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EU to Examine Apple, Microsoft Complaints Over Motorola Mobility

Complaints by Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. against Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. will be examined “closely” by European Union regulators, the region’s antitrust chief said.

Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s competition commissioner, said competition policy must ensure essential patents aren’t “used strategically to block competitors,” according to a speech at the European Parliament in Brussels today.

Samsung Electronics Co. is facing an EU antitrust probe into its licensing of patents to other mobile-phone manufacturers. Samsung, Motorola Mobility, Microsoft and Apple are involved in litigation across Europe as demand for smartphones and tablets soars. Google Inc., which is buying Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, has written to groups that establish industry standards to assure them it will fairly license the Libertyville, Illinois-based company’s patents.

“To build a modern smart phone one needs thousands of standard-essential patents,” Almunia said. “Any company that holds these patents can effectively hold up the entire industry with the threat of banning the products of competitors from the market. This sort of hold-up is not acceptable.”

EU antitrust regulators are separately investigating claims Google discriminated against other services in its search results and stopped some websites from accepting rival ads. Microsoft and shopping-comparison site Foundem are among companies that asked the agency to examine the Mountain View, California-based search-engine firm’s practices.

Formal Complaint

Almunia said he expected investigators to give him a report on the Google before the end of April and would decide after that if a formal antitrust complaint was needed.

“We continue to receive information or complaints” on Google and the company regularly updates its products and services “so it’s not a simple task to investigate,” he said.

Al Verney, a spokesman for Google in Brussels, declined to comment.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which is examining whether Google gives preference to its own services in search results, is expanding its antitrust probe to include scrutiny of Google+, according to two people familiar with the situation.

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