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Motorola targeted by European regulators over patent issues

The European Commission has launched a probe into the mobile-phone maker based on patent licensing complaints from Apple and Microsoft.

The European Commission today opened two formal antitrust investigations against Motorola Mobilty to determine if the company has breached its promise to offer fair patent licensing.

The Commission is specifically aiming to see if Motorola used its patents to hurt competition in violation of European Union antitrust laws.

The investigation is based largely on complaints from Apple and Microsoft, which have alleged that Motorola's licensing arrangements are not in accordance with FRAND, or "fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory," terms. Motorola had previously pledged to the EU that it would honor such terms.

The EC's probe will also focus on whether Motorola's attempts to ban certain Apple and Microsoft products indicate that the company failed to live up to its commitments.

In early February, Motorola succeeded in getting the iPhone and iPad removed from stores in Germany over alleged patent violations. But just as quickly, the products were back on the shelves after a judge sided with Apple's claim that Motorola was not fairly negotiating its patent licensing.

Microsoft has also complained to the EU over the $22.50 in royalties per $1,000 laptop that it must pay to Motorola for patents related to the H.264 Web video standard.

"The Commission will examine whether Motorola's behavior amounts to an abuse of a dominant market position prohibited by Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU)," the EC stated.

The investigation likely comes as no surprise to Motorola.

In a recent speech in Washington, D.C., EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said that the organization was considering a probe into the company's patent licensing policies.

Almunia argued that holders of essential patents have the ability to hurt the competition and hold up the industry. "I am determined to use antitrust enforcement to prevent such hold-up by patent holders."

Motorola did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.