BRUSSELS (AP) -- Samsung took a hit in its battle against arch-rival Apple on Tuesday, when the European Union announced it will investigate whether it is illegally trying to hinder competitors and Germany blocked sales of some of its tablets.
Samsung Electronics and Apple Inc. are engaged in a strategic war over patents in many countries across the world as they try to draw market share away from each other.
The EU's antitrust watchdog thinks the South Korean company may be overstepping the bounds, however, and launched a formal investigation of whether Samsung is strategically using key patents on 3G wireless technology to hinder competitors _ including Apple.
In Germany, an appeals court ruled in favor of Apple in a separate case, saying Samsung could not sell its Galaxy Tab 10.1 nor the Galaxy Tab 8.9 in the country because they too closely resembled the iPad2, in violation of unfair competition laws.
``Samsung wrongly used the enormous reputation and prestige of the iPad,'' Duesseldorf state court Presiding Judge Wilhelm Berneke wrote in his ruling.
But the court said Samsung's successor tablet, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 N, was not affected by the ruling, and Samsung said while the decision was disappointing, it was largely irrelevant.
``Today's ruling is of little factual relevance due to the new model Galaxy Tab 10.1 N, and ... the decision therefore is of no indicative value with respect to other legal proceedings involving the Galaxy Tab 10.1 N,'' Samsung said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press.
``Samsung will continue to take all appropriate measures, including legal action, to ensure continued consumer access to our innovative products.''
In Brussels, the European Commission said it suspects Samsung of not giving other companies fair access to patents it holds on standardized 3G technology for mobile devices _ despite committing to do so in 1998.
A spokeswoman for the Commission said the probe also affects tablets such as Apple's newest iPad, which uses standardized wireless 3G technology.
The Commission said that Samsung last year sought legal injunctions against other device makers in several EU states, alleging patent infringement. A spokesman said it launched the probe after its own investigation of the market, rather than reacting to complaints from Samsung's competitors.
The investigation will now focus on whether in doing so Samsung failed to honor its commitment from 1998 to ``license any standard essential patents relating to European mobile telephony standards on fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms.''
Nam Ki-yung, a spokesman at Samsung Electronics in South Korea, said his company was looking at details of the news on the probe but had no immediate comments.
The probe and victory in the German court for Apple come after the California company has met with several setbacks recently in its fight with Samsung.
Most recently, a Dutch court ruled Jan. 24 that Samsung's Galaxy Tab tablet was not a copy of Apple's iPad, and that it could continue to be sold in the Netherlands. That came on the heels of a December decision in Sydney, where the High Court dismissed Apple's appeal and said Samsung was free to sell its Galaxy tablet computers in Australia.
The battle began in April, when Cupertino, California-based Apple sued Samsung in the United States, alleging the product design, user interface and packaging of Samsung's Galaxy devices ``slavishly copy'' the iPhone and iPad.
Samsung responded by filing its own lawsuits that accused Apple of patent infringement of its wireless telecommunications technology.
The fight has spread to about 10 countries, and has highlighted the perception that Samsung _ the global No. 1 in TVs and No. 2 in smartphones by sales _ is more of an imitator of clever technologies than an innovator in its own right.
Apple, by contrast, is generally viewed by consumers as highly original and inventive.
EU, 삼성전자 상대 반독점 조사 착수
유럽연합(EU) 집행위원회는 31일 삼성전자 를 상대로 반독점 관련 규정 위반 여부에 대한 조사에 착수했다고 밝혔다.
집행위는 "삼성전자가 필수적인 표준 특허권을 유럽 내 모바일 기기 시장에서 경쟁을 왜곡하는 데 사용, 권한을 남용하고 유럽통신표준연구소(ETSI)에 약속한 사항을 위반했는 지 여부를 평가할 것"이라고 밝혔다.
집행위는 삼성이 지난해 애플 등 EU 내에서 영업하는 다른 모바일 기기 업체들 에 대해 특허권 침해를 이유로 일련의 소송을 걸었음을 지적했다.
즉, 삼성전자가 필수 표준 특허권을 남용하지 않을 것이라고 지난 1998년 ETSI 에 약속했으나 이를 위반했는지를 따지겠다는 것이다.
표준특허는 이미 산업계에서 국제표준이 된 `필수적 특허 기술'이어서 이른바 ` 공정하고, 합리적이고, 비차별적(FRAND : 프랜드)' 방식으로 누구에게나 제공할 의 무가 있다는 것이 기존 판례다.
한편 집행위 경쟁총국 대변인은 이번 조사 대상은 삼성 뿐만아니라 표준 무선기 술을 사용한 애플의 아이패드 신제품 등도 포함된다고 밝혔다. (연합뉴스)