Following a leaked Apple letter and recent acts by Motorola Mobility and Samsung, Microsoft has pledged not to block rivals’ products if they infringe patents it owns, which are deemed “essential” to an industry standard. Such patents cover intellectual property rights without which widely used formats – such as MP3 sound files or JPEG photos – could not work.
Apple wrote to European officials saying that all tech firms should sign up to a similar commitment.
Microsoft lawyer David Heiner wrote in a blog that the internet only worked because firms had agreed to license their inventions to each other.
“Would you buy a smartphone, an iPad or a personal computer that couldn’t play video or connect to wireless networks?” he asked. “Probably not. This is why antitrust enforcers have taken a keen interest recently in patent acquisitions and attempts by patent holders to block competitors from shipping products that implement industry standards.”
The European Commission is investigating whether Samsung distorted competition in the mobile device market by failing to license key technologies to rivals because of payment disputes. The firm attempted to sue Apple last year, but a Dutch court threw out its claim as being too expensive.
Microsoft and Apple’s call has also received backing from the networking equipment maker Cisco Systems.
The Foss patents blog published a letter from the firm on Wednesday in which it called on the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to adopt the proposals set out in Apple’s letter.
The move may also put pressure on Google, which is in the process of taking over Motorola Mobility.
Last week Motorola temporarily blocked several iPads and iPhones from sale in Apple’s German online store after winning a lawsuit based on essential patents.