The European Commission acted in the past on standard-essential patents, and may do so again if necessary.
EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager was speaking today at the Chillin’ Competition conference in Brussels.
She gave standard-essential standards as an example of where the commission had to act against companies unfairly exploiting a dominant position.
Vestager referenced a recent study that found $120 of the total cost of every smartphone is royalties for the patent it contains.
Some patents are essential to standards, such as GSM or 4G, putting their owners in a strong financial position, although patent holders usually have to commit to making their technology available on fair terms, as a condition for it being included in a standard.
However, if they go back on that commitment it can put handset makers in a difficult position because the patent holder can threaten an injunction to stop product sales. This can force phone makers to accept unfair terms, just to stay in business.
“That could mean they end up paying unjustified royalties, and their customers have to pay more than they should,” said Vestager.
This is why the EC ordered Motorola not to press an injunction against vendors, and accepted Samsung’s commitment not to do the same. Both cases happened in 2014 but Vestager also looked forward to 5G and IoT.
“To make sure that happens in a way that works for consumers, there needs to be fair access to standards, and a reward for genuine innovators,” she said.