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ITU seeks to facilitate peace among OEMs

Mon, 07/09/2012 - 3:17pm
Andrew Berg, Wireless Week

For the good of innovation everywhere, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) on Friday called for the "high-level roundtable discussion between standards organizations, key industry players and government officials” at its headquarters in Geneva on Oct. 10.

“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," ITU secretary-general Hamadoun Touré said.

The ITU cites recent patent disputes that have caused "shipments of goods to be impounded at docks and the worldwide increase in standard essential patent (SEP) litigation" as reasons for holding the meeting.

The ITU roundtable will address the worldwide surge in patent litigation and the growing lack of adherence to standards bodies’ existing patent policies. Topics will include potential improvements to existing policies and relief of injunctions, as well as a look at the 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 be a key focus. FRAND-based policies have thus far been an effective way of managing natural tensions between patent holders, standards implementers and end users. However, the definition of what constitutes “reasonable” and whether or not holders of SEPs are entitled to injunctive relief are now emerging as major points of contention.

In November of 2011, Apple asked the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to clarify its rules regarding standards-essential patents under FRAND terms. In a letter sent to the ETSI, Apple decried the industry's lack of adherence to FRAND terms in the "cellular arena."

Florian Mueller, a legal analyst who covers patent litigation in the telecommunications sphere, wrote in a blog post today that the issues Apple covered in its letter to the ETSI are “pretty much the same ones that the ITU is going to discuss with stakeholders” at its proposed October meeting.

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