China: SEPs And The Application Boundary Of China's Anti-Monopoly Law (In Chinese)

Last Updated: 25 January 2016
Article by AnJie Law Firm

近年来,"标准必要专利"(Standard Essential Patent, 简称"SEP")一词可谓是中国反垄断学界的热门词汇,此问题关系到反垄断法的运用边界,关系到公权与私权的衡平,也关系到中国反垄断法执法与司法的未来走向,实在有必要进行讨论。

从2011年华为公司在广东起诉美国无线厂商IDC、国家发改委嗣后对IDC中止调查两案,到2013年国家发改委对美国高通公司启动反垄断调查直至2015年初作出处罚决定,再到2015年商务部附条件批准诺基亚收购阿尔卡特朗讯案,"如何在我国反垄断法律框架下评估标准必要专利相关行为"这一问题已经引起了我国反垄断行政执法与司法部门的重视,同时亦牵动了众多相关市场竞争者的关注,尤其是高科技业界的瞩目。目前,国务院反垄断委员会在牵头制定"关于滥用知识产权的反垄断指南",希望为反垄断执法实践提供更为具体且具针对性的指引;其中,标准必要专利问题属于该指南核心内容之一。

应当承认,知识产权领域的反垄断执法与司法本就复杂,一旦与牵涉面广大、程序复杂的"标准制定活动"相结合,更加剧了其敏感性与挑战性。

相关企业参与制定标准的过程,需要投入大量的人力、物力和财力进行研发、技术讨论、筛选和评估、推动与筹划等活动。如果最终其技术被纳入标准,得以在更广阔的范围内被推广使用,则能够弥补前期投入甚至获得可观盈利。如果最终未被选入标准,前期巨大的投入则无法获得补偿。这就使得参与标准制定活动具有一定商业上的风险性,并非所有企业有能力且有充分的动力积极参与。然而,在标准制定过程中,只有鼓励更多企业参与到标准制定过程,从而涵盖尽可能多的竞争性技术进行比较筛选,技术上最优越的、最能惠及消费者的先进性技术才可能被纳入标准。一旦形成切实可行的标准,则有助于整个产业提高经营效率,提高产业标准化程度。因此,一般情况下,经营者积极参与标准制定活动的动机应当受到保护和鼓励。

然而,我们也注意到一些标准必要专利的权利人滥用权利,滥用因标准必要专利的必要性而带来的市场支配地位,因此《反垄断法》在极为特殊的情况有出手干预之必要。即使在特殊情况下对标准必要专利有适用《反垄断法》的余地,也要求在对标准必要专利权人的专利权保护和《反垄断法》规制之间寻求合理平衡,《反垄断法》对于标准必要专利权人相关行为的干预必须谨慎,不能脱离市场现实情况、脱离具体的相关市场竞争进行简单的执法、司法,否则将会削弱经营者的积极创新和参与标准制定活动的动力。

本文中,笔者首先对标准、标准化组织以及标准必要专利等背景信息进行介绍;进而阐释我国针对标准必要专利相关行为的反垄断规制体系;最后对于法律适用中的几个重要问题提出笔者观点,强调在有关标准必要专利行为的反垄断执法、司法中应当非常慎重,建议结合相关市场的具体竞争状况,综合考虑多方因素且考虑专利许可的特殊性进行评估,且严格限制对"标准必要专利"外延的扩大解读,希望能够有所启发。

一、标准及标准化组织

标准是指某一类商品或服务的共同特性的组合。 1技术标准化能够促进不同生产厂商生产的产品之间的兼容性和互联互通,进而实现降低成本、增进效率以及促进后续创新的效果。

在某些国家,政府部门承担了部分标准制定工作。例如,我国的国务院标准化行政主管部门负责制定国家标准。在没有国家标准但需要在全行业统一的,由国务院有关行政主管部门制定行业标准。对没有国家标准和行业标准而又需在省、自治区、直辖市范围内统一的工业产品的安全、卫生要求,可由省、自治区、直辖市标准化行政主管部门制定地方标准。

此外,在许多行业,很大一部分重要的标准制定工作由不同类型主体组成的标准制定组织(standard setting organization),通过合作性机制而完成。此类标准被俗称为"合作性标准"(cooperative standard)。

