This morning I reported on complaints lodged to European Union’s (EU) competition regulators by Microsoft against Motorola. The main gist of the article is that Motorola neglects to make its patent technologies available at a fair cost to other manufacturers who wish to use their technology in non-motorola devices. Microsoft and others say this has been a huge revenue stream for Motorola to the point where it represents a substantial competitive advantage.
With the acquisition at hand and Motorola transitioning ownership, many are wondering if Google will reverse the trend and offer patented technology at an affordable rate. Because many of the patents Motorola currently holds control wi-fi connectivity and wireless video transfer, high prices could jeopardize our ability to enjoy these features on many of the most popular products. More importantly, these technologies are industry standards and motorola is violating a major component of modern industry: fair competition.
Microsoft has stepped to the plate and said that it will not seek any injunctions on firms that pursue industry standard solutions with technology Microsoft holds patents on. While Apple and Cisco have agreed to the same policy, Google is not buying into it. This leaves us wondering what will happen once Google is in control of the Motorola patents.
The European Union and the U.S. Department of Justice have turned their attention to the issue and the EU Commissioner made this statement in connection with the complaints:
“I can assure you that the Commission will take further action if warranted to ensure that the use of standard essential patents by all players in the sector is fully compliant with EU competition law and with the FRAND commitments given to standard setting organisations.”
The U.S. Department of Justice makes similar assertions in their statement:
“In light of the importance of this industry to consumers and the complex issues raised by the intersection of the intellectual property rights and antitrust law at issue here, as well as uncertainty as to the exercise of the acquired rights, the division continues to monitor the use of standard essential patents (SEPs) in the wireless device industry, particularly in the smartphone and computer tablet markets. The division will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action to stop any anticompetitive use of SEP rights.”
So consumers should hope for a resolve to this issue soon, as these expensive patent prices are being passed on to us. I am surprised that there is not a standardized prize for using industry standard patents. Perhaps that is a solution, but I am sure there is more to the patent laws and pricing than I can conclude from this article. I will follow up any any actions taken by Google, Motorola, or the regulators involved.