The FTC is investigating  matters  similar to  the landmark FTC consent agreement with Dell Computer  where FTC charged  that Dell restricted competition in the personal computer industry and undermined the standard-setting process by threatening to exercise undisclosed patent rights against computer companies.  

Testimony of Timothy J. Muris
Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission

Before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Wednesday, November 7, 2001

An example of our objectives in this area is to ensure that patent holders do not improperly withhold critical information from industry standard-setting groups to delay the creation of a standard or raise the price of admission to its use. In Dell Computer,the FTC considered the issue of the capture of a standard-setting body by a holder of intellectual property rights that were critical to the standard ultimately selected by that body. Dell, a member of a standard-setting association, allegedly had influenced the choice of an industry standard for computer graphics performance without disclosing that its own intellectual property rights would benefit from the adoption of that standard to the detriment of its competitors and, ultimately, consumers. To settle the FTC's charges of antitrust violations, Dell agreed not to enforce its intellectual property rights. We currently are investigating matters that raise similar issues.

Remarks of M. Sean Royal, Deputy Director, Bureau of Competition, Federal Trade Commission during Standards Setting panel November 15 at the ABA  Section of Antitrust Law 

"Some have made cases to us that there is reason to be concerned...and if there are any of you who know of instances in which you think there are reasons to be concerned, then let us know, we would like to take a look at it"  Also, "We want to make sure...to reinforce the incentives of participants to properly adhere to the responsibilities  of their memberships"  (in standards development organizations and processes).

Mr Royal also replied to a question whether  defensive suspension provisions in  the IPR practices of standards developers constitute an inhibition to innovation  ..."This is an incredibly difficult question, to answer this you have to put a competitive value on patent trading..."

For more background and interpretation see  FTC Consent Agreement with Dell Computer Corporation   and  INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS AS A FACTOR IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF STANDARDS  


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