updated 08:10 pm EDT, Tue July 10, 2012
Standard essential patents to be main focus
The United States Congress is taking a look at the patent sector, weighing whether or not to modify rules governing the enforcement of sales bans derived from standards-essential patents. Reuters reports that the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission will be weighing in on the talks, which could mark the advent of a decision of considerable impact. The intervention comes as the patent wars between various electronics manufacturers heat up, with one company after another accusing others of infringing patents.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on Wednesday on antitrust implications involved in banning the sale of devices infringing on standards-essential patents. The Commissioner of the FTC and the top antitrust enforcer for the Justice Department are expected to testify.
US regulatory bodies have recently warned other governing bodies such as the International Trade Commission that standards-essential patents can sometimes command too high a licensing price, and the FTC has urged the ITC not to ban infringing products from US markets based on industry standard patents. Observers expect that the Justice Department will recommend restraint in such bans.
Recent months have seen the battles over tech intellectual property continue as companies levy accusations and counter-accusations over infringement. June saw Apple cleared of some infringement charges stemming from a Samsung lawsuit. Samsung alleged that Apple had violated Samsung's UTMS mobile communication system patent, but the court found that the patent was standards-essential and the charge relating to it was thrown out.
June also saw reports that the FTC was investigating Google and Motorola Mobility to make sure those companies were honoring fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) commitments Motorola had made with regard to standards-essential patents it owned.
The Senate will not be the only governing body looking to take action to change the atmosphere of the patent world. The United Nations is hosting a set of talks in Geneva this October with the aim of rolling back the "innovation-stifling use of intellectual property [lawsuits]." The UN is actually joined in its concern over the patent system by Apple CEO Tim Cook. Cook decried the abuse of standards-essential patents in May, saying that the patent system today is broken.