Global technology giants have been embroiled in patent litigation in various countries’ high courts for years — most significantly within the last decade as mobile technology has come to the forefront of consumer and enterprise markets. The household names going head-to-head in the U.S. have most notably been Apple and Samsung, but recent developments in Europe have thrown the spotlight on Samsung’s patent practices on that continent as well.

The South Korean phone manufacturer holds the top spot worldwide for smartphone shipments; research firm Gartner reported in November that the company maintained its 32 percent global market share over the year prior. But the European Commission is undergoing an investigation into whether or not Samsung has used patent litigation to preserve this dominant market share, particularly with regard to its European rivals. 

Unsurprisingly, this investigation is related to Samsung’s legal battle with Apple in December 2012 in which both companies were tangled in a host of suits — each trying to find the other guilty of patent violation. The European Union’s resulting investigation has explored Samsung’s proceedings, and in the event that the company breached EU rules, Samsung could face hefty fines. 

European competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia delivered a speech on Dec. 9 noting that “improvements” must be seen from Samsung to remedy the legal ways in which it has pursued rivals and protected its own patents — namely litigation, athough Almunia did not provide details on the more specific requests of the Commission.

While the results of the investigation are unlikely to inhibit Samsung’s continued global share of the smartphone market, the EU’s decision could set a precedent for future companies’ legal practices — and the technology industry as a whole in Europe — as the world’s most prevalent smartphone maker could become an example for those here on out.


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