Ever squandered $12.5 billion? Google did and the EU this morning declared the search ad giant's formerly owned Motorola Mobility to have been "abusive and "anticompetitive" when it tried to use industry standard patents in a case against Apple.
In brief, Motorola Mobility has infringed EU competition rules by misusing standard essential patents in an anti-competitive way.
There will be no punishment meted out by the EU -- but then, how much punishment can Motorola Mobility's remaining executives take? They have, after all, already presided over the collapse of the company, its sale to Google, a subsequent fire sale to Lenovo and, now, the loss of the company's reputation as a good corporate citizen.
EU Competition Commissioner, Joaquín Almunia said:
”The so-called smartphone patent wars should not occur at the expense of consumers. This is why all industry players must comply with the competition rules."
Motorola was found to have acted in an abusive and anti-competitive way when it sought an injunction against Apple in Germany on the basis of an industry standard patent it had agreed to license on a FRAND (fair and non-discriminatory) basis -- Apple had agreed to take a license, after all. You can read the ruling in full right here.
Now let's cut to the chase:
"While patent holders should be fairly remunerated for the use of their intellectual property, implementers of such standards should also get access to standardized technology on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. It is by preserving this balance that consumers will continue to have access to a wide choice of inter-operable products," said Almunia.
Next time you read rave reviews about a Motorola Mobility products, bear in mind the significance of what the company has been found guilty of here: If it had succeeded in defeating Apple with these FRAND patents, it would mean no other manufacturer could expect to use these patents.
People love to characterize Apple as the big bad wolf of smartphone litigation. That is not a true thing.
Motorola, in this case, has shown that in its own self-interest it was prepared to sacrifice the interests of smartphone consumers. The historical $12 billion connection between it and Google suggests (but does not prove) that both firm's share such hubris.
Is it any wonder Apple CEO Steve Jobs, and the company he left behind, have proved willing to fight these cases in the courts?
You do not lose if Apple succeeds. If you don't want an iPhone, there are others available. However, if Samsung and/or Motorola Mobility (and by extension, Google) had succeeded in asserting FRAND patents against Apple, then no other firm would have been able to create industry standards compliant smartphones, limiting consumer choice.
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt likes to say open systems eventually defeat closed systems, but in this case his allies proved themselves closed, caring only for their own survival above consumer choice.
And that's not open.
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