EC's Alumnia Addresses Patents and Communications Standards

February 10, 2012. Joaquín Almunia, the European Commission's (EC) VP for Competition Policy" gave a speech in Paris on February 10, 2012, titled "Industrial Policy and Competition Policy: Quo vadis Europa?"

He addressed, among other topics, communications standards and patents. He said that the EC will use antitrust enforcement to prevent misuse of patent rights.

Joaquin AlumniaAlumnia (at right) said that "Keeping markets open to new entrants is a key factor for the promotion of innovation. When monopolies and tight oligopolies are allowed to occupy a market, they tend to resist change and often end up caring only about the preservation of their business models."

"Contestable markets, instead, allow new players to experiment, and new ideas to succeed. It is a major task of competition control to ensure that new generations of businesses are given a fair chance."

He added that "I am notably thinking of the surge in the strategic use of patents that confer market power to their holders. The potential abuses around standard-essential patents are a specific illustration of this concern."

"Standards are the best tool to promote interoperability of devices or to define safety or quality benchmarks. In the communications technologies, standards are key for a universal interconnection and seamless communication. Once a standard is adopted, it becomes the norm and the underlying patents are indispensable. Owners of such standard essential patents are conferred a power on the market that they cannot be allowed to misuse."

He stated that "Standardisation processes must be fair and transparent, so that they are not in the hands of established firms willing to impose their technologies. But it is not enough. We must also ensure that, once they hold standard essential patents, companies give effective access on fair, reasonable and non discriminatory terms."

He concluded that "I am determined to use antitrust enforcement to prevent the misuse of patent rights to the detriment of a vigorous and accessible market. I have initiated investigations on this issue in several sectors and we will see the results in due time."