EU regulators receive fresh patent complaints: official

BRUSSELS Fri Dec 7, 2012 1:33pm EST

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU regulators are examining fresh complaints about alleged infringements of technology patents, a senior EU antitrust official said on Friday, a sign of the increasing stakes in the battle to protect intellectual property rights.

Companies are increasingly turning to the European Commission to resolve their disputes, such as Apple (AAPL.O), Samsung (005930.KS), Google (GOOG.O) and Microsoft (MSFT.O).

The new complaints mean the number of cases before the EU competition watchdog have doubled to eight in just under a year. Apple and Samsung are embroiled in legal battles over their patents in some 10 countries.

"We have four other complaints, mainly related to the ICT industry," Cecilio Madero, deputy director-general for antitrust matters, told a Premier Cercle conference.

He said some of the cases were recent but did not name the companies.

Madero also pointed to the difficulties of applying antitrust rules to patent disputes. "It is easier for us to tell you what is acceptable than to define what is acceptable," he said.

The EU competition watchdog is now investigating whether Samsung's use of injunctions against Apple breached antitrust rules.

Other ongoing cases involve Google-owned phone maker Motorola Mobility, Microsoft and Apple. Microsoft has also complained about Google while Google has complained about MOSAID, a so-called patent troll which makes money by taking action over patent infringements.

Companies could be penalized up to 10 percent of their revenues if found guilty of breaching EU rules.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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