以通信领域为例,最初各国家、地区均发展并采用不同的技术,从而引发了通信产品不兼容等问题。具体而言,在某一国家或地区内采用特定技术的通信设备在采用其他技术的国家或地区内则无法使用。的确,两个实体进行通信,其接口只有符合了相同的技术要求,通信设备才可以互联互通。随着全球化程度的进一步提升,以及消费者对互联互通和兼容性的要求不断增高,业界深感对技术进行标准化工作的迫切需求,因此,国际、区域性标准化组织相继成立,且标准化活动尤为活跃。

例如,"国际电信联盟"(ITU)成立于1865年,总部设在瑞士日内瓦,建立了电报、电话和无线与卫星通信业务的国际通用规则。"第三代合作伙伴计划"(3rd Generation Partnership Project,简称"3GPP")是成立于1998年的标准化机构,成员包括欧洲的ETSI 2、日本的ARIB3和TTC 4、中国的CCSA5、韩国的TTA 6和北美的ATIS7。TD-SCDMA和WCDMA标准是由3GPP负责制定的。

二、标准必要专利及竞争忧虑

出于竞争优势的考量,参与制定标准的企业往往将其技术申请为专利,当其专利技术被纳入标准后即成为标准必要专利。

标准必要专利是指在执行技术标准时所不可避免地会使用到的专利权。引用ETSI知识产权政策中的表述,"标准必要专利是被纳入某一标准的知识产权,从而使得执行该标准则不可避免地形成对该专利权的侵权"。举例而言,一部能够连接WCDMA网络的手机必然需要使用WCDMA标准中包含的技术(专利)。因此,生产符合WCDM标准的手机的生产商则一定会侵犯WCDMA标准的标准必要专利权,除非生产厂商从专利权人手中获得许可。

虽然标准化实施过程中能够产生巨大的效率,但由于被纳入标准的相关专利技术在标准制定后将不存在替代性技术,因此可能引发反垄断方面的竞争顾虑。

第一,在相关专利被纳入标准后,标准必要专利权人可能大规模主张专利侵权并寻求损害赔偿,不但会不合理排除其他标准竞争技术的事前竞争,也将使得标准的实施陷入僵局,无法实现标准制定之实现效率的初旨,且最终损害标准实施者的利益及消费者利益。

第二,在标准制定之前或之中,市场上可能存在多个能够实现相同功能的竞争性技术;但是,一旦标准被制定并推广,且在市场上不存在竞争性标准,那么标准必要专利的专利权人可能获得一定的市场力量,甚至是市场支配地位。此种市场支配地位主要来源于其"标准化",标准化加剧、稳固了相关专利的"必要性"。这主要是考虑到,在标准推广期,相关的市场主体可能已为实施该标准投入了大量沉没成本(sunk cost)而被锁定于继续生产符合该标准的产品;如果相关厂商拟生产符合该标准的产品,则只能选择从标准必要专利权人手中获得许可。在获得市场力量后,标准必要专利权人可能产生实施排除、限制竞争行为的动机和可能性,例如,要求过高的专利费、拒绝许可、强制搭售、对于专利许可附加不合理的交易条件等等。

需要强调的是,尽管存在以上种种竞争顾虑,然而,以上担忧在具体案件中是否转变为现实的竞争忧虑还需结合实际的专利许可情况、市场竞争情况等在反垄断法律框架下进行全面分析。尤其是,目前世界范围内主要标准制定组织一般均制定自己的知识产权政策,要求其成员(1)及时向标准制定组织披露其自己或他人拥有的标准必要专利;并(2)就其标准必要专利承诺以公平、合理、无歧视(FRAND)的条款和条件对外许可,从而尽可能避免前述竞争忧虑转变为现实中的竞争阻碍。

因此,笔者认为,在我国反垄断法律框架下评价与标准必要专利相关行为的合法性与否,需结合市场竞争现实情况,结合该"标准"的实施情况与影响能力,不能仅基于对某种臆测的可能性的竞争忧虑进行生硬的反垄断干预,也不能进行超越竞争忧虑适当程度的矫正。否则,将严重打击经营者进行创新的动力,削弱经营者之间更高层次的"创新竞争",从长远角度不利消费者福利和社会总体福利的增进。

三、中国反垄断规制下的标准必要专利

虽然知识产权属于法律赋予权利人在一定时期内合法的垄断性权利,但知识产权行为在世界各国反垄断法中并未受到完全的豁免。因此,标准必要专利权人的行为仍受到反垄断法规制。我国《反垄断法》第55条规定:"经营者依照有关知识产权的法律、行政法规规定行使知识产权的行为,不适用本法;但是,经营者滥用知识产权,排除、限制竞争的行为,适用本法。"

