Innovation Asset Blog

UN agency resolves to address tech patent wars

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a specialized body of the United Nations, recently announced plans for high-level discussions meant to root out "innovation-stifling" uses of intellectual property. Standard-setting organizations, key technology industry players and government officials will convene in Geneva come October in hopes of addressing the misappropriation of standards-essential patents.

According to the BBC, this classification of patents protects innovations that are vital components of industry-standard products. For example, 3G wireless connectivity is protected by standards-essential patents because cell phone makers could not manufacture their products without access to these fundamental blueprints.

Traditionally, these patents have been licensed through fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms that eliminate bias and excessive cost from the equation. Unfortunately, companies are becoming increasingly willing to exploit this subjective framework for commercial interests.

"We are seeing an unwelcome trend in today's marketplace to use standards-essential patents to block markets," ITU secretary general Hamadoun Toure stated.

These issues were cast into the spotlight when Samsung attempted to block international distribution of the iPad on the grounds that Apple had infringed on one of its standards-essential patents. Apple took exception to this injunction, according to ZDNet, asserting that it was treated much differently than other third-party vendors negotiating license agreements with Samsung and could not obtain access to the patents under reasonable terms.

It remains to be seen what regulatory strategies will ultimately be presented at the October event, but delegates from Microsoft, Verizon and several major industry associations have promised to appear and echo the ITU's support for innovation-friendly patent management.

Peter Ackerman

Peter Ackerman

Founder & CEO, Innovation Asset Group, Inc.