ITU steps into mobile patent war – Mobile World Live

ITU steps into mobile patent war

09 JUL 2012

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is to hold discussions with standards organisations, industry players and government officials in an attempt to address the widespread patent litigation taking place among mobile technology companies.

The ITU will hold “a high-level roundtable discussion” in Geneva on 10 October to address the surge in patent litigation from mobile players – including Apple, HTC, Motorola, Microsoft and Samsung – and “the growing lack of adherence to standards bodies’ existing patent policies."

A major focus area will be reasonable and non-discriminatory (RAND) patent policies, which the ITU says have until now been an effective way of managing “natural tensions” between patent holders, standards implementers and end users. However, the definition of "reasonable" – and decisions around whether patent holders are entitled to injunctive relief – are now “emerging as major points of contention," the ITU said in a statement.

Other topics to be discussed include improvements to existing policy frameworks, entitlement to injunctive reliefs and definitions of what makes up a royalty base.

The global standards-making body believes that the battles over intellectual property – especially standard essential patent litigation – are stifling innovation in the mobile space.

“We are seeing an unwelcome trend in today’s marketplace to use standards-essential patents to block markets. 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,” said ITU Secretary-General, Dr Hamadoun Touré.

These legal disputes can also end up hitting consumers in the pocket. “If just one patent holder decides to demand unreasonable compensation for use of its intellectual property (IP), the cost of the device in which that IP is implemented can skyrocket,” the ITU statement said.

Apple and Samsung have been engaged in legal action related to design and technology patents since April 2011 when Apple accused the South Korean company of "slavishly" copying its iPhone and iPad designs. Other companies involved in similar litigation, include HTC, Motorola and Microsoft, with some cases resulting in import bans or sales injunctions.

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Tim Ferguson

Tim joined Mobile World Live in August 2011 and works across all channels, with a particular focus on apps. He came to the GSMA with five years of tech journalism experience, having started his career as a reporter... More

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