The European Union on Tuesday waded further into
the mobile phone industry's patent wars, announcing that it is
investigating whether Motorola broke antitrust rules by using patents
to block products marketed by competitors Apple and Microsoft.
At issue are so-called standard essential patents, which firms must license to others in a "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory" way because of their importance to the industry. They cover standards for wireless communication, video compression and wireless networks.
As a mobile phone pioneer, Motorola has a treasure chest of some 17,000 patents and 6,800 patent applications.
The European Commission will probe whether the U.S.-based company, which is about to be acquired by Google, used some of its standard essential patents to "distort competition" in the EU.
It specifically pointed to Motorola "seeking and enforcing injunctions against Apple's and Microsoft's flagship products such as iPhone, iPad, Windows and Xbox on the basis of (its) patents."
The company may also have "offered unfair licensing conditions," the commission said.
"The commission will examine whether Motorola's behaviour amounts to an abuse of a dominant market position," it added.
The European Commission enforces the E.U.'s competition rules, which state that no company which dominates a given market should be allowed to use its power to shut rivals out. Violators risk high fines.
In January, the commission launched a similar investigation into Samsung - to check whether its attempt to limit rivals from using its patents on wireless technology for smartphones and tablet computers violated EU rules.
Samsung and Apple have been fighting legal battles over Apple's iPad and Samsung's Galaxy tablet computers.
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