After taking a beating by Motorola over FRAND patents this month, Apple issued a letter to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute asking the body to establish consistent royalty fees for patents deemed essential to wireless standards, reported the Wall Street Journal. The body has a role in setting the standards related to GSM, 3G UMTS, and 4G LTE radio technologies.

Apple is involved in nasty patent disputes with Motorola, HTC and Samsung in courtrooms around the world, and it previously asserted in court documents that handset maker Motorola refused to license its essential patents on “Fair, Reasonable, and Nondiscriminatory” (FRAND) nature at rates offered to Nokia, Samsung and other vendors. According to the Journal:

Many mobile technology companies, such as Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., hold patents that became part of industry-wide standards. Standards bodies often require the patent holders to offer to license their patents to any company on a basis known as Frand, or fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory. Questions about such commitments have arisen amid a flurry of patent suits between rivals in the mobile-device market.

Apple’s lawyer wrote in the letter: “It is apparent that our industry suffers from a lack of consistent adherence to FRAND principles in the cellular standards arena.” A copy of Apple’s letter was posted online by the FOSS Patents blog. Motorola recently likened its enforcement of FRAND patents to bank robbery: “It only takes one bullet to kill.” Samsung and Motorola reportedly demanded that Apple pay a 2.4 percent and 2.25 percent royalty, respectively, illustrating what the iPhone maker called are unreasonable FRAND licensing terms.

Apple was dealt a blow last week as a German court ruled that the company’s 3G products outside of the iPhone 4S infringe Motorola’s patents. The court ordered Apple Sales International in Ireland, which operates the online store of Apple in Europe, to stop offering 3G iPhones, iPods, and iPads on the online store. A few hours later, Apple announced devices would be back on sale as the court lifted ban due to FRAND status of patents. Google, whose acquisition of Motorola is due for an antitrust review by The European Commission, is planning to send letters to assure various wireless standards bodies it will license Motorola patents fairly. Regulators are also probing Samsung to determine whether the company breached EU antitrust rules by using “certain of its standard essential patent rights to distort competition in European mobile device markets.”

About the Author