The European Union is to launch an antitrust investigation into Samsung and its patents in the mobile device market.

The EU's competition Commission wants to check the South Korean tech giant is fulfilled its Frand commitments, which it pledged to meet in 1998. The commitment requires firms to license key technologies that are important when it comes to innovation in the marketplace to other companies fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. In other words, the firm must not stop any other firm from using the technology or charge an extortionate amount for it.

The EU revealed that Samsung's on-going patent battle with Apple, which has seen the pair launch lawsuits against each other in more than ten countries across the world in a bid to prevent sales of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, Samsung's range of Galaxy smartphones, Apple's iPad and Apple's iPhone across the globe, bought to its attention Samsung may not have been fulfilling its Frand commitments.

"In 2011, 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," the commission said.

"In order to guarantee undistorted competition and to reap the positive economic effects of standardisation it is important that Frand commitments be fully honoured by the concerned undertakings."

The investigation follows a preliminary enquiry started by the EU in November. The Commission did not reveal how long the investigation is expected to take, but it did say it "will examine the case as a matter of priority".

Samsung said it has no comment to make on the anti-trust investigation. Should Samsung be found guilty of failing to fulfil their commitments, the Commission can impose a fine of up to 10 percent of the global turnover of the firm.

Patent expert Florian Muller said the launch of a full-blown investigation after a few months of preliminary investigations was "an important step".

"This means European competition enforcers have received information, in response to questionnaires (sent to Apple, which may have informally complained, and Samsung) that warrant a more formal effort," he said in a blog.

He also added that "other suspected abusers could face similar inquiries anytime".