Inventors, Licensing Groups Back US Withdrawal From Standards-Essential Patent Pact

A coalition of inventors, patent licensing, business and political groups has issued a letter of support for an effort by Trump administration agencies to withdraw from an Obama-era arrangement with the US Patent and Trademark Office on standards-essential patents that the groups say is harming innovation.

Standards-essential patents (SEPs) are those deemed vital for all parties to comply with a new standard, requiring the patent-owner to licence them under fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. The temptation for a company who owns a patent on a technology that is necessary for a standard can be to charge higher prices. The groups argue in a 15 March letter that the 2013 statement may have been well-intentioned but has been serving to weaken patents.

[Update: two other related letters were issued, by the Alliance for US Startups & Inventors for Jobs (pdf) or here, and a set of tech giants, including Nokia, Ericsson, Philips and Qualcomm, here (pdf) or here.]

Invoking the US Constitution, the groups argue that “if standard development organizations refuse patent holders the right to exclude others who reject a license offered on reasonable terms from using their inventions, effectively creating, in the words of the AAG [Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim], a compulsory license.”