BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission opened an investigation into whether Samsung Electronics has distorted competition in the European mobile device market, breaking EU antitrust rules, the EU executive arm said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Commission said that last year Samsung sought injunctions in various EU countries against competitors making mobile devices saying they infringed some of its patent rights, which it has declared essential to implement European mobile telephony standards.
Yet in 1998, when third generation mobile telephony allowing fast mobile internet browsing was being launched in Europe, Samsung promised to license its patents essential for the implementation of the new mobile telephony standard to others on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms, the Commission said.
"The Commission will investigate, in particular, whether in doing so (seeking injunctions on patent infringements in 2011) Samsung has failed to honor its irrevocable commitment given in 1998 to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute to license any standard essential patents relating to European mobile telephony standards on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms," the statement said.
"The Commission will examine whether such behavior amounts to an abuse of a dominant position prohibited by Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU."
Samsung's main competitors in the mobile device market are Apple of the United States, Finland's Nokia and Canada's Blackberry maker Research in Motion, as well as other makers of phones using Google's Android software.
(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; editing by Rex Merrifield)