Nokia and InterDigital settle

Reuters reports that Nokia has settled its dispute with InterDigital. After having lost the case, concerning licence fees for 2G wireless technology patents in New York, Nokia has agreed to pay $253m. In return they will get what they describe as
a fully paid-up, perpetual, irrevocable license to all of InterDigital's current patent portfolio, and any patents InterDigital may later acquire, for purposes of making or selling 2G products, including handsets and infrastructure.
In other words, Nokia 2G handsets won’t infringe. However, things aren’t so simple so far as 3G technology is concerned. Nokia will not be held liable for infringement concerning their 3G handsets and infrastructure up until 26 April 2006 (the Wednesday that just happened) but phones etc produced after that date are unlicensed and so further negotiations are necessary.

The IPKat is in favour of the sensible settlement of IP disputes. It’s a shame though that so much court time was taken up over this. In the UK alone, weeks and weeks of trial took place.

Substantive patent harmonisation setback

ICTSD reports on the collapse of the WIPO Standing Committee on the Law of Patents informal session which took place on 10 to 12 April, chaired by the UK’s very own Ron ‘Comptroller’ Marchant. The purpose of the meeting was to outline an agenda for the formal SCP meeting which was due to take place June.

However, no agreement could be reached, and the June meeting has been abandoned for now. Instead, the WIPO General Assembly will consider what to do next in September. It seems that the division was on developed/developing world lines. Developed countries are pushing for wider patent protection with a lower inventive step criterion, while developing countries are afraid that this will force them to grant wider patent protection in a way that is detrimental to their interests.

The US and Japan wanted the following issues on the agenda:

*prior art
* novelty
*grace period
* inventive step

The developing countries want these issues on the agenda:

*development and policy space
*exclusions to patentability
*exceptions to patent holders' rights
* anticompetitive practices related to patents
*requirements to disclose the origin of genetic material or traditional knowledge used in an invention along with proof of prior informed consent and benefit sharing
*effective mechanisms to challenge the validity of patents
*technology transfer,
*alternative models for promoting innovation.

Ron Marchant concluded that the time was not yet right for these issues to be considered, and called on the countries involved to consider their positions in order to be able to work towards practical solutions.

While the IPKat doesn’t want to see patents which are harmful or inadequately examined issued, he finds himself veering towards the US/Japan argument here. The developed countries’ concerns should certainly be addressed, but it makes sense to the Kat to work out what the basics of the patent system are and then work out how they need to be modified to ensure that the wider public interest is sufficiently protected.

Read the WIPO spin on the meeting here.

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