Group including Nokia and InterDigital urges MEPs to vote against EU SEP reforms

Proposals come under renewed attack as ‘urgent’ email is sent to politicians from a coalition of tech heavy hitters

European Parliament in Strasbourg, France Hadrian

A group that includes Ericsson, Nokia, Philips and InterDigital has sent an “urgent email” to MEPs asking them to vote against proposals to reform the regulation of standard essential patents (SEPs).

The group, called IP Europe, is a coalition of global technology leaders and research institutes. The email calls the reforms, which were adopted by the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (JURI) in January, “deeply flawed” and preventing “access to justice”.

The group says it supports the European Commission’s reform objectives of greater transparency, balance and efficiency in the licensing of SEPs in order to continuously improve the system and to incentivise European firms to participate in standardisation. However, the proposal as amended by the JURI Committee will not achieve those objectives, it says, and would be an “own goal” for Europe.

Instead, if adopted, the reforms will increase costs and administrative burdens to EU innovators, cause delays and uncertainties and reduce incentives to invest in the European development of new technologies and open standards, the group claims.

It adds that the proposal is “also disproportionate” and not backed by evidence showing the need for regulatory intervention.

The reforms include 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. This is all aimed at improving transparency and reducing litigation around SEPs.

The letter is the latest in a barrage of criticism levelled at the proposals since they were unveiled last April.

When JURI adopted the proposals in January some pointed out that 10 of the 23 JURI members present elected to abstain from the vote.

Head of IP policy and advocacy at Nokia, Collette Rawnsley, said on LinkedIn at the time: “It is striking that over 40% of the JURI MEPs did not support this.” She urged the European Parliament to take time to scrutinise 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”.

Now adding to the chorus of disapproval, IP Europe argues that despite the efforts of some MEPs to mitigate the damage the regulation would do, the amendments “we have seen do not go far enough and do not address many of the important legal issues we have raised”.

Some of the other points outlined in the letter include concerns that reforms if adopted, will:

  • Violate fundamental rights, notably the right to property (including intellectual property) and access to justice, and EU law generally;

  • Reduce incentives to invest in the European development of new technologies and open standards;

  • Reduce European leadership in open standards and increase Europe’s dependence on technologies developed elsewhere; and

  • Lead to more proprietary solutions that lock in end-users to closed platforms.

The stated aim of IP Europe is to promote a strong European innovation ecosystem. Other technology companies in the group include Qualcomm, Panasonic and Orange. The email was sent on 22 February.

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