Apple has asked the telecom standards body responsible for patent licensing across Europe to lay down a set of basic principles to define how companies license patents, according to a letter written in November that has emerged today.
It its correspondence to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), the Cupertino-based firm was open in its criticism of the current state of the telecom industry. As the Wall Street Journal reports, it claims that it “lacks consistent licensing schemes for the many patents necessary to make mobile devices”.
The firm’s issue is around fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licenses which are for those patents that are deemed industry-standard and therefore essential in the building of mobile phones. FRAND licensing allows such patents — some of which are concerned with WiFi or 3G technology — to be licensed out to allow other firms to develop products.
Apple is reported to have proposed suggestions to set royalty rates that all members of the ETSI would follow, in response to cases where inflated and unreasonable terms and prices have been proposed by patent owners. A number of recent cases have highlighted the issues around FRAND licensing and Apple is keen to introduce standardisation.
The EU’s anti-trust watchdog is probing Samsung over a possible misuse of FRAND patent licensing, having first opened the issue in November as we reported. There have been numerous other cases too as the acronym becomes better known to many in and outside of the industry.
The timing of the discovery of the letter from Apple is interesting as Google is rumoured to be set to pledge that it will be fair when licensing Motorola patents, which it acquired when it bought the struggling handset marker.
In its letter, Apple also floated the idea that FRAND patents should be outlawed from being used to ban and block device product launches in markets, a tactic that has been adopted by a number of mobile industry players.
Apple has become embroiled in legal spats with rivals in markets across the world, but its run-ins with Samsung have drawn the most attention. Things have not all gone Apple’s way in Europe as Motorola won a patent suit against the firm in Germany. The decision saw the company forced remove its products from its website the country, however it remains able to sell devices through its store and it is said to be confident that the issues will be overcome.
Also in Germany, a ruling last week upheld a decision made in September which saw the introduction of a sales ban for the original Galaxy Tab 10.1. Following the decision, Samsung appealed and re-modified its product before introducing the Galaxy Tab 10.1N, in order avoid the infringements and gain clearance for sale in Germany.
Elsewhere, in Europe, Samsung previously saw a sales ban fail in Holland, the country where it was forced to modify three of its Galaxy smartphones for sale after the models were adjudged to have infringed on patents held by Apple.