20 October 2017
Reporter: Barney Dixon

ACT and allies blast SEP code of conduct

The App Association (ACT) and the Fair Standards Alliance have penned a letter to European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) and Electrotechnical Standardisation (CENLEC) lambasting a recently created draft project plan for a code of conduct on licensing standard-essential patents (SEPs) for 5G and the internet of things.

The letter said that a workshop, held on 6 October by CEN/CENLEC was intended to provide a forum for a “narrow group of companies with business models based on the licensing of SEPs”, using CEN/CENLEC’s name and logo to “endorse a set of purported ‘best practices’ in licensing negotiations that ultimately will serve the interests of that narrow group only, to the detriment of the rest of the industry”.

In the letter, the two groups explained that they were concerned about the potential effects of proceeding with these “best practices” under CEN/CENLEC, when a majority of participants to the meeting—at which ACT was present—objected to the project plan.

The letter said: “We do not see how rejecting and ignoring the views of the substantial majority of participants at the kick-off meeting could possibly be reconciled with the spirit and letter of CEN/CENELEC’s procedures.”

ACT and the Fair Standards Alliance had previously raised concerns in a joint letter to CEN/CENLEC prior to the workshop.

In a response on 5 October, CEN/CENLEC director general, Elena Cid, stated that the project plan was “indeed representative of only one school of thought”.

She said: “Unlike a standard developed through our technical committee structure, where we seek to accommodate all interests, a CEN Workshop Agreement (CWA) seeks only to reflect ‘the consensus of identified individuals and organisations responsible for its contents.”

“The aim of the workshop, and thus also of the project plan that describes the workshop's intended activities, is precisely not to represent consensus of all market players. As you point out, issues and debates around SEPs and licensing have been the subject of debate for many years and a broad consensus may not be possible in the foreseeable future.”

In their latest letter, ACT and the Fair Standards Alliance questioned whether a document detailing best practices and a code of conduct for licensing SEPs is appropriate subject matter for a CWA.

It concluded: “We understand that the instrument of a CWA has been created with technical subject matters in mind … the current project around SEP licensing, however, is policy rather than technology oriented and would seem out of scope from the perspective of the described purpose of such working agreements."

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