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This article provides an overview of the topics discussed in the recent webinar hosted by BrightTALK titled ‘The Essential Value: IoT Standard Essential Patents and the Case for Patent Pools’, and which is available here.
The so-called ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) refers to the use of wireless or cellular technology to connect different devices that can transmit and receive data to one another. Whereas previously the use of cellular technology was limited to relatively few types of devices – most notably, mobile telephones – more and more consumer and enterprise devices and products are now being equipped with such technology, making possible wireless communication between various devices in different technological fields.
Wireless communication is typically performed according to a number of different industry defined and approved technical standards. Standards are often developed by committees formed of experts from various companies in the relevant industry. Each expert, or group of experts, will bring ideas for new practices or technologies – possibly reflecting the innovation occurring within their company – that they believe should be adopted into a new standard. The committee will decide which of these practices or technologies are written into the new standard.
In many cases, practices or technology defined in a new standard will have pending or granted patent protection, owned by the company whose experts brought the technology to the committee, for instance. In such cases, this means that operating within the scope of such patents is unavoidable to implement the standard. Patents satisfying this condition are therefore known as ‘Standard-Essential Patents’ (SEPs). (more…)
Small quantities of excitement have been created by the “Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee” entitled “Setting out the EU approach to Standard Essential Patents”, linked on the Commission’s Patents and Standards page. Given the largely innocuous content of the Commission-originating document and the complexity of EU decision making processes, the title may well be the most contentious thing in the document. However, there are good reasons why the content is a little blander than might have been hoped, as set out in this article by Richard Vary (a distinguished standards warrior from his time at Nokia). (more…)
IPcopy watched CIPA’s seminar on Standard Essential Patents (SEPs) recently which was presented by Kevin Scott and Richard Vary. The seminar covered a number of topics: What is a SEP?; FRAND – what does it mean?; Licensee/licensor behaviour; Litigation venues (this part was also of wider interest than the SEP world); Unwired Planet v Huawei; SEP arbitration and the future.
What is a SEP?
The seminar started with definitions of “essential”, in the context of standard essential patents, from both the ETSI and IEEE organisations (see bottom of post for a copy of these definitions) before noting that this was quite a dry definition and the SEPs that we come across in today’s world are small improvement patents that can save a bit of power in a transmitted message or add a few extra transmitters into a particular radio channel.
The core technologies behind the smartphone in your pocket were standardised around 20 years ago but in the time since then many small improvements have been made. Kevin noted that the result of such improvements means that multiple people can now stream video while on their commute to work using a broadly similar amount of radio spectrum to that which was used to broadcast a few channels to the whole country. (more…)
Standards Essential Patent (SEP) matters are the giant squid of the intellectual property ocean. Enormously powerful and capable of making or disrupting the commercial plans of some of the world’s largest companies, they prowl a zone so mired in technical complexity and commercial confidentiality that their mighty struggles are largely obscured from view, despite their potential to swing hundreds of millions – even billions – of dollars from one group of companies to another. Under these circumstances, it is not so surprising that a universally respected commenter on IP matters openly wondered what all the fuss was about after delivering an impeccable summary of the most important decision in this area for several years. At first sight, the lack of excitement is understandable – the decision just seems to be a lot of stuff about who should do what when and looks about as thrilling as the rules for filing a tax return. Let us, in the manner of James Cameron descending into the Challenger Deep, see if we can shed a little light on the ecosystem of the sea bed and explain why this decision might matter. (more…)
A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma – Churchill may have been talking about Russia, but when I hear this phrase FRAND licensing is more likely to come to mind, and more particularly, FRAND licensing for standards essential patents (SEPs). It must have all sounded so straightforward once – all the standards bodies agreed that you could bring your patents to the party, you would license them to all your competitors, you’d get a royalty back to compensate you for your R&D efforts, and it would all be fair, reasonable… and nice – well, technically “non-discriminatory”, but “nice” seems to get the wooliness of the intention over better – with the end result of a collection of patents all licensed to the rest of the industry under FRAND terms. It all seemed so reasonable that an engineer at the standards meeting could concentrate on reaching the best technical solution (his or hers, obviously…) without any thought to yucky patent stuff.
Yeah, right. It hasn’t been nice for a while – not a surprise, as a requirement to license SEPs on FRAND terms is little more than an agreement to make SEPs Someone Else’s Problem and not an issue for the standards body concerned. Despite a good twenty years of fractious patent disputes about SEPs and FRAND licensing absorbing vast quantities of legal effort – I’ve spent many hours on the DRAM and 802.11a patent sagas alone, and I was barely on the fringes of both – many key questions, such as how FRAND license royalties should be calculated and just what a patent proprietor is entitled to do up to the point where a licensing target becomes a paid-up licensee, have nebulous answers at best. (more…)