Mobile phone firms face new global licensing laws
Louise Greenwood
Europe;United Kingdom
Huawei said it will proceed with legal action against Conversant over the use of its mobile phone technology. /AP.

Huawei said it will proceed with legal action against Conversant over the use of its mobile phone technology. /AP.

Telecom providers face rigorous new rules on accessing the technology to run their hardware after a landmark ruling by the UK's Supreme Court, that experts warn may also impact consumers.

Judges dismissed an appeal led by China's Huawei in a case that hinges on the use of Standard Essential Patents (SEPs), which aim to promote market competition by allowing affordable access to technology.

In a statement, Huawei said it had already made payments to Unwired Planet's parent company, PanOptis, while it planned to proceed with action against Conversant in a trial scheduled for February next year. 

The company added: "Huawei continues to advocate a balanced position in relation to FRAND licenses of Standard Essential Patents, which is critical to the innovation that brings enormous benefits to our society."


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Analysts say the judgment could shape the way that intellectual property licenses and the fair licensing system FRAND, operates in the future, with significant implications.

"Ultimately, any additional costs always get passed on to the user," warns Paolo Pescatore of PP Foresight. "More so at a time when margins are already squeezed and all players are seeing the economic impact from the pandemic."

Huawei has been in a long-running dispute with two technology developers, Unwired Planet International and Conversant Wireless Licensing, over the use of their patents. 

Unwired claimed five of the UK patents that it had previously acquired from Sweden's Ericsson, deemed to be essential in the development of mobile phone technology, had been infringed by Huawei. 

The second action, brought by Conversant against Huawei and Chinese technology giant ZTE, concerned patents acquired from Finland's Nokia that safeguarded technology standards for downloading and sending data in 4G phones. 

Huawei, like fellow tech giants Apple, Ericsson, Qualcomm, had argued that English courts lacked the jurisdiction to rule on the validity of such contracts. 

However, the Supreme Court upheld a previous High Court ruling that at least two of the claims were valid and that asking tech developers to provide a country-by-country based rate for awarding licenses was unrealistic.

Chief executive of Conversant Boris Teskler said he was "very pleased" by the outcome, which would have "significant implications worldwide" for SEP licensing. 

The move could legally oblige Huawei and other network providers to take out a global license to cover their entire portfolio or risk future injunctions that could restrict its access to the UK market.  

Describing the ruling as a blow to telecoms providers, Pescatore added, "for sure, this high-stakes intellectual property ruling will have profound implications on the mobile industry - specifically 2G, 3G, 4G, and could impact 5G as well." 



Source(s): Reuters