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Samsung Antitrust Probe Over Patent Use Closed by U.S.

Samsung Electronics Co. won’t be penalized for its efforts to exclude certain Apple Inc. products from the U.S. market after the Justice Department closed an investigation without taking action.

The department’s antitrust division closed its review because the U.S. Trade Representative in August vetoed an import ban won by Samsung against some older Apple iPhone models, the U.S. said in a statement today. The case involved Samsung patents on essential technology used throughout the mobile-phone industry.

The antitrust division “will continue to monitor further developments in this area,” the Justice Department said.

Lauren Restuccia, a spokeswoman for Samsung, and Kristin Huguet, a spokeswoman for Cupertino, California-based Apple, declined comment on the Justice Department’s decision.

In overturning the ban, the U.S. Trade Representative cited its concerns that patents on essential mobile-phone technology could be used to thwart competition.

The Justice Department and the Patent and Trademark Office issued a policy paper a year ago on the issue. They said that while patent owners have the right to exclude others from using their inventions, the public benefit of allowing such exclusions is limited when it comes to standard-essential patents.

Standards Pledge

Companies participate in groups to establish criteria to ensure devices work across platforms. For instance, there’s a standard that allows a photograph taken by a phone camera to be transmitted via e-mail and viewed on a desktop computer. The companies that establish the standards pledge to license the patents on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.

U.S. and European regulators have been investigating Apple’s complaints that Samsung and Google Inc.’s Motorola Mobility haven’t fulfilled those obligations in a quest to get an upper hand in litigation over smartphones and tablet computers.

The European Commission is finalizing a settlement in which Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung would not face financial penalties, Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s competition commissioner, told reporters today in London. (Bloomberg)