Margrethe Vestager, the European Competition Commissioner, has set out DG Competition’s enforcement priorities for 2016.
In a speech to the College of Europe’s Global Competition Law Centre on 1 February 2016, she highlighted two issues that will be of particular interest to readers of this blog: the digital economy and standard essential patents (“SEPs”).
Unsurprisingly, given the launch of the e-commerce sector enquiry last year (see our blogs on the launch of the enquiry and a review of the inquiry’s scope) the digital economy was highlighted as a key enforcement priority, in particular contracts that stop retailers selling cross-border. The Commission intends to publish an issues paper on geo-blocking at Easter, aimed at tackling these online restrictions.
The Commissioner also gave a heavy hint that the Commission is planning to bring competition enforcement cases following its e-commerce sector inquiry.
Perhaps more surprisingly, given recent events and the degree of prominence given to SEP issues during her predecessor’s term, the Commissioner also mentioned SEPs, noting that the Motorola, Samsung and Huawei cases had set important precedents for SEPs, and that these cases had made clear that such patents must be licensed on FRAND terms.
Finally (and not directly related to IP) the speech highlighted the need for some national competition law authorities to be given enhanced powers and suggested that the Commission was likely to propose potential new legislation to address any deficiencies.