One of the overreaching goals of the revision of the chapter on standardisation agreements in the Guidelines on Horizontal Cooperation Agreements is to contribute to the Commission's Europe 2020 strategy. In particular standardisation agreements may further innovation and competitiveness. The Commission aims to leave companies maximum flexibility when concluding horizontal co-operation agreements in order to increase the competitiveness of the European economy while at the same time ensuring effective competition for the benefit of European businesses and consumers. The Horizontals Regime aims at providing guidance to the companies as to what business actions they can undertake without a risk of infringing competition law. The specific objective of the revised standardisation chapter is to give guidance on the (competition law related) problems created by the increased use of IPR in standards by laying down the Commission's policy in this area.
The Guidelines promote a standard-setting system that is open and transparent and thereby increases the visibility of licensing costs for IPRs used in standards. The revised standardisation chapter sets out the criteria under which the Commission will not take issue with a standard-setting agreement ('safe harbour'). Moreover, the chapter gives detailed guidance on standardisation agreements that do not fulfil the safe harbour criteria, to allow companies to assess whether they are in line with EU competition law.
Standard-setting organisations may wish to provide for their members to unilaterally disclose, prior to setting a standard, the maximum rate that they would charge for their IPRs if those were to be included in a standard. Such a system could enable a standard-setting organisation and the industry to take an informed choice on quality and price when selecting which technology should be included in a standard. The revised rules clarify that such a system would normally not infringe EU competition rules.
The Guidelines on Horizontal Cooperation Agreements were adopted by the College 14 December 2010.