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Patents and Standards, or: How a Court Case Will Affect Our Everyday Lives

CircleID - Industry standards are indispensable for today's technology driven economies. Every time we use a mobile phone to place a call, or connect a computer to the Internet at a café, we rely on standardized technology. Most standards are developed over years through the collaboration of numerous engineers from different companies — the result is a technical document explaining how to make products that can 'interoperate' with one another. As EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes put it: 'Standards are the foundation of interoperability.' Having products with the ability to interoperate is a huge benefit to product manufacturers and consumers, as long as standards are open and accessible for reasonable costs.

Unnoticed by the wider public, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in the case Huawei v. ZTE will be hearing argument on 11 September on an issue important for the continued viability of open standards. The case will examine conditions under which an owner of a patent covering one aspect of the standard essential technology can seek an injunction which will most likely result in the entire standard becoming blocked. The CJEU's ruling may have far-reaching impact not just on the telecommunication standard at issue, but also on technology available to consumers.