Patent-related stories have a tendency to leave us yawning, as quite often the net outcome is this: absolutely nothing, and the lawyers are the real winners.
But here’s a little patent story that’s potentially a pretty big dealio. On Tuesday this week, the European Commission opened two antitrust investigations into Motorola, after ‘patent abuse’ complaints from Apple and Microsoft.
A statement from Joaquin Almunia & Co reads: “The commission will investigate … whether 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, Motorola has failed to honor its irrevocable commitments made to standard setting organizations.” Phew, that was all one sentence.
Basically, Motorola is obliged to play fair with essential patents, licensing them to rivals under Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms.
However, Team Christy Wyatt is seeking a per-unit royalty of 2.25% on each iPhone sold, and a whopping $22.50 on every midrange laptop sold using Moto’s 50 patents on H.264 video.
Ultimately, the Commission has the power to change Motorola’s business practices, or – worse still – fine the US manufacturer 10% of its annual income. Eek.
Legal eagle Florian Mueller notes: “If and when Google closes the deal [to acquire Motorola], it will effectively buy itself into two more EU antitrust investigations. It’s time for some people in Mountain View to realize that a multi-front war against competition authorities, on three continents in parallel, is a war that they won’t be able to win.”