(CN) - Samsung won't face an antitrust investigation for refusing to license its most basic patents to Apple for iPhones and iPads, the Justice Department said Friday.
Samsung drew the department's scrutiny when it petitioned the U.S. International Trade Commission for permission not to give Apple licenses for its standards-essential patents.
Typically, players in the tech industry have signed agreements to license their basic patents to competitors on fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms, known in the industry as FRAND.
Samsung convinced the ITC to issue an exclusion order against Apple, which raised the ire of antitrust investigators at the Justice Department. Last month, the DOJ joined the Patent and Trademark Office in a joint statement reminding tech companies of their obligation to license standard-essential patents on FRAND terms.
"A number of competitive issues arise when holders of SEPs seek to block their competitors from selling products that implement the SEPs," the Justice Department said in a statement. "While there are certain circumstances where an exclusion order as a remedy for infringement of such patents could be appropriate, in many cases there is a risk that the patent holder could use the threat of an exclusion order to obtain licensing terms that are more onerous than would be justified by the value of the technology itself, effectively exploiting the market power obtained through the standards-setting process."
After the U.S. Trade Representative blocked the ITC's exclusion order as "not consistent with the public interest," antitrust investigators said Friday that they would close their investigation into Samsung's practices - for now.
"The antitrust division will continue to monitor further developments in this area," Justice Department warned.
Samsung still faces an ongoing antitrust investigation by the European Commission where the company has used the courts to avoid having to license its SEPs to Apple. Regulators there have spent months mulling over the South Korean company's proposed remedies, which include promises to stay out of court for five years and to make good-faith negotiations with Apple for at least 12 months before seeking outside intervention.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.