可以看出,我国《反垄断法》既不否定知识产权法授予的权利,也不将知识产权作为除外适用领域予以豁免。但需要注意的是,《反垄断法》第55条对哪些知识产权行为需要受到《反垄断法》的规制规定了明确的界限,即,《反垄断法》不适用依法行使知识产权的行为,而仅适用于排除、限制竞争的不正当行使(滥用)知识产权的行为。因此,"是否排除、限制竞争"是决定《反垄断法》是否应当干预知识产权行为的关键因素。

另外,对于与标准必要专利相关行为的反垄断规制,我国《反垄断法》并没有设计特殊的规则,而仍应当在《反垄断法》规定的法律框架下分析。目前,最常见的标准必要专利相关行为主要体现为标准必要专利权人的单方行为,主要受到我国《反垄断法》关于滥用市场支配地位的相关规定。

根据我国《反垄断法》,如认定标准必要专利权人实施了滥用市场支配地位行为,应运用合理分析原则判定相关违法行为是否同时满足以下法律要件:

第一, 标准必要专利权人在相关市场具有市场支配地位

第二, 实施了《反垄断法》意义上的滥用行为

第三, 滥用行为不具有合理理由

第四,产生排除、限制竞争的效果

在认定构成滥用市场支配地位的拒绝许可行为时,还应额外满足"标准必要专利属于必需设施"这一要件。这是因为,从法理层面,专利权本身就是法律赋予权利人的一种合法垄断,其创造者和投资者在一定时期内可以独享专利权带来的相关权益。仅当极特殊情况下,对于一个不能通过通常的创新方法和投资进行复制的设施的拥有者,如果其竞争对手不能获取这一设施,市场的竞争将不可能或会受到严重的阻碍,才应当要求该设施的拥有者就有义务同其竞争对手共用这一设施。就必需设施的认定和适用,各国一般都设置了严格标准。

我国国家工商总局《关于禁止滥用知识产权排除、限制竞争行为的规定》 8规定了认定知识产权为必需设施需满足以下条件:

(一)该项知识产权在相关市场上不能被合理替代,为其他经营者参与相关市场的竞争所必需;

(二)拒绝许可该知识产权将会导致相关市场上的竞争或者创新受到不利影响,损害消费者利益或者公共利益;

(三)许可该知识产权对该经营者不会造成不合理的损害。

四、关于法律适用的几点思考

(一) 标准必要专利权人是否必然拥有市场支配地位

在华为诉IDC案中,广东高院认为,IDC在中国和美国的3G无线通信技术标准中的每一个标准必要专利许可市场均构成一个独立的相关市场。由于在知识产权与标准相结合的情况下,产品制造商要生产符合标准的产品,实施标准必要专利必不可少且不可替代,标准必要专利权人从而获得超越专利权内涵的市场支配力量。IDC作为涉案标准必要专利许可市场的唯一供给方,其在3G标准中的每一个标准必要专利许可市场具有完全的市场份额,故其完全具有阻碍或者影响其他经营者进入相关市场的能力,因此在相关标准必要专利许可市场具有市场支配地位。

然而,根据以上案例是否可直接得出"只要专利权人拥有标准必要专利,就必然在每一标准必要专利市场内具有市场支配地位"的结论?笔者对此推论表示怀疑。

第一,并不是每一标准必要专利必然构成一个独立的相关市场。如前述,我国《反垄断法》并未针对知识产权设计特殊的规则,对于相关市场的界定仍应当遵循《国务院反垄断委员会关于相关市场界定的指南》从需求替代和供给替代角度分析。举例而言,即便某一专利被纳入标准后成为标准实施者所不可缺少的专利,然而,如果市场内存在一个或多个竞争性技术标准,则该标准必要专利不应构成独立的相关市场。如果相关标准所占市场份额较小或者已经基本没有市场需求,则与之相关的标准必要专利权利人应当不具有市场支配地位。

