The European Commission's decisions in the abuse of dominance cases against Samsung and Motorola in 2014 and the European Court of Justice judgment in Huawei v ZTE in 2015 clarified the limits of standard-essential patent (SEP) holders' rights to seek injunctions against implementers under EU competition law. However, these cases left a number of important issues unresolved. As such, the European Commission recently presented its guidance on SEP licensing.
The European Court of Justice recently clarified a number of thorny issues regarding excessive pricing, which had been otherwise unaddressed by previous case law. The ECJ offered answers to the questions of how many countries must be surveyed when seeking to demonstrate excess through cross-border comparisons, how relative purchasing power should be taken into account and whether a defendant can claim that average prices are fair even if specific customer rates are not.
In its recent ruling on the European Commission's 500-page Intel decision, the European Court of Justice revisited 40 years of jurisprudence as to when a dominant company's rebate scheme may be abusive. Though not a final decision, the case marks a potentially major departure from the arguably form-based approach to rebates advocated by the European Union's lower court.
Although enshrined in the EU treaties since inception, 'unfair pricing' as an abuse of market power was a little-used tool in enforcers' armoury. The few cases that were brought tended to be based on exceptional circumstances, and many failed on the facts. A May 2017 EU probe has brought the abuse back to the enforcement agenda. However, this is unlikely to denote a new trend; it is too early to say that this is the new normal.
The European Commission continues to expand the concept of selectivity – the key feature of any state aid measure – to outlaw member states' measures as state aid. It has done so in its high-profile tax rulings cases, and the European Court of Justice refused to curtail this expansive approach in its judgment in the Spanish goodwill cases.