FTC Chairman Jon Liebowitz
The Federal Trade Commission is taking a close look at the use of “standards essential” patents in the smartphone patent wars, Chairman Jon Liebowitz said Thursday, implying that the use of those patents in a quest seeking an injunction is troubling to the agency.
“That’s an area that the commission is enormously concerned about,” Liebowitz said at the D: All Things Digital conference as part of a wide-ranging discussion on privacy, antitrust, and, of course, patents. If it launches an actual investigation into the issue, it’s likely to cause headaches for Google and its Android partners, who have been criticized for using such patents in their defense against lawsuits by the likes of Apple and Microsoft.
Apple CEO Tim Cook used part of his appearance Tuesday evening to complain about the use of these patents, which are generally required by standards-setting organizations to be licensed to other companies under “reasonable and non-discriminatory” terms when used as part of a technology standard. Liebowitz’s main concern seemed to be companies who are “suing for injunctive relief” citing such patents; in that reasonable people can differ over whether the licensing terms are truly “reasonable and non-discriminatory” and can settle those differences in court, but tech companies shouldn’t be allowed to obtain injunctions on sales of products based on those patents.
The European Commission is already looking into this issue and warned Google before approved its acquisition of Motorola that it would be watching its behavior with respect to such patents.
In other matters:
Image credit Asa Mathat | All Things Digital
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