Google hit as EU cracks down on patent warfare

EUROPEAN regulators have cracked down on Google over alleged abuses of its smartphone patent war chest.

The European Commission said yesterday that Motorola Mobility, the mobile phone maker Google bought last year for $12.5bn (£8bn), had broken commitments by attempting to win injunctions against Apple.

Motorola won a rare court victory in Germany in 2011, which forced the iPhone maker to change certain aspects of its email service in the country, but the regulator said that the injunction “amounts to an abuse of a dominant position prohibited by EU antitrust rules”.

Google could now face a significant fine from the regulator, although a crackdown on intellectual property litigation in European courts may be a bigger worry. Many industry experts believe that the major reason Google bought Motorola was its sizeable collection of patents, rather than a belief it could revive the lossmaking business, as the company attempts to defend its Android operating system against Apple’s legal attacks.

However, many courts around the world have deemed several Motorola patents to be “standard-essential” – fair game for other businesses to use – while Apple has continued to litigate against arch-rival Samsung.

EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia said: “I think that companies should spend their time innovating and competing on the merits of the products they offer – not misusing their intellectual property rights to hold up competitors.”