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Bipartisan group of senators sends letter about trade ban to US trade rep

According to Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents, a bipartisan group of senators has asked the Obama administration to veto a looming import ban against older iPhone and iPads. The letter, dated July 30, was sent to US Trade Representative Michael Froman, who holds the power to veto this ban. Signing their names to the letter were Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho).

The senators expressed concern that standard essential patents (SEPs) covering 3G cellular technology were at the heart of the ITC complaint between Samsung and Apple. These patents are meant to be licensed under fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms and not used in litigation. The senators note that the government has a chance to defend FRAND licensing terms. If it fails to act, then it might be setting a precedent that encourages other companies to withhold their SEPs and use them in litigation against their rivals. The senators write,

Competition and consumers benefit tremendously from the creation of technology standards that promote interoperability, lower costs, and expand consumer choice. Standards are crucial to ensuring that consumers have access to a competitive market of compatible products. The standards setting process depends on a commitment from companies contributing patents to license those patents to all parties implementing the standard on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. If companies implementing standards cannot rely on FRAND commitments, they will be less likely to participate in standard setting, which will drive up costs for consumers and reduce the pace of innovation.

The import ban goes into effect on August 5, 2013, unless it is vetoed by Froman.

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