For those of you who are interested in standardisation, a post about action by the Commission generally, rather than just DG Comp.

A couple of weeks ago the Commission has published a Communication to a whole host of other EU institutions (including the Parliament and the Council as well as the ECSC and the Committee of the Regions), setting out its Information Communication Technology (ICT) standardisation priorities. This forms part of the broader Digital Single Market (‘DSM’) strategy. If you are interested, have a look at our sister site, Cookie Jar for a broad perspective on all things DSM.

The objective is to ensure that ICT standards in Europe and globally facilitate the interoperability of digital technologies, which the Communication regards as essential for an effective DSM. To help achieve this the Commission intends to focus on improving standards in five strategic areas: 5G, cloud computing, internet of things, data technologies, and cybersecurity.

A key focus for the Commission is the role of ICT standards for 5G networks to ensure interoperability, security, privacy and data protection, and it intends to develop a 5G Action Plan for EU-wide development of 5G networks beyond 2020. The paper also highlights the role of ICT standards for sharing data across national borders (e.g. in relation to spare parts between vehicle manufacturers and scientific research).

The Communication argues that the proliferation of standards has created uncertainty about: what patents are standard essential patents (‘SEPs’); who owns which standard essential patent (SEP); the cost of licensing intellectual property rights; and the methodology for valuing SEP licences.

So what happens now?

The Commission intends to:

  • Take steps to improve the efficiency of the standard-setting process by working with the wider standard-setting community.
  • Regularly review and monitor progress for updating ICT standards.
  • Improve EU financial support for standard setting.
  • Ensure fair and non-discriminatory access to standards based on a balanced IPR policy with FRAND licensing terms, which take into account a variety of competing needs:
    • fair return on R&D investment;
    • a sustainable standardisation process;
    • a competitive technology market; and potential barriers to entry for SMEs; and
    • a fast, predictable, efficient and globally acceptable approach to technology licencing, which ensures a fair return on investment for SEP holders and fair access to SEPs for innovators.
  • Strengthen the EU presence in international cooperation on ICT standards, in particular with the US, China, Japan and South Korea.

It will probably come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog that the comments about FRAND caused us to pay particular attention as FRAND developments are key theme of this blog: see our previous posts here, here, here and here.

How about open source?

It is interesting that the Communication makes no reference to open source, royalty free licencing of SEPs. This is in marked contrast to the Commission’s 2004 European Interoperability Framework for pan-European e-government services, which at the time considered that open source technology standards required intellectual property included in standards to be made available on a royalty-free basis.