The European Commission has announced that it is looking in to Samsung's patent deals, with the regulator harbouring fears that the firm used some of its intellectual property rights to "distort competition in European mobile device markets".
According to the Commission, it is determined to establish whether Samsung met its agreement to license key technologies to rivals.
News of the investigation comes at an awkward time for Samsung, which is currently embroiled in patent battles with Apple in various courtrooms throughout the world.
Back in 1998, Samsung declared that it was irrevocably committed to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute to respect fraud terms, which amount to a promise by industry players to license innovations that are critical to an industry standard on "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms".
Under the terms of the Fraud commitments, the owner of the patent cannot discriminate who gets to use its invention. Also, the terms of the agreement state that the fee for the patent cannot be excessive.
"In 2011," the regulator explained, "Samsung sought injunctive relief in various member states against competing mobile device makers based on alleged infringements of certain of its patent rights which it has declared essential to implement European telephony standards."
Over the last few months, Samsung has made more than a dozen patent claims against Apple in Germany, the Netherlands, France and Italy, all of which relate to 3G-essential technologies.
In all of the cases thus far, Samsung has been defeated, largely because it has been judged to have failed to meet the commitments it pledged to in 1998. But according to patent consultant Florian Mueller, the European Commission "can't wait until Samsung finally wins a ruling based on such a patent and enforces it, potentially causing irreparable harm".
The European Commission instigated the proceedings, according to a spokesman, who confirmed that despite speculation to the contrary, it had not received an official complaint from Apple or any other company about the issue.
Vicki Salmon, a member of the UK's Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys, explained that the official inquiry is likely to complicate matters further for Samsung. "It is really difficult for Samsung to have the commission wading in when none of its competitors have made a complaint," she said.