The International Trade Commission is currently considering whether to ban imports of Microsoft's Xbox 360 game console and Apple's iPhone. With that in mind, the US Senate Judiciary Committee this morning asked if more can be done to prevent tech companies from blocking sales of rival products by asserting patents that are critical to industry standards.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) called representatives of the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice to the hearing. Leahy said in an announcement that the goal is to "further explore the competitive impact of ITC exclusion orders and whether more needs to be done to ensure consumers are not the victims of the tech patent wars." His statement specifically mentions the Xbox and iPhone, and the hearing occurred as the ITC is deciding whether to stop imports of those products based on the assertion of standards-essential patents by the Google-owned Motorola Mobility.
Why the ITC itself didn't appear at the hearing—or whether legislation will be filed to prevent the ITC from issuing injunctions based on standard-essential patents—isn't clear. Leahy hasn't filed any legislation on the matter. Today's hearing was an early step toward seeing if Congress can and should weigh in officially on the matter.