Published February 28, 2024

Standards and standard essential patents (SEPs) are of growing importance to the UK economy and the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is committed to ensuring the current SEPs framework functions effectively to encourage innovation and promote competition.

In the August 2022 response to its Call for Views, the IPO committed to continued assessment of the issues, including further analysis of the submitted evidence and additional evidence-gathering. It also committed to reporting its findings to Ministers in 2023. Since then, the IPO has launched a questionnaire for SMEs, small-cap and mid-cap businesses, and engaged in other evidence-gathering activity, including commissioning research.

The IPO has now reported its findings to Ministers and agreed on key objectives concerning SEPs. Those are:

  • Helping implementers, especially SMEs, navigate and better understand the SEPs ecosystem and Fair, Reasonable, and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) licensing​;
  • Improving transparency in the ecosystem, both pricing and essentiality; and ​
  • Achieving greater efficiency with respect to dispute resolution, including arbitration and mediation.

Delivering against those objectives, the government is now focusing on the introduction of key non-regulatory interventions before the commencement of a public technical consultation later in 2024/25 concerning the SEPs framework and FRAND licensing. Those non-regulatory actions and details of the future technical consultation are set out below.

Non-regulatory interventions

Introduction of a UK SEPs Resource Hub

It is understood that resource-constrained SMEs and smaller innovators (generally referred to as implementers) often have a poor understanding of the SEP ecosystem, including information about licensing, pricing, essentiality, and dispute resolution. There is information available, but this can be patchy, complex, hard to find, and may not come from a trusted source.

The IPO is aiming to launch an online SEPs Resource Hub by May 2024. This will be a repository of tools, guidance, and other material designed to help SMEs navigate the SEP ecosystem. Guidance may include signposting to dispute resolution procedures, information on patent pools, and court processes in the event of disputes.

The hub is not static and will continue to develop over time. Its contents will be refreshed on an ongoing basis, including after any future technical consultation. We will be advised on its contents and potential functions by an ongoing Industry Working Group representing a range of SEPs interests.

International collaboration and enhanced engagement with Standard Development Organisations (SDOs)

We recognize that SEPs are a global issue, and our ambition is more coordination on those issues at an international level. As such, there will be an increase in the pace and visibility of our discussions with other patent offices on global ecosystem challenges.

The government will also increase its engagement with SDOs on both Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) policy and the involvement of SMEs in standardization.

A future technical consultation on SEPs and FRAND licensing

We are still considering other options that could help improve the functioning of the market in respect of SEPs. They would be subject to a full and formal technical consultation later in 2024. Any options that would require a change to legislation would be part of that full and formal technical consultation. Following that consultation, and having heard the views of stakeholders, Ministers would then decide which if any to proceed with. A final decision on what may be included within a consultation would rest with Ministers.

Clarifying our position on SEP injunctions

We have considered the views from the industry regarding injunctions through the Call for Views and industry engagement.

After careful consideration of the evidence, operation of relevant legal frameworks, and international obligations, we have concluded that we will not be consulting on making legislative changes to narrow the use of injunctions in SEPs disputes. 

The IPO will continue engagement with relevant industries and institutions to continue to inform our ongoing policy development and implementation of those actions set out above.

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