WASHINGTON U.S. antitrust regulators approved Robert Bosch GMBH's purchase of SPX Service Solutions but put conditions on it, including requiring the company to drop requests for injunctions for companies that infringe an important class of patents.
The Federal Trade Commission, which enforces antitrust law, said on Monday it would require Robert Bosch GMBH to sell a business, including RTI Technologies, that makes equipment to recharge auto air conditioners and to license key patents needed to compete. The buyer is Mahle Clevite.
In the absence of the divestiture, the acquisition would have given Bosch a virtual monopoly on the manufacture of devices that allow auto repair technicians to remove refrigerant during repair, store it and replace it in the car, the agency said.
But the agency also required Bosch to drop a request for sales bans that SPX had made in lawsuits against companies which it accused of infringing on standard essential patents, an important class of patents that ensure interoperability.
Standard essential patents, or SEPs, are expected to be broadly licensed on fair and reasonable terms, also known as FRAND. The FTC said that SPX failed to live up to an obligation to license on those terms.
"Patent holders that seek injunctive relief against willing licensees of their FRAND-encumbered SEPs should understand that in appropriate cases the commission can and will challenge this conduct as an unfair method of competition," the commission said in a statement.
The commission voted 3-2 to approve the complaint.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by James Dalgleish)