Apple calls for overhaul of Europe patent law

Apple calls for overhaul of Europe patent law

FRAND licence negotiations conducted in secret, claims Apple

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Apple has called for an overhaul of European patent laws which it says are currently inconsistent, it has emerged.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the company wrote a letter to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) in November last year in which it calls for clearer regulation of FRAND patent licensing.

FRAND - fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory - licences allow companies to develop open standards for systems such as 3G mobile networks by sharing information and technology. Standards bodies typically require that companies participating in the development of a standard agree to license any relevant patents they hold on FRAND terms if their technology is essential to the standard.

However, Apple said in the letter that it was difficult to tell if terms of FRAND agreements were actually "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory" because the royalty rates were being negotiated in secret. In the letter the company recommends that ETSI should set clear polices governing how its member companies license their patents.

"It is apparent that our industry suffers from a lack of consistent adherence to FRAND principles in the cellular standards arena," Apple's intellectual property head Bruce Watrous writes in the letter.

Apple is also unhappy that companies are bringing legal actions against other companies using patents covered by FRAND agreements. This allows them to dictate negotiations for royalty rates, Apple argues in the letter.

The EU is already sniffing around Samsung and Motorola for bringing lawsuits against companies for using patents covered by FRAND licences.

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