Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Deadline for EU Commission consultation on SEP framework approaching--and progress report on implementation of IP Action Plan

This is the third post in a row on the Auto IP & Legal World Summit in Frankfurt, though it goes beyond the narrow question of patent licensing in the automotive industry.

The previous two posts commented on a Volkswagen keynote on the licensing process and on a panel debate (with a particular focus on a lawyer's prediction that certain German judges, whose positions are very well known, will hand down patentee-friendly rulings once they serve on the Unified Patent Court). I'd just like to add a clarifying nuance to Volkswagen IP chief Uwe Wiesner's position on license fees. The concern Mr. Wiesner reiterated was that standard-essential patent (SEP) holder might capture value beyond the specific technical contribution of their patents to the standard, such as downstream investments in other types of innovation. In my opinion, that comes down to the smallest saleable patent-practicing unit (SSPPU) and royalty base argument we've heard from others, particularly Apple.

SEP holders counter this argument by pointing to the value-add enabled by cellular telecommunications technologies. Nokia's litigation chief Clemens Heusch mentioned yesterday that after a couple of years of using certain mobile data services, the car maker told him he needed to pay for a subscription. I've experienced that more than once, and in fact keep receiving Mercedes ME emails though I even emailed them and asked them to delete me from the distribution list. It's only human that SEP holders want their fair share.

As we're in the middle of a policy debate, let me share an update that Elena Kostadinova of the European Commission's Directorate-General for the Internal Market (DG GROW) provided at the Frankfurt conference on the implementation of the Commission's IP Action Plan (this post continues below the document):

Kostadinova - Auto IP &... by Florian Mueller

The part about SEPs still isn't very specific, but that's because the consultation is still open. So if you haven't provided your input to the Commission yet, now's a good time. The deadline is on May 9 (midnight Brussels time). Click on this link, and on that page you find a yellow "Respond to the questionnaire" button.

To the extent that the initiative and the ongoing consultation have been discussed in IP-specialized media, the Commission has been urged to take a hands-off approach at this critical juncture. Europe's most important wireless patent holders are currently dealing with outstanding as well as upcoming renewals of key license agreements, above all with Apple. Anyway, whatever side you may take, make sure the Commission hears your views.

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