posted by Thom Holwerda on Wed 16th Nov 2011 20:07 UTC
IconAlmost two weeks ago, the European Union announced that it had started a preliminary investigation into the use of standards-essential patents in all the legal cases between Apple and Samsung. Everybody assumed this was a response to an official complaint by Apple, but the EU has now clarified that it started the investigation on its own accord. In related news, Samsung has circumvented Apple's injunction in Germany by slightly altering the design of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 - the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1N is now, once again, for sale in Deutschland.

Per Hellstroem, the head of the European Commission's antitrust unit for consumer electronics, said today that the EU started the investigation on its own. "There's no formal complaint," Hellstroem said, "When we see that there are issues that may [potentially] involve competition issues we have the power to send requests for information to various parties."

Why is this important? Well, it indicates that the European Union has realised, all by itself, that the legal games between Apple and Samsung could harm competition, and thus consumers. In other words, this is not something they must do just because Apple filed a complaint - no, the EU is actually worried about this. This hopefully means they are more inclined to actually do something with this.

On a related note, Samsung has slightly altered the design of the Galaxy Tab 10.1, now calling it the 10.1N, so they can start selling the tablet in Germany again. The minor design changes circumvent Apple's community designs - at least, Samsung believes that it does. Apple could, of course, file another lawsuit.

This could potentially be a double whammy for Samsung. Say Apple files another lawsuit, but this time around, the judge rules it doesn't violates Apple's community design. If that were to happen, then Samsung will have proven just how idiotic this entire system is.

And all this in time for the Christmas season. Well played, Samsung, Well played.

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