Apple CarSource: The Verge

What you need to know

  • Apple and several other companies have written to the European Commission urging them to stop patent abuse.
  • In particular, the patents relate to self-driving cars and other connected devices.
  • The letter says that unfair licensing is harming competitiveness and innovation.

Apple, Cisco, Daimler, and BMW are among a coalition of tech companies that have written to the European Commission demanding an end to the abuse of standard essential patents in the realm of self-driving cars and connected devices.

According to The Irish Times the broad group says they are being denied licenses for essential patents on fair terms:

In a letter to the commission, the companies argued that the lack of access to the patents on fair terms "increasingly undermines the competitiveness of these important highly innovative industries, and is already harming technological innovation in Europe".

It comes in wake of reports that Nokia has refused to offer licenses to Daimler and others for components for self-driving cars, a move currently under investigation by the commission.

According to the letter:

"The practice of some standard essential patent owners to grant licences only to certain companies . . . prevents companies across the internet of things and related innovative technology industries from planning investments in R&D... "This practice stifles innovation, discourages new market entry, and ties suppliers to established customers. As a result, European businesses and consumers may pay higher prices than they would pay in a more competitive market,"

The letter was signed by a total of 27 companies, including Ford, Dell, Lenovo, and Sky. Between them, they are said to have invested $50 billion in the sector. It was sent to head of the commission Ursula von der Leyen, Margrethe Vestager, and Thierry Breton. The letter concludes:

"We urge you to take decisive measures to ensure that European law and policy protects innovation across all industries and prevents practices which undermine the viability of investments benefiting the future of Europe."

It is no secret that Apple is working on self-driving car tech in the form of its Project Titan initiative. The broad range of companies caught up in this latest report seems to suggest that the unfair licensing of patents seem to have pervaded much of the sector and that many companies in several industries feel put out by patent owners.