• Gottfried Schüll

Bundeskartellamt allows cooperation between automotive companies in SEP licensing

C&F underlines leading role of Germany and the EU in the field of SEPs

Düsseldorf, June 13, 2024 - Companies in the automotive industry are allowed to negotiate jointly on the licensing of standard essential patents (SEPs). The Bundeskartellamt (German Federal Cartel Office) recently cleared the way for a cooperation between BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Thyssenkrupp and VW: the "Automotive Licensing Negotiation Group" (ALNG). According to an announcement by the Bundeskartellamt on June 10, the ALNG will also be open to other market participants in the automotive sector.

"After careful consideration, we have no serious objections to the ALNG in its planned form. However, our tolerance presupposes that the activities of the ALNG are limited to non-automotive standards and that other antitrust guidelines are observed," said Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt. For example, negotiations within this framework must always be voluntary and cooperation must be open to automotive suppliers. In addition, the exchange of information must be kept to an absolute minimum. According to the Bundeskartellamt, the ALNG participants have taken organizational measures to ensure this.

With the approval of the ALNG, the Bundeskartellamt is for the first time focusing on the licensee side. According to Cohausz & Florack (C&F), this will also have an impact on the global SEP licensing market. "Germany and the EU play a leading role in the field of SEPs - the decision of the German Federal Cartel Office confirms this once again," says Gottfried Schüll, patent attorney and partner at C&F.

SEPs are intellectual property rights related to standardized technologies without which other companies would not be able to enter the market. Holders of SEPs with a dominant market position are required by most standard-setting organizations and for antitrust reasons to license SEPs on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms (so-called FRAND terms).

In addition to the acronyms SEP and FRAND, Cohausz & Florack believes that ALNG might also become common in this area of law.

Header: Fabio Principe - AdobeStock.com