Apple Pushes for Clarification on Licensing of FRAND Patents

Dow Jones Newswires reports that Apple filed a letter with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) last November pushing for clarification on how standards-essential patents are intended to be licensed. These standards-essential patents are currently required to be licensed under fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms in order to promote competition in the marketplace, but Apple claims that there is too much confusion in the industry about how such licensing should be handled.

Apple said in its letter--which was dated Nov. 11, but not previously disclosed--that the lack of clarity on what is fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory has led many companies to ask unusually high rates and sue one another claiming they infringed on one another's patents.

"It is apparent that our industry suffers from a lack of consistent adherence to Frand principles in the cellular standards arena," wrote Bruce Watrous, Apple's intellectual property head.

Apple has requested that the ETSI set "appropriate" royalty rates for FRAND patents in the wireless industry in order to help companies compete on a relatively even field with a clearer understanding of the costs involved in competing in the market. The company has also requested that FRAND patents not be used as the basis for requests for injunctions that would remove products from the market, given that those patents are intended to be licensed and that any negotiation roadblocks are related to the details of that licensing.

Apple certainly has a vested interest in seeing simplified FRAND patent licensing terms, given that it was a relatively late entrant into the mobile phone industry where the vast majority of patents covering the basic technologies are owned by other companies. While Apple has primarily relied on claims of design infringement and specific user interface functionalities in its efforts to block smartphone sales by its competitors, it has been the target of lawsuits based on more fundamental inventions.

apple motorola logos
In one example, Apple briefly pulled all of its 3G-capable iOS devices with the exception of the iPhone 4S from its German online store last week in the wake of a victory by Motorola Mobility in the ongoing patent dispute between the two companies.

That injunction was quickly suspended pending Apple's appeal of the ruling, with Apple arguing that the patents in question are subject to FRAND licensing requirements that are not being met by Motorola. Apple claims that Motorola has "demanded" a royalty rate of 2.5% to license the patent, a figure that would have resulted in Motorola receiving roughly $1 billion from Apple in 2011.

Top Rated Comments

Torrijos Avatar
159 months ago
One thing I don't understand is how the licensing fees aren't part of the chips built to use the standards (Qualcomm chips right).

How come the percentage is calculated on the total sum of the device?

Say Apple build its phones in gold and sapphire, the percentage due to the FRAND licenses owners shouldn't benefit from others design choices...

It should be like a constant fee, that why it would seem more logical for it to be part of the price of the components created to employ the standard.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
vrDrew Avatar
159 months ago
Why is still people using that absurd analogy?

Why is that absurd?

The iPhone has all sorts of functionality built into it beyond its ability to access wireless networks. You can build a 3G-enabled dumb phone for less than $30 in costs, whereas the iPhone has a BOM cost of more than $300 - most of which has to do with things like the touchscreen; camera; case; and battery. Why does Motorola take a whack at those costs?

The important thing about FRAND is that it implies the royalties be a) reasonable and b) non-discriminatory. Motorola basing their demands on the cost of the entire device essentially discriminates against manufacturers who put extra functionality into their products. Thats what stifles innovation.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nagromme Avatar
159 months ago
This isn’t the latest info, but as of about a year ago, Apple was the most-sued tech company—and that wave of attacks on Apple began with the iPhone in 2008:

http://www.tomshardware.com/news/lawyers-lawsuit-legal-steve-jobs,11721.html

So Apple’s the bully?

Of course, the number of suits isn’t important, it’s the merits. Hard to judge for armchair lawyers (who exactly was sued for nothing more specific than a “rectangle”?) but:

1. Are others abusing FRAND to attack Apple? If so, that’s wrong.

2. Did others re-use designs (and more importantly, underlying tehcnologies—it’s not just about cloning looks) that were never seen on Earth before Apple? Is that somehow mere coincidence or is it others profiting from Apple’s work?

3. If Apple’s designs are the “only way” to make a tablet/phone/touch OS/whatever, then why were they never seen before the iPhone/iPad?

4. Everyone copies/borrows, and that’s often a good thing. But is any amount of copying always OK, or is there a limit to what Apple should accept, if they have legal grounds?

5. Did Apple in fact invent some useful things with the iPhone? Would Android devices truly exist in anything like their current form without Apple to copy? (Android started as a BlackBerry clone, a heritage still seen in sluggish graphical performance.)

6. Did Apple really create the current business reality (which is nothing new) where companies use IP against each other? Could they choose not to play the game and just sit back and let themselves be sued, or do they have to play the game the same as their competitors?

