New EU Cooperation Guidelines Seen Aiding Standardization

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A leading open standards organization has welcomed the European Union's new rules on industry cooperation, adopted by the European Commission on Tuesday.

In the new, so-called "horizontal" guidelines, the Commission outlined conditions when industry competitors can share information without falling foul of the E.U.'s strict competition laws. One such condition occurs when the information sharing is done to allow standardization.

The guidelines promote a system that increases the transparency of licensing costs for intellectual property rights used in standards. Standard-setting organizations may wish to allow their members to unilaterally disclose, prior to setting a standard, the maximum rate that they would charge for their intellectual property rights if they were to be included.

Such a system could enable a standard-setting organization and the industry to take an informed choice on quality and price. Prior to the new guidelines, there may have been fears that this would infringe E.U. competition law. The Commission has now confirmed that it would not take issue with such a standard-setting agreement.

"We believe the guidelines will have the desired effect of boosting transparency in the standardization process. We wholeheartedly support the decision to allow ex-ante disclosure of intellectual property rights on innovations in a standard. This will give legal clarity to others that wish to license the innovation and build it into their own products," said Openforum Europe's chief executive officer Graham Taylor.

The Horizontal Guidelines will enter into force as soon as they have been published in the Official Journal of the E.U.

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