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Samsung settles with EU over patent antitrust concerns

The Korean electronics will be monitored by the European Union to ensure patents are offered on fair and reasonable terms.


Samsung has finally put an end to the European Union's issues with its practices, mainly licensing and injunctions, related to standard-essential patents.

The European Commission, which handles all competition-related matters in the EU, said on Tuesday that it has agreed to a deal with Samsung that will see the electronics maker provide fair and reasonable terms to prospective licensees on its standard-essential patents. If Samsung and a licensee can't reach a patent deal within a 12-month period, a court or arbitrator will determine what would be fair between the parties, the EC said.

One other important note: Samsung has agreed not to seek injunctions for five years against companies in the European Economic Area that agree to the settlement's licensing framework.

Samsung said it was pleased to reach a settlement with the EU and added that the deal "implies no wrongdoing on behalf of Samsung Electronics and brings an end to the Commission's investigation."

"Samsung Electronics believes that the agreement with the European Commission will reduce uncertainties and create greater clarity in the industry," the company said in a statement. "Moreover, it demonstrates Samsung Electronics' commitment to finding solutions which balance the interests of both IP licensors and licensees."

Samsung's troubles with the EU date back to April 2011, when Samsung countersued Apple claiming the iPhone maker violated several key patents related to smartphone technology. In December 2012, the European Commission offered a preliminary view of Samsung's actions in cases against Apple. The EU said then that Samsung wasn't acting fairly and that its requests for injunctions against Apple products amounted to an "abuse of a dominant position prohibited by EU antitrust rules."

Since then, Samsung and the European Union have been trying to come to an agreement that would satisfy the regulator's concerns related to anticompetitiveness and patents. The agreement announced on Tuesday is a step in that direction, the Commission said in a statement.

Standard-essential patents are heavily regulated in the technology industry. The patents are awarded to companies on the basis that they provide them to competitors for a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) license fee. If it's believed that companies aren't doing that, they're technically in violation of the law.

According to the European Union, the deal Samsung agreed to will last five years. An independent monitoring trustee will be employed to ensure Samsung is holding up its end of the bargain.

Update, 9:34 a.m. PT: Added comment from Samsung.