Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Another Patent Holder Looks To Get In The Way Of A Standard

from the yet-again dept

We've noted over the years that, while it helps many markets to agree on a specific technology standard and then competing within the standard, the standards setting process has been decimated in the last decade or so due to everyone wanting to make sure that their patented technology gets into the standard. That's because there were a few cases where patent holders later came back and demanded lots of money from the successfully implemented standards (if you want examples, you can look at JPEGs, MP3s, RFID, WiFi and next generation DVDs). What this tends to do is actually slow down the process and harm everyone, but it's so damn lucrative to have your patented technologies as part of the standard, some companies would rather completely ruin a space than agree to let another company's patented technology get into the standard. Witness the situation with UWB, a wireless technology that would have been tremendously useful and well on its way to market dominance if not for years of standards battles over whose patented technology would get to be in the standard. Instead, after arguments and insults and wasted years, both sides decided to develop their own version, confusing the market place and helping no one. Then, there's the famous case of Rambus, who was accused of quietly paying attention at standards meetings and then modifying patent applications to make sure their patents covered the standards.

These days, it seems like everyone wants a chance to do something similar, because the system has made it just that lucrative. Some standards boards now require companies to declare any patents in the space, and that leads to cases like the following one, submitted by cmh. On the very last day of the 60 days given to declare patents, one company has shown up and declared that its provisional patents cover some technology in the standard and that they're unwilling to license the patents under the RAND (reasonable and non-discriminatory) rules set by the standards board. Really, it's part of a negotiating tactic about how much money this company is going to get out of this -- and that's all these patents have become. They're a calling card to get to the table to figure out how much they deserve out of a standard before it's even in the marketplace. It seems that patents have come a long way from the days when they were supposed to promote innovation.

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