Samsung dropped all claims pending in European courts in which it asserted patents that are essential for mobile communication devices to prevent the sales of Apple products in Europe.
The injunction requests against Apple, which aimed to get courts to impose sales bans on infringing products, were withdrawn in the U.K., France, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy.
Samsung only withdrew the injunctions requests -- other litigation against Apple in Europe continues, Anne ter Braak, a spokeswoman for Samsung in the Netherlands, said in an email on Tuesday.
"Samsung remains committed to licensing our technologies on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms, and we strongly believe it is better when companies compete fairly in the marketplace, rather than in court," Samsung said in a statement. "In this spirit, Samsung has decided to withdraw our injunction requests against Apple on the basis of our standard essential patents pending in European courts, in the interest of protecting consumer choice."
Samsung gave a commitment in 1998 to license its patents considered essential to certain telecommunication standards on so-called fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. This commitment, which other vendors also made, aims to guarantee that a vendor like Samsung cannot use its standard-essential patents to prevent competitors from selling standards-compliant products.
However, Samsung filed several lawsuits in a number of European countries in 2011, asserting that some of its competitors' products infringed on patents it considered essential for mobile communications devices, and sought injunctions preventing distribution of the products in Europe. Among those competitors was Apple.
In January, the European Commission launched a formal investigation of Samsung's patent licensing practices, to examine whether those lawsuits conflict with Samsung's earlier promise to license such patents on FRAND terms, and whether it has distorted competition in the market for mobile communications devices.
Ter Braak didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on a possible link between Samsung's decision to withdraw the injunction claims and the European antitrust investigation. The European Commission was aware that Samsung is dropping its injunction claims over standard essential patents against Apple, but declined to comment on the matter, a Commission official said. "There is nothing new," she said, referring to the antitrust investigation.
Apple spokesman Alan Hely declined to comment on "Samsung's unilateral decision to drop the injunction requests."
Apple and Samsung have been locked in patent lawsuits all over the world for some time. In November for instance, a Dutch court ruled that Samsung infringed on an Apple patent describing a way to scroll through a photo gallery using a touchscreen.
Last August, a jury decided that Samsung must pay Apple US$1.05 billion for infringing several of its patents in Samsung smartphones and tablets. On Monday, a court in California denied Samsung a retrial of that dispute, and also refused Apple's request for a ban on the sale of some Samsung products.
Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org