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Thursday, October 17, 2013, 08:44 am PT (11:44 am ET)

Samsung raises white flag in standard-essential patent clash in Europe

Seeking a détente in the ongoing antitrust case brought against it by the European Union, Samsung has offered to put a halt to lawsuits over standard-essential patents for a period of five years.

European Commission


The South Korean conglomerate "offered to abstain from seeking injunctions for mobile SEPs (standard essential patents) for a period of five years against any company that agrees to a particular licensing framework," said the European Commission on Thursday in a statement reported by the BBC. If the case is not settled and Samsung is found guilty, the company could face a fine of more than $18 billion.

The EU argued that Samsung abused its collection of standard-essential patents, which by law must be licensed at fair and reasonable rates to any party who wishes to license them, by leveraging the patents against Apple in an attempt to ban sales of iOS devices across Europe. Samsung was formally charged in the case last December.

"Intellectual property rights are an important cornerstone of the single market," Joaquín Almunia, the European Commissioner for Competition, said at the time. "However, such rights should not be misused when they are essential to implement industry standards."

In Thursday's statement, Almunia painted a victory for the EU in the antitrust case as a boon for consumers.

Standard-essential patent "abuses must be prevented so that standard-setting works properly and consumers do not have to suffer negative consequences from the so-called patent wars," he said. He added: "If we reach a good solution in this case, it will bring clarity to the industry."

Samsung has been fighting an uphill legal battle of late. In the month of October alone, Samsung has suffered an import ban on several models of handsets that violate Apple patents and been accused of inappropriately misusing confidential information obtained as part of the landmark Apple v. Samsung trial that resulted in a landmark $1.05 billion verdict.