European Commission: FRAND Patent Battles Hold Consumers ‘Hostage’

The Commission’s lead on competition calls for ideas on how to make companies respect FRAND patents

The head of competition policy for the European Commission has called for an urgent response to the patent crisis that is holding consumers “hostage”.

Companies must be stopped from trying to hinder competition by asserting standard-essential patents, said Joaquín Almunia, during a speech in Madrid .

vaso - Fotolia.comBig tech players such as Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung have fought over the use of patents on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.

In April, the European Commission opened a formal antitrust investigation into Motorola Mobility, after Microsoft claimed the mobile firm was abusing its market position by not offering patents under FRAND terms.

Let’s be FRANDS

“If a company has – or is developing – patents on the standards that are being set, it must disclose this fact and give access to them on FRAND terms; that is, access on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms,” Almunia said.

“We need to clarify what are the implications of FRAND and how FRAND negotiations should be conducted. These questions are the core of a few cases we have opened recently involving companies such as Apple, Samsung, Motorola and Microsoft.

“We need to find good answers soon, because consumers cannot be held hostage to litigation. Both competition authorities and the courts should intervene to ensure that standard-essential patents are not used to block competition.”

Almunia also called on industry players to come together and decide on “clear rules” for FRAND.

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