Apple and Samsung sign letter urging clampdown on ‘patent trolls’


Apple and Samsung are among a group of major technology companies urging European officials to ensure that ‘patent trolls’ are not able to run riot under Europe’s proposed Unitary Patent.

The technology companies, locked in a global patent dispute, have put their swords aside and joined 17 other companies to sign an open letter calling for an “effective and balanced system.”

The letter, dated February 25, has been sent to the preparatory committee for the Unified Patent Court (UPC), the European Patent Office, the European Commission and all EU member states.

It has been signed by 19 companies including Google, Microsoft and Chinese phone maker Huawei.

The letter says the UPC, which will hear disputes related to Unitary Patents, should limit the ability of non-practising entities (NPEs) to assert dubious patent claims with the hope of a pay-out, injunction or heavy licensing fee.

The NPEs, also referred to as ‘patent trolls,’ have been a major problem in the US in recent years.

Among the concerns the letter highlights is the issue of bifurcation, a system whereby validity and infringement claims are addressed separately, with validity often taking longer.

The signatories express fears that the system may not succeed if the work on one claim (the invalidation proceedings) is concluded before the second (the infringement proceedings).

According to the letter, the companies had previously recommended that the preparatory committee incorporate guidance on the issues of bifurcation when validity questions are raised.

“We noted that, without this guidance, the potential exists for a court to order an injunction prohibiting the importation and sale of goods even though the patent may ultimately be found invalid,” the letter said.

The letter adds: “This result unduly reduces competition, can increase the cost of products in the market and reduce product choices, all negatively impacting consumers.”

In the letter, the preparatory committee is also urged to consider the changes to its draft rules of procedure in a “meaningful way” to allow companies to focus on “innovation instead of litigation.”

“Europe has a unique opportunity to avoid the abuses … that reportedly cost US businesses $29 billion for cases filed in 2011 alone and caused economic damage of approximately half a trillion dollars from 1990 to 2010,” the letter says.

“The stakes of leaving these issues unaddressed are high and unfortunately well-known by the undersigned organisations.”

Yesterday, February 24, WIPR reported that EPO President Benoît Battistelli said he was confident it would not become a problem in Europe.

This new litigation system will be well balanced and fit for the purpose,” Battistelli claimed in a blog post on the EPO website.

At least 13 member states, including France, Germany and the UK, must ratify the UPC for it to become effective.

Unitary Patent, Unified Patent Court, European Commission, EU, Apple, Samsung