Apple and Google disagree over licensing of essential patents
Apple wants to change the way essential patents are licensed and litigated, while Google wants to use current model
IDG News Service - Google is at odds with Apple, Microsoft and Cisco over the licensing and litigation of patents. While Google wants to make the most of patents it will receive if its acquisition of Motorola Mobility is approved, the others want to change the way so-called essential patents are licensed.
Essential patents are part of a standard and are licensed under fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms or reasonable, and non-discriminatory (RAND) terms. When patent-infringement negotiations over what that means fail, Google wants to continue to be able to use injunctions to block the sale of infringing products, while the others want to remove that option.
"Everybody is really taking positions which suit their own particular interest, right now," said Andrew Watson, CEO and founder of ipVA, a European intellectual property consultancy.
Back in November, Apple sent a letter to ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute), which was made public this week, detailing the need for more consistency with the licensing of essential patents.
Apple's suggested terms include the promise to not try to block the sale of products when negotiations have failed. Cisco and Microsoft have both backed that position. Consumers and the entire industry will suffer if firms seek to block others from shipping products on the basis of standard essential patents, Microsoft said in a statement on Wednesday.
That is a sensible idea, according to John Collins, European patent attorney at Marks & Clerk. A court case related to FRAND licensing should only be about money, and not involve the threat of an injunction, he said.
Removing the threat of injunctions would help balance the relationship between licensor and licensee, according to Carlo Piana, general counsel for the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE).
The threat of injunction is a very powerful weapon, said Piana. When a company is developing a new product, it can choose not to use a technology depending on licensing costs, but when the product is already finished, that becomes very expensive, and the patent owners can force the vendor "to pay through the nose," he said.
"All Google is saying is that it's going to take the same position as Motorola would have taken. Google is new to the patent game and is just hedging its bets," said Watson
It was Motorola's patent portfolio that made Google open its wallet. The acquisition of Motorola would increase competition by strengthening Google's patent portfolio, and enable Google to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies, CEO Larry Page said when the deal was announced in August.
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