US Patent Office, WIPO work on essential patents

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By Nick Flaherty

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) have agreed to work on ways to resolve disputes related to standard essential patents over the next five years.

Standard essential patents, or SEPs, are patents that have been declared essential to a given technical standard. As part of the standards-setting process, patent owners may agree to license SEPs on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. This is key to standards from wireless communications to video compression for TV streaming.

The USPTO has been consulting on the role of essential patents and the problems with FRAND. There have been several high profile disputes around the patents for various technologies. The cooperation with WIPO opens up potential for global resolution, particularly with China.

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The signing of the memorandum of understanding occurred during a meeting this week between Director Vidal and WIPO Director General Daren Tang on the sidelines of WIPO’s General Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

Under the terms of the agreement, the USPTO and WIPO will work on ways to make the existing WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre and USPTO resources more efficient for esstial patent holders.

They will also engage with those patent holders to raise awareness of the services provided by the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre through joint USPTO-WIPO programs.

“International standards, and the role of patents that are essential to them, play an important role in promoting a strong national and global economy,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and USPTO Director Kathi Vidal. “The USPTO is grateful that Director General Tang recognized the USPTO’s leadership role in advancing discussions on standard essential patent policies. Our work with WIPO underscores the USPTO’s view that SEP policy is an international issue of international importance. This agreement will leverage existing resources at both the USPTO and WIPO, supporting options to enhance the efficiency of licensing of standard essential patents, and promote resolution of disputes related to those standards.”

“We appreciate all the work Director General Tang and WIPO have done in this critical area. We look forward to a successful collaboration and engaging stakeholders to ensure we shape dispute resolution that will facilitate participation and implementation of standards by all innovators including small to medium-sized enterprises,” remarked Director Vidal.

“Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has time and again demonstrated its value in the efficient and timely resolution of commercial disputes. In the last few years, the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center has been facilitating the resolution of SEP-related disputes and the new collaboration with the USPTO is an exciting development which will contribute to improving the efficiency of standard implementation,” noted Director General Tang.;

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