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UN’s ‘Patent Roundtable’, to Slow Patent Wars on Wireless Tech

Source: United Nations’ International Telecommunications Unit/ Wikipedia

The International Telecommunications Unit of the United Nations is inviting smartphone makers, as well as representatives from the mobile industry, to discuss ways on how they can slow down the increasing patent litigation in wireless technology. The attendees of the so-called “Patent Roundtable” are expected to focus on standards-essential FRAND patents, which many believe is the core of the dispute.

Scheduled to take place in Geneva on October 10, the meeting will address “innovation-stifling use of intellectually property,” which has resulted in sales bans of a number of devices. As stated by the ITU Secretary General Dr. Hamadoun Touré:

We are seeing an unwelcome trend in today’s market place 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.

Discussing FRAND Patents

The meeting will address the FRAND patents or standards-essential innovations like the 3G wireless technology. These components are promised to be licensed in fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory manner.

Recently, Apple and Microsoft joined forces in an EU antitrust suit against Motorola, which allegedly made an unfair use of its standards-essential properties.  This includes the H.264 video streaming codec.

Meanwhile, the Google-owned Motorola was able to institute a temporary sales ban on Apple’s iPhone and iPad after the company refused to pay royalties for certain GPRS technology. The said technology is used on the Apple devices’ Qualcomm GSM chip. The Cupertino-based company argued that their devices were the extended beneficiary of the Qualcomm license. However, this claim was found tenous.

In relation to this, Motorola is also set to shut Apple’s iCloud service after successfully leveraging a packet transfer patent.

The FRAND interpretation makes the situation confusing. On the other hand, ITU said that the companies leveraging the essential patent often disagree with licensees with regards to what royalties are fair and reasonable. In the end, this confusion prompted a number of lawsuits and injunctions.

According to Illya Kazi, a member of Chartered Institutes of Patent Attorneys in United Kingdom:

The situation is complex and it’s very easy for someone to complain something is not fair because it is adverse to their position. I don’t think there’s a simple answer. High-level talks can’t be a bad thing, but I would be surprised if they can come up with an agreed implementable conclusion.

As ITU stated, the high-level talks will “include potential improvements to existing policy frameworks, entitlement to injunctive reliefs, and definitions of what constitutes a royalty base.”

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