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Motorola Mobility Faces EU Antitrust Probes on Patents

Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. (MMI) faces European Union investigations over the licensing of its patents, following a similar probe into Samsung Electronics Co. (005930)

The European Commission opened two formal investigations to check whether Motorola Mobility violated EU competition rules “by seeking and enforcing injunctions against Apple’s and Microsoft’s flagship products such as iPhone, iPad, Windows and Xbox on the basis of patents it had declared essential to produce standard-compliant products,” it said in a statement.

Samsung, Motorola Mobility, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Apple Inc. (AAPL) are involved in litigation across Europe as demand for smartphones and tablets soars. Google Inc. (GOOG), which is buying Motorola Mobility, has written to groups that set industry standards to assure them it will fairly license patents.

“The commission will examine the cases as a matter of priority,” regulators said in the statement today. It “will assess whether Motorola has abusively, and in contravention of commitments it gave to standard-setting organizations, used certain of its standard-essential patents to distort competition.”

EU regulators said they were acting on complaints filed by Apple and Microsoft over Motorola Mobility’s possible abuse of a dominant position for not licensing the patents on terms that are “fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory,” or FRAND, as agreed with standards organizations for mobile and wireless telecommunications systems, video compression and wireless local-area networks.

Thorough Investigation

Motorola Mobility is “confident that a thorough investigation will demonstrate that it has honored FRAND obligations and complied with antitrust laws,” Gemma Goatly, a spokeswoman for the Libertyville, Illinois-based company, said in an e-mail. It will “work closely with the European Commission to resolve this matter as soon as practicable.”

Google hasn’t finalized its acquisition of Motorola Mobility and “will work with the European Commission to answer any questions they might have,” said Al Verney, a spokesman for Google in Brussels. “We have longstanding concerns about patent abuses, including lawsuits and royalty demands targeting” the company’s Android operating system.

Apple declined to comment on the probes.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aoife White in Brussels at awhite62@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net.

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