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Patent Wars to Follow Strict Guidelines in European Union

April 29, 2014 - Written By Ray Greer


What would the smart phone market be like with the absence of patent wars? The European Union, (EU) aims to find out. The goal of the EU is to put an end to patent wars and allow competition to drive the smart phone markets. This move may be welcomed by many-mostly consumers. The EU is an organization within Europe that has been watching over trade and business since the 1950’s. They have evolved from smaller organizations into a massive singularity that is made up of 28 countries today. Some of these countries include France, Germany and the UK. All the member states follow the rules and guidelines set by the EU, especially since the main goal is to drive trade and competition among the various trades they oversee. One market that the EU is getting a handle on is smartphones.

In the countries that fall under the EU’s umbrella there are many patent wars between smart phone OEMs or manufacturers. One of the most recent examples is shown between Motorola and Apple. According to reports, Motorola broke the EU’s competition law when trying to file against Apple. The filing had to do with Standard Essential patents that are considered necessary in order to get a smart phones to work properly. In the original case, Apple accused Motorola of infringement on four separate patents. In retaliation, Motorola accused Apple of infringement of SEP’s which Apple had purchased the licensing. In the US, this case was thrown out, but recently revived. Though in Germany the findings have been different. The EU had a couple different options during this case between Apple and Motorola. One of which was a fine of up to 10% of Motorola’s annual global turnover. Though the EU wanted to approach this situation differently in an effort to make an example out of the company. There were no fines imposed on Motorola, instead they were told to drop the injunction. As further punishment, Motorola was told to settle this dispute in Europe with Apple in private.This move was made with the hopes that other OEMs will think twice before asking for the courts time in matters such as these. The EU has added that the patent wars directly affect consumers more so than anyone. Joaquin Almunia the European Commissioner said, “The so-called smart phone patent wars should not occur at the expense of consumers,”

The EU doesn’t mean to take away the power of a patent. Instead they aim to end injunctions involving SEPs. While smart phone makers argue that patents are necessary to protect their intellectual property. This is their right, but according to the EU a line needs to be drawn somewhere. Patents that involve designs or functions that are absolutely necessary (unlocking a device, making a phone call, ending a phone call) just hurt consumers and defeat competition in the smart phone market. Ben Wood of the advisory firm CCS Insight says, “Smaller phone makers can no longer afford to get into protracted legal battles over patents.” adding, “Essential patents, such as making a mobile phone connect to a mobile network, must be available.”

The move by the EU doen’t mean we will stop hearing about patent wars in their countries altogether. When we do hear of them, they will most likely be more mature accusations-at least that’s the hopes of the EU. “While patent holders should be fairly remunerated for the use of their  intellectual property, implementers of such standards should also get access to standardized technology.”