US Congress To Weigh Patent Rights, Possibly Modify Rules Of Engagement

The US Patent system is broken, these days a company can patent a simple idea and then sue other company’s for millions of dollars when even the most basic patent is implemented into a product. Google, Apple Qualcomm, Motorola, Samsung, the list of company’s who have sued or been sued by their competitors is far too long to list. Realizing that the system is broken and in need of drastic changes the United States Congress has decided to take a long hard look at patenting licenses in the United States.

According to Reuters both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission will engage in the talks and possibly change the rules governing the enforcement of sales bans that derive from standards-essential patents.

On Wednesday the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings regarding antitrust implications that may occur when banning the sale of devices infringing on standards-essential patents.

The move to re-examine standards-essential patents comes at a time when the U.S. has warned other governing bodies around the world that standards-essential patents can often come with licensing prices that are too high to promote needed competition in the market place. One of those agencies known as the International Trade Commission has been asked to avoid banning products in which standards-essential patents are used.

In some cases the courts have already begun to overturn cases in which standards-essential patents were infringed upon. For example Samsung lost a case in which it sued Apple for using its UTMS mobile communications system patent. The judge in that case ruled that the standards-essential technology was required for basic cellular device operation.

Google and Motorola are currently being investigated by the FTC to ensure they are providing fair and reasonable patent fees for their large library of essential patents collected over years of mobile technology development.

The United Nations will also host talks in Geneva this October to justify the use of standards-essential patent.

Apple may be the largest filer of patent infringement cases in the world but the company is also decrying the control standards-essential patents have over their own products. In May 2012 Apple CEO Tim Cook complained about such patents being used. Apple’s hope is likely that it can openly use standards-essential patents at low prices while charging outrageous fees for the use of its own non-essential patents.

Determining what entails a “standards essential patent” could be harder than it sounds, when we consider that the industry is growing at such a rapid rate one could argue that a technology becomes a standard after a single generation of devices adapts the technology, thus patents as “non-essential standards” could quickly turn the corner to standard essential in a matter of months.

Do you think the patent system in the United States is broken and in need of major repair?