第二,在某一标准必要专利构成独立相关市场的情况下,其他众多因素的共存可能导致标准必要专利权人不具有市场支配地位。首先,在一个技术标准中,往往包含几百个甚至几千个专利,然而不同专利对该标准的重要性相差很大,一般来说,对标准和下游产品的技术重要性较低的专利很难使其专利权人获得市场支配地位。其次,不同行业中标准的演进速度有所不同,如果在某行业中既存标准被新一代标准替代的时间较短,则既存标准中的标准必要专利权人将受到较高程度的潜在"创新竞争"的约束,也很难因拥有标准必要专利获得市场支配地位。再次,专利保护和专利许可的现实状况也可能使标准必要专利权人无法获得市场支配地位。我们知道,标准技术是公开的,实践中存在着众多标准实施者在未获得许可的情况下长期生产符合该标准的产品。然而,标准必要专利权人的专利权救济成本高昂、实施禁令救济一般受到程序限制、潜在许可人很容易实施拖延策略等现实因素往往促生"反向专利套牢"(reverse patent hold-up)问题。最后,由于可能存在竞争者之间交叉许可等其他因素的制约,标准必要专利的权利人的权利实施可能性受到限制,并不能简单地将"标准化"与支配地位划上等号。

因此,笔者认为,在反垄断执法和司法实践中对标准必要专利权人是否具有市场支配地位进行评估时,应当综合考量标准及其专利技术的可替代性、标准的演进速度、标准实施者转向其他技术标准的可能性和难度、专利保护和许可的现实状况、专利权利人行使权利的可行性等多种因素,不能仅因"拥有标准必要专利"这一事实作出简单推论。

(二) 判断滥用行为及合理理由应考虑专利许可的特殊性

关于哪些行为可能构成《反垄断法》禁止的滥用行为,《反垄断法》第十七条进行了列举,"禁止具有市场支配地位的经营者从事下列滥用市场支配地位的行为:

(一)以不公平的高价销售商品或者以不公平的低价购买商品;

(二)没有正当理由,以低于成本的价格销售商品;

(三)没有正当理由,拒绝与交易相对人进行交易;

(四)没有正当理由,限定交易相对人只能与其进行交易或者只能与其指定的经营者进行交易;

(五)没有正当理由搭售商品,或者在交易时附加其他不合理的交易条件;

(六)没有正当理由,对条件相同的交易相对人在交易价格等交易条件上实行差别待遇;

(七)国务院反垄断执法机构认定的其他滥用市场支配地位的行为。"

实践中经常引发争议的行为包括要求过高的专利费、强制搭售、对于专利许可附加不合理的交易条件等。应当承认,专利许可市场与传统市场相比复杂程度更高,从降低交易成本、减少专利纠纷等内耗性成本的角度考虑,专利许可实践对灵活性的要求也更高。因此,笔者认为,在评估相关许可行为是否构成《反垄断法》意义上的滥用行为,应当运用合理分析原则(rule of reason)充分考虑专利许可实践的特殊性。

以对"索要过高专利许可费"行为的反垄断评估为例,索要过高专利许可费是在标准必要专利有关的反垄断执法和司法实践中最常见的问题,技术标准的实施者出于最大程度降低成本的内在动机经常质疑标准必要专利许可人"以终端设备作为许可费计算基础"的做法,相反主张应当以"最小可销售单元"(Smallest Sellable Practicing Patent Unit,简称"SSPPU")为原则计算许可费。然而,以SSPPU原则计算许可费在实践中是否具有可操作性、合理程度如何,笔者认为需要结合许可实践的特殊性谨慎分析。

首先,不一定在所有案件中均能够清晰地划分某一标准必要专利的最小可销售单元。尤其在通信行业,某一标准必要专利所包含的技术创新可能对多个零部件甚至是不同实体间的接口均贡献价值,此种情况下如果将最小可销售单元界定为某个零部件,则可能低估或者是减损该标准必要专利的价值。

其次,出于降低交易成本的考虑,专利许可实践中专利权人往往以专利组合的形式对外许可,一个专利组合可能涉及几百个专利,如果要针对每一个专利人为界定一个最小和销售单元,不但对专利权人是巨大的工作量,而且在一个个专利对多个产品组成部分贡献价值的情况下,对最小可销售单元的界定还可能引发许可人与被许可人的争议,降低许可效率。

再次,只要整体的专利许可费水平公平合理,不应当对于标准必要专利权人的计费方法予以约束。标准制定组织经常要求其成员承诺以FRAND的条款和条件对外许可其标准必要专利,我国《反垄断法》也禁止具有市场支配地位的经营者以不公平的高价销售商品。但是,需要注意的是,无论是标准制定组织还是我国《反垄断法》关注的均为最终的许可费水平,而对如何计费没有限定。

