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  • Writer's pictureIan Bryan

SEPs and FRAND licensing

Working in Life Sciences, where the business model for innovators tends to favour exclusivity, the world of Standard Setting Organisations (SSOs), Standard Essential Patents (SEPs), patent pools and licensing under Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms, is somewhat alien to me. 


I was therefore pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed and engaged in UCLs ‘Patents in Telecoms and the Internet of Things’ conference last week:

The conference, organised by no less than Professor Sir Robin Jacob, was well attended with representatives from across the industry (both innovators and implementers alike), regulators, the judiciary and the patent offices. 


The panel discussions were wide ranging, with participants from all the interested parties giving their candid views on the strengths and weaknesses of the system and how it might be improved. There was much debate about what constitutes a FRAND licence and the need for transparency in setting the terms, particularly the royalty rate.  The EU Commission’s proposed SEP Regulation was a hot topic of discussion; while it was generally agreed that it was well intentioned, there were serious concerns raised by many industry representatives over the need for a regulation and the potential problems it could cause if implemented.


My general takeaways from the conference are that the current system for FRAND licensing in the telecoms and automotive industries is working although there is clearly room for improvement; the courts, particularly the English courts, are taking a leading role in resolving FRAND disputes while ADR has an increasing part to play; and the European Commission’s proposed Regulation may well be akin to taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.


Looking a few years down the track, I wonder if we’ll see Life Sciences or even Pharma represented in the panels at this conference?  Is there, for example, a place for SEPs and FRAND licensing in these industries?  Medical and wearable devices spring to mind.




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