Samsung proposes five-year moratorium on patent injunctions

The company makes a pitch to the European Union, which is investigating whether Samsung is violating regulations on standard-essential patents.

Samsung has an exit plan for the European Union's investigation into its licensing terms on standard-essential patents.

The electronics maker has proposed to abstain from seeking injunctions on devices that allegedly violate its standard-essential patents, as long as the agreement between it and the licensing company fall within a specific framework, the European Union announced Thursday. That framework includes a 12-month negotiation period, and the option of handling the negotiation in court or in arbitration if it's not resolved within that time frame.

The proposal includes only those patents related to mobile communications and to technologies in mobile products, according to the EU.

Samsung's offer underscores the sometimes-shaky ground companies stand on when they own patents that are considered to underlie industry standards and to be essential to a given sector. When companies own such patents, they're required to offer them on fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory (FRAND) terms. Patents are deemed standard-essential when they are required for competition in a particular market.

Samsung went under the regulatory microscope in January 2012 after it engaged in several lawsuits and injunction requests against Apple products that it said violated its standard-essential patents. By December of last year, the European Union's Competition Commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, said that Samsung's lawsuits were in violation of anticompetition regulations and represented "an abuse of dominant market position."

For its part, Samsung has argued that it hasn't violated any regulations, but the company, like Apple, has been extremely active in patent-infringement litigation. So far, neither Apple nor Samsung has been able to deal a decisive blow, but the European Union's investigation could make its lawsuits against Apple more difficult to win. It's important to note, however, that the proposed offer would relate only to standard-essential patents, and not other patents that are not deemed essential for the competitive landscape.

The European Union is allowing "interested parties" to comment on the proposal for a period of one month. After that, the European Union will analyze those comments and determine whether Samsung's proposed solution is enough to end its investigation.

This story has been updated throughout the morning.

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