最后,如果以公权力去判断许可价格的合理性,尤其应当避免公权力对市场竞争的不当干预。简单来讲,执法机构与司法机构毕竟不是相关市场的经营主体,其对相关市场竞争的判断毕竟没有切肤之痛,其出发点毕竟不能够完全从具体经营者角度出发,这也就决定了执法机构与司法机构对"公平"价格的判断先天就具有"失真"的不利因素。

因此,在评价"以整机作为许可费计费基础"做法是否违反《反垄断法》需要结合许可实践并充分考虑其合理理由,尤其是是需要对相关市场的具体竞争状况进行全面了解。我国国家发改委在高通案的处罚决定中没有否定高通以整机计费的事实也侧面反映了我国反垄断执法机构对待这一问题的态度,笔者表示赞同。

(三) 警惕与反对对" 标准必要专利" 的扩大解读

所谓标准必要专利,其前提基础是存在某一"标准",正是因为相关专利被纳入该"标准",该专利对于潜在的标准实施者才具有必要性。换而言之,如果不是一个"标准",即使其他竞争对手认为该专利如何重要,也不应该纳入《反垄断法》规制的范畴。因为,专利权人决定是否交易、与谁交易以及基于什么许可条件进行交易均本是专利权人正当行使专利权的行为,原则上不应受到限制,这是专利权作为私权的本质属性。然而当某一技术被制定为标准后,如前述,可能会产生竞争顾虑。例如,标准必要专利权人可能肆无忌惮地提高其专利许可费水平,对标准必要专利实施者强加不公平、不合理的许可费以赚取垄断利润,产生事后"套牢"(ex post patent hold-up)现象。基于此种竞争担忧,对标准必要专利权人一般附加以FRAND原则对外许可其标准必要专利的义务。

也就是说,专利权人在专利是否纳入标准之前可以自行选择:一旦决定纳入标准,则应当承受作为标准的种种制约与不便;而如果专利权人不愿意将相关专利作为标准,即使该专利非常重要,则专利权人行使专利权的范围、方式也只是他自己的事情,反垄断法执法机构与司法机构没有进行干预的余地。

由于前述FRAND约束对于被许可人产生巨大利益影响,潜在被许可人存在天然动机对"标准必要专利"的范围扩大到那些在商业上非常具有价值的、重要的非标准必要专利。

需要强调的是,从我国及欧美等主要竞争法域的执法和司法实践来看,反垄断法对于知识产权的干预大多集中在标准必要专利相关行为。如果将"标准必要专利"的外延任意扩大,甚至是对非标准专利也进行反垄断法规制,将不利对知识产权的保护,从长远看不利创新效率的实现,最终有损社会总体福利。因此,笔者建议严格限制对"标准必要专利"的扩大解读。

五、结论

综上,反垄断与保护知识产权虽然存在一定程度的天然冲突,但其目标均为促进竞争和创新,提高效率,维护消费者利益和社会总体福利。《反垄断法》的过度、不当规制将会遏制知识产权创新和竞争,有违合同自由的基本原则,也有违《反垄断法》的立法目的。因此,在有关标准必要专利行为的反垄断执法、司法中应当非常慎重,建议运用合理分析原则,结合相关市场的具体竞争状况,综合考虑多方因素进行评估。同时应当严格限制对"标准必要专利"外延的扩大解读,从而防止《反垄断法》成为个别竞争者获得私人竞争优势的工具,造成过度甚至是错误规制。

Footnotes

1 OECD Policy Round Tables, 'Standard Setting' (2010) http://www.oecd.org/daf/competition/47381304.pdf accessed on 24 December 2015.

2 欧洲电信标准化协会

3 无线工商业联合会

4 电信技术委员会

5 中国通信标准协会

6 通信技术协会

7 世界无线通讯解决方案联盟

8 国家工商总局《关于禁止滥用知识产权排除、限制竞争行为的规定》第七条规定:"具有市场支配地位的经营者没有正当理由,不得在其知识产权构成生产经营活动必需设施的情况下,拒绝许可其他经营者以合理条件使用该知识产权,排除、限制竞争。

认定前款行为需要同时考虑下列因素:

(一)该项知识产权在相关市场上不能被合理替代,为其他经营者参与相关市场的竞争所必需;

(二)拒绝许可该知识产权将会导致相关市场上的竞争或者创新受到不利影响,损害消费者利益或者公共利益;

(三)许可该知识产权对该经营者不会造成不合理的损害。

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

    Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of www.mondaq.com

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

    Disclaimer

    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

    Registration

    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

    Cookies

    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

    Links

    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

    Mail-A-Friend

    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

    Emails

    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .

    Security

    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions