Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and other leading tech firms,
patent officers, regulators and academics met in
Switzerland last week to discuss whether action is needed
to prevent patent disputes in the industry which people fear will
stifle future innovation.
The meeting has been set up by the International
Telecommunication Union which is the United Nations specialised
agency for information and communication technologies.
Some will say the meeting could not have taken place a better
time with the recent high volume of patent litigation in the
industry and the EU looking into whether Samsung and Motorola have
abused their patents to distort competition.
Talks will focus on FRAND patent licence rights and
ensuring that these are offered on "reasonable" terms.
FRAND stands for fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory patents-
essentially these are the innovations that are patented and
recognised as being critical to an industry for example technology
without which it would be impossible to connect to a 3G
network. Licence holders of FRAND patents must allow
third parties to use them and must not charge an
excessive licence fee.
Problems arise where parties fail to agree
"reasonable" terms and products are developed and
made available with FRAND patents but without payment of the
licence fees. Licence holders in these situations turn to
litigation and imposing bans on the products in question.
The discussions will not stop with this week's meeting
and it is reported that the group will continue to have a
number of informal meetings over the next 12 months. It would of
course be in the best interests of the industry and development of
technology for a general consensus to be reached on the issue
however the likelihood of this is questionable considering
the ongoing patent wars.
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