In den vergangenen Wochen war viel zu hören von Leitern kartellrechtlicher Behörden über das kritische Verhältnis von Kartellrecht und IP (Patente, Standards) in der High-tech. Es ist noch nicht lange her, dass diese Schnittstelle unter Kartellrechtlern ein Schattendasein führte. Sie galt als esoterisch und lag in der Verwaltung der Kollegen vom Patentrecht. Das hat sich geändert.
Einige dieser Statements klingen befremdlich. Entscheidungen zu den aktuellen Mammutverfahren liegen aber noch nicht vor. Man könnte also darüber, wie sich die großen Kartellbehörden hier weltweit positionieren, nur spekulieren. Schlaglichter:
Generaldirektor, DG COMP:
Once a FRAND commitment has been given, it must be adhered to. We are currently looking at several cases where, by threatening to use injunctions, holders of standard-essential patents put themselves in a position to make demands that their commercial partners would not accept outside of a standard, thus in breach of FRAND.
Kommissar, DG COMP:
These are primarily patent cases, not competition cases, but we must remain vigilant because this state of belligerence may encourage a company to use its patents as weapons to harm legitimate competitors …
I don’t need to tell you how important these patents become for an entire sector when they are part of a standard and their holders commit to license them on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.
The worst-case scenario is when a company willing to take a licence for standard-essential patents on FRAND terms is hit by an injunction …
Fortunately, there is a growing consensus on both sides of the Atlantic on the damage that the misuse of standard-essential patents can do to competition …
It is high time they look for negotiated solutions – I am tempted to call them ‘peace talks’ – that would put an end to the patent wars.
If the patent licensee is willing to accept a license on RAND terms, it is unclear why a licensor should ever be able to demand an injunction or exclusion order. Because of its potential to undermine standard setting and lead to higher prices for consumers, such a demand may be an unfair method of competition under Section 5 of the FTC Act which, as all of us in this room understand, Congress intended to extend well beyond the reach of the antitrust laws.
Joseph F. Wayland
Acting Assistant Attorney General, DOJ:
To my mind, a patent holder who makes a licensing commitment to a standards body is implicitly saying that she will license the patent claims that must be used to implement the standard to any licensee that is willing and able to comply with the licensing terms embodied in the commitment.