And most importantly:

7. Wouldn’t we love to see the innovations and choice that would happen if more companies innovated, and fewer copied Apple? What if Samsung, for instance, was like Microsoft/Metro? Instead of parroting Apple right down to the packaging, the charging brick, and the me-too addition of white faceplates, we’d have something more unique/new in the market! Isn’t THAT a better kind of competition?
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gnasher729 Avatar
159 months ago
That guy is making a tablet and it's a rectangle! SUE THIS GUY TO OBLIVION.

Nobody has ever been sued for making a tablet that is a rectangle. There are plenty of people making that ridiculous claim, but that doesn't make it true.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Kaibelf Avatar
159 months ago
Why is still people using that absurd analogy?

People "is" making a sound analogy there. Motorola isn't entitled to a certain percentage of a finished product, they are entitled to a flat fee like everyone else, especially with FRAND.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
vrDrew Avatar
159 months ago
One of the most important arguments raised in Apple's letter is the call for a common royalty base.

Motorola (and Samsung) are basing their demands for royalties on the cost of the entire device, not just the part that utilizes their communications functionality. This is absurd. Are they going to ask for 2.25% of the cost of a $60,000 automobile that has an on-board navigation and computer system?

People make all sorts of claims that Apple is guilty of "stifling innovation." If anyone is guilty of such behavior it is the Samsungs and Motorolas of the world.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iOS 18 Siri Integrated Feature

iOS 18 Will Add These New Features to Your iPhone

Friday April 12, 2024 11:11 am PDT by
iOS 18 is expected to be the "biggest" update in the iPhone's history. Below, we recap rumored features and changes for the iPhone. iOS 18 is rumored to include new generative AI features for Siri and many apps, and Apple plans to add RCS support to the Messages app for an improved texting experience between iPhones and Android devices. The update is also expected to introduce a more...
iGBA Feature

Game Boy Emulator for iPhone Now Available in App Store Following Rule Change [Removed]

Sunday April 14, 2024 8:06 am PDT by
A week after Apple updated its App Review Guidelines to permit retro game console emulators, a Game Boy emulator for the iPhone called iGBA has appeared in the App Store worldwide. The emulator is already one of the top free apps on the App Store charts. It was not entirely clear if Apple would allow emulators to work with all and any games, but iGBA is able to load any Game Boy ROMs that...
top stories 13apr2024

Top Stories: M4 Mac Roadmap Leaked, New iPads in Second Week of May, and More

Saturday April 13, 2024 6:00 am PDT by
Apple's hardware roadmap was in the news this week, with things hopefully firming up for a launch of updated iPad Pro and iPad Air models next month while we look ahead to the other iPad models and a full lineup of M4-based Macs arriving starting later this year. We also heard some fresh rumors about iOS 18, due to be unveiled at WWDC in a couple of months, while we took a look at how things ...
new best buy blue

Best Buy Opens Up Sitewide Sale With Record Low Prices on M3 MacBook Air, iPad, and Much More

Saturday April 13, 2024 7:41 am PDT by
Best Buy this weekend has a big sale on Apple MacBooks and iPads, including new all-time low prices on the M3 MacBook Air, alongside the best prices we've ever seen on MacBook Pro, iPad, and more. Some of these deals require a My Best Buy Plus or My Best Buy Total membership, which start at $49.99/year. In addition to exclusive access to select discounts, you'll get free 2-day shipping, an...
iPhone 16 Camera Lozenge 2 Colors

iPhone 16 Plus Rumored to Come in These 7 Colors

Wednesday April 10, 2024 3:52 am PDT by
Apple's iPhone 16 Plus may come in seven colors that either build upon the existing five colors in the standard iPhone 15 lineup or recast them in a new finish, based on a new rumor out of China. According to the Weibo-based leaker Fixed focus digital, Apple's upcoming larger 6.7-inch iPhone 16 Plus model will come in the following colors, compared to the colors currently available for the...
apple silicon feature joeblue

Macs to Get AI-Focused M4 Chips Starting in Late 2024

Thursday April 11, 2024 10:10 am PDT by
Apple will begin updating its Mac lineup with M4 chips in late 2024, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. The M4 chip will be focused on improving performance for artificial intelligence capabilities. Last year, Apple introduced the M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max chips all at once in October, so it's possible we could see the M4 lineup come during the same time frame. Gurman says that the entire...