By Randall Mah

European Union regulators are investigating Samsung and Apple over possible violations of EU antitrust laws as the two technology giants exchange patent infringement claims in their war over supremacy of the global smartphone and computer tablet markets.

“The (European) Commission has indeed sent requests for information to Apple and Samsung concerning the enforcement of ‘standards-essential’ patents in the mobile telephony sector,” the European Commission said in a statement on Friday, according to Reuters.

“Standards-essential” refers to patents that have been incorporated in internationally accepted technology standards. For Samsung and Apple, this means 3G and Universal Mobile Telecommunications System technology.

While Samsung has indicated it is “cooperating fully,” Apple declined to comment on the request. The investigation, however, may be targeting Samsung rather than Apple, according to intellectual property expert Florian Mueller.

“Only Samsung enforces allegedly standards-essential patents, and the capacity in which Apple received the Commission’s requests for information must therefore be that of a witness and maybe also that of an informal or formal complainant,” Mueller told Reuters.

Apple and Samsung have been duking it out in a tit for tat battle over patents and licensing fees. Currently, the firms are engaged in over 20 legal disputes in 10 countries, which may have far reaching negative consequences, Mueller said.

“Samsung went too far by trying to shut down Apple’s products with its 3G patents in nine different countries on four continents. That’s a recipe for triggering antitrust intervention,” he said. “This investigation has huge implications for Apple’s dispute with Samsung, but way beyond those two companies, it’s about the kind of licensing commitment the entire technology industry relies upon.”

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