Intellectual property/telecommunications: New regime for marketing terminals

United Kingdom

The Commission has published a draft Directive which aims to simplify the marketing of telecommunications terminal equipment throughout the EU. Telecommunications terminal equipment includes all equipment which attaches to public networks and all radio equipment operating in harmonised and unharmonised frequency bands. In practice, this includes telephone handsets, mobile phones and fax machines.

The existing system for obtaining approval to market equipment was put in place in the early 1990s. It is a single type-approval regime for equipment to be attached to pan-European telecommunications networks, such as GSM, and involves obtaining approval from an independent third party. This can cause delay in bringing new inventions to the market.

As technology has progressed, product life cycles have become shorter. Liberalisation of the telecommunications market is to take place on 1 January 1998. The Commission therefore believes that a much lighter regulatory regime is now needed. The main features of the Proposal are:

  • extending the scope of the regime to include all terminal equipment;
  • a reduced and flexible set of requirements which new products must meet; and
  • the replacement of third party testing of equipment with a manufacturer's declaration combined with reliance on legislation on manufacturers' liability and consumer protection.