In today’s tech world, patent wars have become somewhat of a norm. We have seen a blizzard of patent cases spring up in the last few years as the smartphone market has expanded. Apple is suing Samsung, Samsung is suing back, Microsoft is going after Motorola, Apple is going after Sony and so on and so forth. The list is endless. Now, the International Telecommunications Union is holding a roundtable to bring all parties together to find a way to settle these issues amicably.
The ‘patent roundtable’, as this meeting is being called, is an attempt by ITU to standardize a few things. The agency is seeking to establish measures through which patent-holders are able to profit from their patents without essentially barring the competition in the market.
The focus, of course, is the smartphone market which is expanding rapidly and where nearly all vendors are locked with each other over patent disputes. The original idea of the patents, ITU holds, was to further innovation, not to stifle it. Sadly, the patent wars are stifling any innovation by allowing vendors to pull each other into courtroom feuds.
According to ITU’s secretary-general Hamadoun Toure, “We are seeing an unwelcome trend in today’s marketplace to use standards-essential patents to block markets.” He further said that ‘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.’
The companies attending this roundtable discussion include Apple, Motorola, RIM, Google, Microsoft, Nokia and Ericsson. The focus of the discussions is the standard-essential patents (SEPs) which have been the chief cause of patent disagreements.
Under the folds of SEPs, the meeting seeks to find ‘reasonable and non-discriminatory’ (RAND) terms which would allow patent-holders to license their patents to other companies. ITU has summed it aptly when it notes, “key protocols implemented in devices sometimes encompass hundreds of patents. 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.”
One hopes that the meet-up would yield any tangible results in bringing together multiple companies to agree to the importance of patents for innovation in the tech arena; and consequently tone down their legal warfare.