Apple avoiding Standards on Patents and Licensing

Apple in Patents and Licensing Dispute


Apple is always into patent disputes or battling against various other lawsuits. One always notices Apple is to be involved in a patent dispute with some technology firm or other. The vital reason behind is often self-contradictory. On the one hand there is the Apple that actively tries to block the emergence of open standards that would results in its patents being available, and on the other there is Apple complaining that other technology firms don’t license patents to them in that very same fair market.

When Apple owns relevant patents they do all they can to avoid standards being set up where they would have to freely license them in order for an open standard to be produced. A case in point is the development of the Touch Events” specification being developed by the W3C working group – a specification that is designed to be royalty-free so that all companies have a level playing field when developing products around it. Apple waited until the last possible moment to suddenly “find” that it had some relevant patents that it was not prepared to license in this way, and thus has added huge delays to the specification being finalized as the W3C now has to find alternatives working around Apple claims. If Apple had joined the working group then it would have been forced to disclose these patents earlier and therefore not cause such a delay, but they refused to join – allowing themselves the option of scuppering any such specifications as they appear.

Apple also takes open standards such as EPUB3 to help develop its marketshare in a new realm, in this case eBooks, and then once it has established some dominance, such as in the tablet space with the iPad, it adds a proprietary wrapper layer to squeeze out the competition. Apple’s iBooks 2.0 format is just such an example of Apple actively working to break open standards that are available.

Cut-Throat Competition brings free Licensing to Apple

Now business is cut-throat, and Apple is free to license its patents and add proprietary layers as it sees fit – but in their legal fight with Samsung, Apple is now complaining that the open standards and fair licensing terms should be applied to them. In court documents recently unearthed by patent expert Florian Mueller, it appears that Motorola Mobility is asking for 2.25% of Apple’s sales to license the wireless patents that temporarily got Apple forced to remove various iPhone and iPad models from their German online store. This is a hefty fee, and the patent should be available for licensing under “fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory” (FRAND) terms – but Apple is claiming discrimination. Indeed, Apple have filed motions in various US courts to obtain the licensing terms that Motorola Mobility has for these patents with other technology firms such as Nokia, HTC, LG, and Ericsson in order to show this discriminatory action.

Industry views on Apple

However, with these other technology firms all also offering patents as part of the wireless standards – part of Motorola Mobility’s license agreements with them would likely include similar rate-terms for licensing their respective patents – meaning they are all on a level play field. Apple may feel discriminated against, but if they do not offer any of their patents to be involved in these standards and actively work to dismantle them – then they don’t have any such essential patents with which to bargain. They are currently trying to have their cake and eat it in the patent forum – but they will soon have to decide which way they want to work and I’m hoping Apple will embrace open standards.

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