The European Commission said Friday that South Korea's Samsung Electronics was abusing its dominant market position in certain technologies when it took out injunctions against fierce rival Apple.
As the two giants fight it out in the smartphone and tablet computer market, the Commission said that in this instance, Samsung appeared to be at fault as the injunctions would prevent Apple from gaining access to core shared patents.
"When companies have contributed their patents to an industry standard and have made a commitment to license the patents in return for fair remuneration, then the use of injunctions against willing licensees can be anti-competitive," EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.
The Commission said it had informed Samsung that its injunctions against Apple access to Standard-Essential Patents (SEPS) "amounts to an abuse of a dominant market position prohibited by EU anti-trust rules."
Brussels opened a probe in January after Samsung sought injunctions banning the sale of products made by its competitors in several European countries, alleging they were illegally using its patents.
Samsung said earlier this week it would drop a request to ban Apple products in Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands but would proceed with suits for alleged patent infringement.
Almunia said Thursday of this Samsung decision that he was "very happy ... because one of the most important objections that we have when dealing with holders of Standard Essential Patents is their possible abuse using their ownership (of patents)."
Samsung overtook Nokia as the top mobile phone brand for 2012 and has opened up a decisive lead over Apple in the smartphone market, according to market research firm IHS iSuppli.