As Apple makes reference to EU anti-competition investigations in a US Court document, the EU commission begins to stir, finally commenting on its current standing-point amongst the patent wars.
EU Competition Commissioner, Joaquín Almunia, released the following statement:
"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."
Naturally both Apple and Samsung would delay sending over the necessary documents, if either company is found to be in violation of EU regulation, they open themselves to a potential fine of up to 10 per cent of their entire global turnover. It is good for once to see that the EU commission is taking, albeit slow but appropriate measures in what has felt like a fight between grumpy children.
Speculating, it is hard to confirm who may benefit most from EU intervention; the mention of standardisation feels like a dig against Samsung, who's primary defence has been patents underpinning 3G technology. Apple on the other-hand, relies primarily on its excessive design patents to box-in the design possibilities of competitors, who, for reasons of cost effectiveness and hardware limitations, often have an element of similarly between products; perhaps the IP rights that the commission was referring to. The concern though, is that standardisation is a clear public interest to be dealt with, whilst as always, IP rights, particularly the highly subjective design patents, are a never-ending matter for debate and, given the typical speed at which any segment of the EU progresses, we may see the matter of standardisation resolved long before the matter of IP rights in general. We all know who would benefit most from such a result.
The EU commission did remind everyone concerned that patent law is an individual matter for member states and that the EU monitors competition issues that may arise from the exercise of patent rights.