Tuesday, June 14, 2005

EU COMMISSION TO REEVALUATE TELECOM STANDARDS TO AVOID POTENTIAL "PATENT AMBUSHES" - The European Commission is investigating the EU's main telecommunications standards agency to determine whether companies are able to exploit the body's patent rules for financial gain, according to this article in the Financial Times.

Commission officials fear that, under existing European Telecommunications Standards Institute regulations, companies may have the ability to turn their patented technologies into universal industry standards without telling rival groups about their patent claims.

According to a spokesman for the Brussels regulator, 'The European Commission is examining ETSI's intellectual property rights rules with a view to ensuring that these rules are framed in such a way that patent ambush situations within ETSI are avoided, and that standards are agreed according to transparent criteria.' Conventional opinion is that current rules do not appear to be able to prevent a situation where a company can potentially acquire a dominant position via a 'patent ambush'.

Once again, a bit of strangeness from an EU commission. Not that I'm any expert in EU telecom regulation, but it would seem that if you're joining a standard group, there are provisions in place to set licensing provisions for members, or create sharing or pooling arrangements. The commission is obviously trying its best to avoid a Rambus-type situation here, but what about non-members? Certainly, it's not all that hard to determine the basic activities of a standards-group member, and if there's going to be any "ambushing," my money's on the upstart outsider that has little or nothing to do with the standards agency . . .

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