February 10, 2012 / 9:46 AM / 8 years ago

EU's Almunia warns firms against abusing patents

PARIS, Feb 10 (Reuters) - European Union antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia warned companies on Friday against using their patents to stifle competition, saying he was prepared to impose fines for breaches of EU rules.

Almunia’s comments in a speech in Paris come as EU competition regulators look into a legal tussle between Samsung Electronics and Apple over intellectual property rights in 10 countries.

The EU executive, which acts as competition authority for the 27-member bloc, is also investigating U.S. conglomerate Honeywell International Inc and chemicals company DuPont and whether their patent agreements on a new global refrigerant for car air conditioners may be anti-competitive.

“Owners of such standard essential patents are conferred a power on the market that they cannot be allowed to misuse,” Almunia told the Concurrences Journal conference.

“I am determined to use antitrust enforcement to prevent the misuse of patent rights to the detriment of a vigorous and accessible market. I have initiated investigations on this issue in several sectors and we will see the results in due time,” he said.

The Commission can fine companies up to 10 percent of their global turnover for infringements of EU rules.

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