European Parliament votes through controversial patent reforms

Despite sustained criticism from many quarters, SEP regulation passes key hurdle
European Parliament in Strasbourg, France

The European Parliament in Strasbourg, France MDart10 / Shutterstock

The European Parliament voted to adopt the controversial standard essential patent (SEP) regulation today, with 454 voting for and 83 against.

The vote means the regulation, which was introduced last April and aims to improve transparency and reduce litigation around SEPs, has passed a key hurdle, despite intense lobbying from SEP holders including Ericsson, Nokia, Philips and InterDigital, which, via the coalition group IP Europe, have called the proposals “deeply flawed”.

The regulation would lead to the creation of a competency centre, including a register of holders of SEPs run by the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), and an SEP Licensing Assistance Hub. The register is intended to verify which patents are really essential to a particular standard and what is fair payment for the use of such a patent, as well as to provide help in related negotiations between companies.

The EUIPO would also set up an electronic database with detailed information on SEP terms for registered users, including academic institutions.

Commenting on the vote, Katie Coltart, an IP partner at Linklaters, said: “It must be remembered that this vote covers only the European Parliament’s position on the proposed legislation.”

She continued that the European Council has yet to adopt any position and “we know that several countries (including Sweden, Finland and Netherlands) are strongly opposed to the legislation”.

She added: “Even if/when the Council does adopt its position, the Parliament and Council would then have to negotiate in trilogues to agree on the final text of the legislation. The process could well stall during either of these stages.”

The reforms were adopted by the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (JURI) in January, when 10 of the 23 JURI members present elected to abstain from the vote. The large number of abstentions led some to call for further scrutiny of the proposals.

The European Patent Office (EPO) president António Campinos wrote in a letter dated 18 October to the chair and vice chair of the Legal Affairs Committee that the EPO was not consulted on the proposed regulation, despite being “well versed in the complex relationship between patents and standards”.

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