If there were any lingering doubts as to the gravity of patent controversies currently circulating Silicon Valley, one only needs to consider the audience that is now hearing the debates. Delegates from Apple, Google, Microsoft, Intel and Motorola were all summoned to Geneva this week for a roundtable discussion hosted by the United Nations' International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
According to the ITU website, the meeting was intended to provide a "neutral venue" for the productive exchange of ideas between industry leaders and standards bodies to see how existing practices and policies could be reformed in the interest of more equitable market competition.
"We are seeing an unwelcome trend in today's marketplace to use standards-essential patent to block markets," ITU secretary general Hamadoun Toure told CNET. "There needs to be an urgent review of this situation: Patents are meant to encourage innovation, not stifle it."
One of the thornier issues, according to ZDNet, has been the operational definition of what constitutes "fair and reasonable" terms in a patent licensing agreement. For example, Microsoft and Apple have insisted that the prices Motorola has demanded for some mobile device patents have essentially priced them out of the market for certain features.
Representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission have been called into the conference as well, specifically to provide their take on the legislative context.