Feeds

UN locks Apple, Google, Microsoft in a room for patent peace summit

'You're meant to encourage innovation, not stifle it'

Boost IT visibility and business value

Tech titans including Apple, Nokia, Google and Microsoft will today argue the toss at a UN confab on whether patent law is stifling innovation.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) arranged the get-together to assess the effectiveness of allowing companies to sort out the licensing of patents crucial to building industry-standard gear. Firms are expected to offer these essential designs on "reasonable and non-discriminatory" terms.

The meeting will also discuss whether existing patent law should be updated, whether standards essential patent violations should result in product bans, and what the basic rate for royalties should be.

It comes after the Great Patent War, fought worldwide by rival tech giants, spread from arguments over the appearance of products to patents that are the bedrock of modern communications systems, such as 3G mobile broadband. Motorola and Samsung, which own reams of intellectual property relating to standardised technology, have used their phone patents in legal action chiefly launched by Apple.

Regulators in Europe and the US have voiced their concern over the use of these patents as courtroom weapons. The EU has opened official probes into Samsung and Motorola, and the US Congress is considering outlawing product bans won using standards-essential patents.

"We are seeing an unwelcome trend in today’s marketplace to use standards-essential patents to block markets," ITU secretary general Dr Hamadoun Touré said in a canned statement. "There needs to be an urgent review of this situation: patents are meant to encourage innovation, not stifle it.

"Acknowledging patent holders and user requirements, as well as market needs, is a balancing act. This timely multi-stakeholder roundtable will help press for a resolution on some of the critical issues."

All participants in the meeting, held in Geneva, were invited to submit written opinions, and the firms have already voiced differing views over these patents.

Microsoft unsurprisingly backed the current system, which encourages fair licensing over outright bans on products. Earlier this year the software giant lost an infringement case in Germany over Motorola's patents on the H.264 standard - a video compression technology used in Xbox games consoles.

"We have offered our view that any patent holder that promises to make its standard essential patents available on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms should do just that. That means that such patent holders should not seek to block shipments of competing products just because they implement an industry standard - a license on reasonable terms is always available," Microsoft said.

"That also means that such patent holders should not require other firms to license back their patents, except for patents that are essential to the same standard."

On the other hand, Nokia argued that bans should be available to holders of standards-essential patents (SEPs).

"While injunctions with SEPs should certainly not be available against a genuinely willing licensee, there are situations where injunctions against unwilling licensees are a necessary remedy for [intellectual property rights] holders, such as a total refusal to negotiate a licence, or refusal to pay compensation determined by a competent court," the company said.

Samsung, RIM, Intel, Sony, HP and Huawei are among the businesses on the attendance list as well as Apple, Google, Microsoft and Nokia. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Has Europe cut the UK adrift on data protection?
EU reckons we've one foot out the door anyway
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Government's 'Google Review' copyright rules become law
Welcome in a New Era ... of copyright litigation
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.