A roundtable light at the end of a dark patent litigation tunnel?Publish date: 09 July 2012 by Hanleigh Daniels
The last couple of years have seen a number of prominent patent wars breaking out between smartphone original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), including Apple vs Samsung and Apple vs Motorola Mobility. With products shipments impounded at docks or banned from shops in the struggle for market share, it turns out that it's not only consumers who are tired of these legal tussles between the mobile device makers.
The United Nations’ specialised agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs), the ITU (International Telecommunication Union), is setting up high level talks in order to address rampant patent litigation amongst these firms.
This organisation will host a roundtable discussion between standards organisations, key industry players as well as government officials at the ITU headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland on 10 October 2012.
On the talks agenda
Via the ITU Patent Roundtable, the agency will seek to address the global rise in patent litigation and what it calls the increasing “lack of adherence to standards bodies’ existing patent policies.” Topics to be discussed include potential improvements to existing policy frameworks, entitlement to injunctive reliefs and definitions of what constitutes a royalty base.
Discussions on the relevance of current arrangements based around fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) patent policies will also be a key focus of the talks.
According to the organisation, FRAND-based policies have thus far been an effective way of managing tensions between patent holders, standards implementers as well as end-users.
However, problems occur regarding the definition of ‘reasonable’ and whether firms that possess a number of standard essential patent (SEPs) are actually entitled to injunctive relief.
The impact of IP
The ITU stated that the ICT industry in particular is affected in a major way by intellectual property (IP), since a single product can encompass hundreds of key IP protocols. If just one patent holder decides to demand unreasonable compensation for use of its IP within that product, then its cost will significantly increase.
Dr Hamadoun Touré, ITU secretary-general said: “We are seeing an unwelcome trend in today’s marketplace to use standards-essential patents to block markets. There needs to be an urgent review of this situation: patents are meant to encourage innovation, not stifle it.”
“Acknowledging patent holders and user requirements, as well as market needs, is a balancing act. This timely multi-stakeholder roundtable will help press for a resolution on some of the critical issues,” Touré concluded.
In other patent related news, Nokia’s chief financial officer Timo Ihamuotila recently revealed that the Finnish phone giant is ready to generate additional funds (if needed), by selling some of its intellectual property rights (IPR) at the “right price”.