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Interoperability in the Digital Age - Licensing of Standard Essential Patents

Date: 10 December 2020

Location: COVID 19 restrictions require the conference to be hosted as a virtual event (via Zoom)


Interoperability via standardization is a key prerequisite for industrial production and innovation and with Internet of Things and Industry 4.0 interoperability will be even more important in the future. Standard essential patents (SEPs), i.e. patents with claims that cover essential parts of industry standards are one crucial element of interoperability. The role of SEPs has been recognized by policy makers (e.g. in the European Commission 2017 communication ́Setting out the EU approach to SEPs ́) and courts alike (e.g. in ECJ 2017 decision Huawei vs ZTE) and will be considered in futures policy actions (e.g. the upcoming European Commission Intellectual Property Action Plan 2020). One focus of policy action with standard essential patents is on transparency both, in terms of data provided (access to the relevant technical information) and correctness of data (approval of essentiality). Germany being the EU country where most patents are filed with the European Patent Office is home to some of the leading industrial actors with SEPs. Germany is also the jurisdiction where many of the leading court decisions on SEPs licensing are decided at EU level (e.g. the recent SEPs cases between Nokia and Daimler).

The objective of this event is to discuss some of the most important and recent SEPs related policy issues with policy makers, practitioners and judges. The panel discussions will look at recent policy trends in Europe, at upcoming institutional challenges, such as the feasibility of essentiality tests and it will consider new trends with licensing practices. Issues are discussed in a European setting but obviously have a global dimension and are considered here with a specific view from principle German actors also in the context of the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union


Welcome & Introduction (Video)

9:00 – 9:30

Knut Blind & Nikolaus Thumm (Technische Universität Berlin)

Ralf Wehrspohn (Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft) - Presentation

Thomas Zielke (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie)  

Keynote session: SEPs policy trends in Europe (Video)

9:30 -10:45

Interoperability in the digital age requires a balanced framework for licensing of standard essential patents. All interests, the interests of right holders and of technology implementers but also the interest of the society at large have to be taken into consideration. To ensure that Europe is well positioned in today´s competitive global environment, it requires a smooth and balanced functioning of standards that comprise patented technologies.

  • What is the role of SEPs for interoperability in the digital age?
  • What are the newest policy actions on SEPs in Europe?
  • What are the most important SEPs related policy challenges for Europe in the next future?

Chair: Heinz Goddar (Universität Bremen) - (summary of the chair)

Kerstin Jorna (European Commission, DG Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs)

Peter Meier-Beck (Bundesgerichtshof)

Christian Wichard (Bundesministerium für Justiz und Verbraucherschutz) - Presentation

Thematic panel I: Institutional challenges: feasibility of essentiality tests (Video)

10:45 – 12:00

Standard essential patents are based on the self declaration made by right holders on the ´essentiality´ of their patents to implement the standard. The European Commission encourages in its communication on standard essential patents the introduction of an appropriate scrutiny mechanism for SEPs to increase transparency with SEPs and to remove unnecessary barriers in the market for licensing of SEPs.

  • Which entities are best placed to perform essentiality checks?
  • What should be the legal status of an assessment based on a scrutiny mechanism?
  • Within a new scrutiny mechanism what is a reasonable level of fees to be charged for carrying out tests and who should pay for it?
  • How should the process of setting up a mechanism be started and institutionalized?

Chair: Nikolaus Thumm (Technische Universität Berlin) - (Summary of the chair)

Michael Fröhlich (European Patent Office)

Christian Loyau (European Telecommunications Standards Institute)

Monica Magnusson (Ericsson)

Beat Weibel (Siemens) 

Tim Pohlmann (IPlytics GmbH)

Thematic panel II: New SEPs licensing practices (Video)

12:00 – 13:15

Today there are many more owners of standard essential patents and technology implementers with different business models and a larger variety of licensing practices. Increases in SEPs owners, implementers, and practices can be linked to the evolution of more complex technologies, the multifunctional integration of different technologies and the development of specific services and applications that go beyond initial purpose functions. Traditionally, the public interest and court cases focus on the definition and application of fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licensing terms.

  • What are the main challenges for SEPs licensing in the next future?
  • Is the FRAND licensing framework the appropriate way to address these challenges?
  • Which entities are best positioned to determine FRAND conditions?
  • What are the specific needs of the practical operation of SEPs licensing to be best prepared for future challenges?

Chair: Knut Blind (Technische Universität Berlin)

Stefanie Mielert (Fraunhofer Gesellschaft)

Fabian Hoffmann (Bundesgerichtshof)

Steve Faraji (Audi)

Mattia Fogliacco (Sisvel)

Georg Kreuz (Huawei)

Concluding remarks: (Video)

13:15 -13:30

Knut Blind & Nikolaus Thumm (Technische Universität Berlin)


Nikolaus Thumm
Steve Faraji
Fabian Hoffmann
Kerstin Jorna
Beat Weibel
Knut Blind
Thomas Zielke
Heinz Goddar
Peter Meier-Beck
Christian Loyau
Mattia Fogliacco
Stefanie Mielert
Ralf Wehrspohn
Michael Fröhlich
Christian Wichard
Monica Magnusson
Georg Kreuz
Tim Pohlmann

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Prof. Dr. Knut Blind
+49 (0)30 314 76638
H 4136 A


Dr. Nikolaus Thumm
0049 176 38452502

Fraunhofer ISI
Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung ISI
Breslauer Straße 48
76139 Karlsruhe

Telefon +49 721 6809-0
Fax +49 721 689152