industry.
Both companies are locked in a smartphone patent war involving more than 20 cases in 10 countries.
According to Reuters, Almunia told reporters: ‘We requested information from both Apple and Samsung. We have not yet received the answers. 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. Standardisation and IP rights are two instruments that in this new IT sector can be used as a tool to abuse.’
Reports claim this is the first time that the EU’s anti-trust chief has publicly voiced his concerns over patent wars in the mobile telephony sector, agreeing with analysts who have said companies can gain an advantage over their opponents by securing legal bans on rival products. The Commission can fine companies up to 10% of their global turnover for breaching EU rules.