Worldwide standards under threat
A battle is brewing within the big software outfits over the enforcement of patents which are part of agreed standards. For years those who have patents on things which are agreed standards have allowed their use at a reasonable rate. It was pretty much a gentlemen’s agreement.
However that was before Apple and Microsoft started patent trolling in a bid to kill off Android. Apple, in particular, refused to sell patents to rivals and litagated to get them removed from the market. Since the only means of defence was to get patents of your own, this has meant defending patents which companies need to buy to meet standards. Now Google is at odds with Apple, Microsoft and Cisco over the licensing and litigation of patents. Some of it is because Google wants to make the most of patents it will receive if its acquisition of Motorola is approved, the others want to change the way so-called essential patents are licensed.
Essential patents are part of a standard and 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.
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 agreed.
Normally we would have through Google would have gone for it too. But right now it is fighting off shedloads of patent-infringement cases from Apple.