Apple raises antitrust specter in Samsung patent hearing

Apple (s aapl) and Samsung’s lawyers faced off Monday in a Dutch court hearing arising from Samsung’s recent suit against the iPhone maker over wireless patents. The two traded jabs in a heated debate about whether or not Samsung has the right to pursue an injunction of Apple products at this stage, or whether Samsung is overstepping its bounds by not allowing Apple to come to fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licensing terms for Samsung’s essential mobile wireless patents. Part of Apple’s argument against the validity of Samsung’s complaint involve accusations that it could be guilty of anticompetitive behavior.

Under European patent regulations, because the 3G and wireless patents Samsung is claiming Apple has infringed upon are considered essential, Samsung must give competitors a chance to come up with licensing terms that satisfy the FRAND requirements. Samsung can only pursue legal action against infringing parties only if it absolutely can’t reach an agreement with the other party.

Samsung’s suit, filed last week, was premature, according to Apple’s lawyers. Dutch publication Webwereld editor Andreas Udo de Haes live-tweeted the events from the Netherlands courtroom as they unfolded, where Apple reportedly claimed to “basically have an agreement” with Samsung regarding licensing for the four patents in question, “according to French law,” with the only outstanding issue being price. Apple claims Samsung is asking for an unreasonable percentage of device profits in exchange for the tech licenses.

Apple claimed there was no urgency in this case, and Samsung is only pushing for an injunction against any iPhones and 3G-capable iPads in order to derail the upcoming launch of the next iPhone. The iPhone maker even brought up the idea that Samsung’s actions in pursuing suits related to these patents in the face of any FRAND negotiations that are ongoing could amount to an antitrust issue. FOSS Patents’ Florian Mueller chimed in to wonder whether or not those accusations could presage an antitrust complaint from Apple with the European commission at a later date.

Samsung claimed Apple’s portrayal of its patents was false, and downplayed their importance. The Korean company also claims Apple has undermined the validity of any FRAND negotiations by breaking non-disclosure rules regarding the process. Samsung further addressed claims made by Apple that it is playing patent ambush by arguing that Apple had full knowledge of the existence of Samsung’s patents when it brought its products to market and wilfully ignored them. Apple says the chips in its products are supplied by companies that have already paid royalties themselves, so licensees are covered.

We should hear more in the next day as the hearing continues. The court will issue a ruling about whether or not Samsung’s cases against Apple will be allowed to continue on Oct. 14.