EU Competition Law Analysis of FRAND Disputes
This paper describes the degree of obligation created by a FRAND commitment on the holders of a Standard Essential Patent (“SEP”) from an EU competition law perspective. It shows that the EU courts case-law does not seem supportive of the reading of FRAND as a distributional, pricing commitment. Instead, it views FRAND as a soft commitment device, designed to promote cooperation and exchange amongst independent firms. This is apparent in the Huawei v ZTE judgment, which conveys an invitation on both SEP holders and unlicensed implementers to follow basic procedural requirements in licensing talks. In addition, the paper contributes to the debate on the legal applicability of Article 102 TFEU to SEP holders other than practicing entities. Last, the paper discusses if Standard Setting Organizations (“SSOs”) ex ante specifications of FRAND terms can constrain the conduct of SEP holders under EU competition law.