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| 1 minute read

Time to power up (USB-C only need apply)

It was not all that long ago (though I may just be getting old) that the big names in telecoms sat down to develop a wireless communication standard to connect us all through mobile phones. The key driver for that was consumer benefit - one inter-operable system for all - though it didn't hurt that it removed the risks inherent in developing a proprietary system. FRAND was then the solution to the knotty problem of using patented technology in that standard.

The EU Council has now approved the common charger directive, requiring various electronic devices to move to USB-C if they are not there already. The key driver here is really environmental (one eye on the mountain of e-waste generated by obsolete chargers) though there is a suggestion of consumer benefit in not having to look around for the right one.

Fortunately, from a patent licensing perspective, USB-C doesn't present any significant complications. However, the allusion to harmonizing wireless charging standards (the best known being Qi), did get me thinking: is there a concern that should arise from a governmental body mandating a particular technology where FRAND issues do arise? It is certainly a boon for anyone with patents to that technology, but equally it is a rather large annoyance to anyone with patents to a competing technology. The answer is that it probably depends how widely industry was involved in developing the relevant standard, and how the harmonisation is tackled. 

A standard developed by a wide body of industry players would be better than a technology only developed (and heavily patented) by a few. Similarly, instructing ETSI (a quasi-EU body) to develop a new standard, potentially relying heavily on existing technology, could be an option. 

It will be interesting to see where we go from here.

Although becoming more popular, wireless charging has not yet been harmonised across devices. To enable this technology to become available for more devices, the Commission will work on harmonising wireless charging for electronic devices and on interoperability based on technological developments.


sep frand disputes, patent litigation

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