Contribution to DG COMP Evaluation of Block Exemption Regulation for Horizontal Cooperation Agreements
4iP Council is an organisation made up of 24 supporters and ecosystem partners, whose aim is to develop high quality academic insight and generate empirical evidence on topics related to intellectual property and innovation. Patent rights are where the main competence of 4iP Council research has focused, including on research & development and standardisation. We wholeheartedly support that the current consultation should seek to deliver a high-quality evaluation of whether the existing guidance regime requires updating or not. In the context of the Evaluation, 4iP Council wishes to make the following points specifically relating to the Chapter on standardisation in the Horizontal Co-operation Guidelines (HCG). We have referenced our research as relevant.
1. Innovation is a geo-political issue; indeed, those sectors or technologies identified by President-elect Von Der Leyen i.e. blockchain, high performance computing, algorithms, and data-sharing and data usage tools, as well as defining standards for 5G networks and new generation technologies are heavily reliant on complex technologies, risky upfront investment in R&D and indeed standardisation, if they are to achieve economies of scale and network effects. These technologies, and the investments that enable them, are usually protected by the intellectual property system. In addition, these sectors are deemed critical to ensuring technology sovereignty and autonomy which would imply that, in exercising its prioritisation discretion, DG Competition should bear these overriding issues into account. Unless there is clear evidence of abuse, based on sound evidence and theory, DG Competition should prioritise policy coherence. For this reason, engaging with colleagues in the Commission would be critical during this review.
2. The European Commission should ensure that its evaluation creates a framework to assist European standardisation to develop the best solutions. Competition policy should support this objective, notably by not undermining the positive aspects of European standardisation, led by European Standards Development Organisations. The HCG should support this. In reviewing the HCG, it is important that the resulting guidance does not cause revolution in standardisation policies.