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FTC Issues Agenda for Workshop to Explore the Role of Patented Technology in Collaborative Industry Standards

There’s long been a “tension” between IP law and antitrust law–since IP grants state monopolies, which it shouldn’t; and antitrust law outlaws private monopolies, which it shouldn’t (see “Are Patents “Monopolies”?“; State Antitrust (anti-monopoly) law versus state IP (pro-monopoly) law). So one way some companies “abuse” their patent monopoly grants is by participating in industry standards-setting bodies (MPEG, etc.) while they are privately trying to patent the parts of their technology that go into the standard; the standard is adopted; the patents emerge; the lawsuits fly; the FTC starts wagging its finger: bad company! Bad! you should not really USE the monopolies our cousins at the PTO give you! What do you think, we really meant it?

Case in point, see below (h/t Skip Oliva): State Agency 1 (the FTC) is weighing in on how private companies should use the monopoly granted by State Agency 2 (the patent orifice). So one agency claims the right to regulate based on another agency’s regulations and interventions: Mises was right, controls breed controls. Hey, I have a solution: abolish the FTC and the Patent Orifice. Problem solved!


FTC Issues Agenda for Workshop to Explore the Role of Patented Technology in Collaborative Industry Standards

The Federal Trade Commission today released the agenda for a public workshop addressing legal and policy issues surrounding the inclusion of patented technology in collaboratively set industry standards. The workshop will be held on June 21, 2011, starting at 9:30 a.m., at the FTC’s Conference Center at 601 New Jersey Avenue, NW, Washington, DC. Commissioner Edith Ramirez will provide opening remarks and Joseph Farrell, Director of the Bureau of Economics, will offer closing remarks. Industry experts will participate in roundtable discussions of key issues.

The workshop is part of a project, described in a May 13, 2011, Federal Register Notice, to examine responses to the “hold-up” of interoperability standards. When industry-wide standards incorporate technologies that are protected by intellectual property rights, they raise the potential for “hold-up” by a patent owner – a demand for higher royalties or other more-costly licensing terms after the standard is implemented than could have been obtained before the standard was chosen. Hold-up subverts the competitive process of choosing among technologies during standard-setting and undermines the integrity of those activities. Consumers can be harmed if manufacturers pass on higher costs resulting from hold-up. The FTC standards project is intended to examine the various means by which standard-setting organizations and industry participants attempt to prevent “hold-up.”

The workshop is free and open to the public. All attendees will be required to display a current driver’s license or other valid form of photo identification. Pre-registration for the workshop is not necessary, but is encouraged, so that we may better plan for the event. To pre-register, send your name and affiliation to standardsproject@ftc.gov. Those who cannot attend can view a live webcast of the event. Additional information and a link to the webcast will be available here.

Written comments on the subject matter of the project are welcome. More information on how to submit comments can be found here.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Claudia Bourne Farrell
Office of Public Affairs

Patrick J. Roach
Office of Policy Planning

(WS Agenda.final.2.wpd)


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