The smart meter industry was one of the first industries to adopt cellular connectivity for IoT applications. The adoption of this technology provides substantial cost savings to smart meter makers, which no longer need to utilise human meter readers. One would think that such substantial savings would prompt the smart meter industry to take licences for the technology especially since they are modestly priced. Nevertheless, when the European Smart Energy Solutions Providers (ESMIG), the trade association that represents European smart meter makers, launched its 2020 “Annual Review – Activities and Members”, it contained this revelation:
Another initiative that started in 2019 was the development of a mutual approach for licensing 3G/4G “Standard Essential Patents”. Together with associations such as the Fair Standards Alliance, we lobby for the best economic and general solution for our industry and avoid individual settlements with patent holders. (at page 7, emphasis added)
Many SEP holders have long suspected that such coordinated hold-out was happening in a number of industries. But it was astonishing to have written confirmation that the smart meter industry had been partnering with the Fair Standards Alliance on organised patent hold-out. This behaviour harms individual innovators and undermines European leadership in 5G technologies.
After several European Commission officials were informed of this, the offending language was removed, and the annual report was reposted without the above language. Readers can view the original text using Wayback machine (see here). We expect this may be of interest to competition authorities, among others.