back to article EU plans changes to competition rules on technical standards

The European Commission has revised its rules on when competing companies can cooperate to set technical standards without prompting a competition investigation. The Commission enforces EU competition law, which restricts cooperation between competing companies for fear that they will fix prices or establish cartels. There are …

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The Caveat

Multiple companies working together on a common standard is fine provided that the standard is available in RAND terms to any and all competing companies not involved in the development process. In other words, two companies cannot collude to produce a technical framework that helps their respective products inter-operate, whilst blocking competitors from inter-operating as easily.

For example, it would be bad if Apple worked with Griffin to develop a protocol which gave Griffin accessories extra capabilities or better connectivity with iPhones/iPods/iPads, etc and that protocol was withheld from Griffin's competitors.

RAND = Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory

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The problem is defining 'Reasonable'

What is reasonable to a large commercial company is not necessarily so to a single programmer working alone. This does not even start to address the problems faced by FOSS, where the license to use/redistribute does not normally involve payment (except in kind (if possible)).

In 1994 the previously free use of the GIF format was changed (software patents). This lead to a switch away from GIF to JPG formats on the internet. With far fewer numbers of people on the web then, it was possible. I am not sure it would be as easy now!

I would agree with 'RAND' if it really was reasonable, it so often isn't.

Nick.

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I believe

Reasonable is generally defined in law as what a rational person would consider to be reasonable. The company's viewpoint, no matter large or small, matters not a toss.

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"Standards are becoming increasingly important in facilitating innovation"

I would think that some EU-wide sanity and clear definition *against* software patents would be a much bigger asset in facilitating innovation. We've seen time and again little nuances used to stifle competition, and in order to screw us over with a non-open video format in HTML5, evidently a patent-pack is being put together to clobber the closest thing we have to a choice. By, I might add, companies with a vested interest in the success of H.264.

If the EU has the balls to rule such things definitely invalid within the EU (not a "not valid right now" but a "will never be valid"), then we over here can at least HAVE a choice in the matter, and as for the US... sod 'em. The EU can also have the balls to say that if a patent-infringing site is based in Belgium, than any patent protests will be held in a Belgian court (where it will be tossed out) instead of trying for a patent-friendly American court (like, duh, that one in Texas). In other words, thank you America, now STFU, your weird ways don't apply here.

THIS is, I feel, a much bigger threat to future innovation than standards.

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