Microsoft undertakes not to withhold standard-essential patents

In a statement on their website Microsoft has promised to license any standard-essential patents on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms to any comers. The move comes in the wake of Apple complaining that the FRAND system is being abused in Europe, where Samsung has been fighting back against Apple claims by using their own library of standard-essential patents, which would normally form part of a patent pool.

Microsoft writes:

Like other leading high-tech firms, Microsoft regularly contributes to the development of industry standards. Industry standards are vitally important to the development of the Internet and to interoperability among mobile devices and other computers. The international standards system works well because firms that contribute to standards promise to make their essential patents available to others on fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms. Consumers and the entire industry will suffer if, in disregard of this promise, firms seek to block others from shipping products on the basis of such standard essential patents.

Microsoft’s approach is straight-forward:

  1. Microsoft will always adhere to the promises it has made to standards organizations to make its standard essential patents available on fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms.

  2. This means that Microsoft will not seek an injunction or exclusion order against any firm on the basis of those essential patents.

  3. This also means that Microsoft will make those essential patents available for license to other firms without requiring that those firms license their patents back to Microsoft, except for any patents they have that are essential to the same industry standard.

  4. Microsoft will not transfer those standard essential patents to any other firm unless that firm agrees to adhere to the points outlined above.

Presumably Microsoft is hoping for similar reciprocation from other companies as it moves into the tablet market, and to influence the law makers in Europe  while Apple argues the case.

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