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Posts in Antitrust

Senate Judiciary Advances American Innovation and Choice Online Act to Ramp Up Antitrust Efforts Against Big Tech

On January 20, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary voted 16-6 to advance S. 2992, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, out of committee and toward a full vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate. If passed, the bill would give the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the U.S. Attorney General and state attorneys general new powers to bring antitrust enforcement actions against major online platforms that are alleged to be engaging in discriminatory conduct by preferencing their own products and services over competing products and services that are also available on those platforms.

Apple/ Ericsson Dueling FRAND Suits Highlight Issues With Recent Proposed Changes in DOJ’s SEP Policies

On January 19, consumer tech giant Apple filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) asking the agency to institute a Section 337 investigation against Swedish telecom firm Ericsson, asserting a trio of patents related to millimeter wave technology used by electronic devices communicating on mobile 5G networks. The Section 337 complaint is the latest salvo in a legal battle that highlights the mounting tension surrounding standard-essential patents (SEPs) and where infringement litigation fits into the fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) obligations that standards-setting organizations (SSOs) impose upon SEP owners.

Return of the ‘Hold-Up’ Bogeyman: Analyzing the 2021 Draft Policy Statement on SEPs Subject to Voluntary F/RAND Commitments (Part III)

In Part II of this series, we considered the language of a specific licensing commitment made to European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and the prevailing law relating thereto. In this Part III, we consider the 2021 Draft Policy Statement with a particular view to highlighting its inconsistencies with the ETSI framework and the inapplicability of the hold-up narrative to the situation involving an individual United States patent. Despite its purported purpose of providing the agencies’ views on “remedies for the infringement of standards-essential patents (or SEPs) that are subject to a RAND and/or F/RAND licensing commitment”, the 2021 Draft Policy Statement does not take a clear position on this issue, instead merely stating the following (some might say “the obvious”):

Property Rights Groups Urge Garland and Kanter to Withdraw ‘Misguided’ Policy Statement on SEPs Subject to FRAND

On January 12, a coalition of 28 property rights groups signed a letter addressed to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Jonathan Kanter asking those officials to reconsider and withdraw a draft policy statement issued in early December regarding licensing negotiations and remedies for standard-essential patents (SEPs) subject to voluntary fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) commitments. According to the coalition, the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) statement will only serve to bolster the fortunes of China, the major economic rival to the United States, by allowing Chinese tech implementers to infringe SEPs without respect to the rights of U.S. innovators.

D.C. Court Says FTC’s Antitrust Claim Against Facebook Can Proceed

On Tuesday, January 11, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia denied Facebook’s motion to dismiss a complaint brought against it by the U.S.  Federal Trade Commission (FTC), holding that the FTC had stated a plausible claim for relief under Section 2 of the Sherman Act. The FTC filed a complaint on December 9, 2020, asserting one count of monopoly maintenance under Section 2 of the Sherman Act. Facebook moved to dismiss both this case, and a related state case. The district court dismissed the Commission’s complaint but granted the FTC the opportunity to amend. Following a leadership change from when the complaint was initially filed, the FTC filed an amended complaint in August of 2021. L

One is the Loneliest Number: Analyzing the 2021 Draft Policy Statement on SEPs Subject to Voluntary F/RAND Commitments (Part II)

In Part I of this series of articles, we provided an overview of the 2013 and 2019 policy statements that preceded the 2021 Draft Policy Statement. In this Part II, we consider the language of a specific licensing commitment made to European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), and various legal pronouncements that have been made in relation thereto.

Understanding the Latest Draft Policy Statement on SEPs Subject to Voluntary F/RAND Commitments (Part I)

Much like a biological ecosystem, the development, commercialization, and licensing of standardized technologies involves a delicate balance among many diverse and competing participants. The 2021 Draft Policy Statement on Remedies for Standards-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary F/RAND Commitments (hereinafter “the 2021 Draft Policy Statement”), however, appears to be primarily concerned with an issue faced exclusively by implementers when dealing with owners of larger patent portfolios, but without explicitly saying so. This observation is based on the 2021 Draft Policy Statement’s reference to the vague and ill-defined notion of patent “hold-up”.

The Federal Government Should Reinstate the 2019 Policy Statement on Standard Essential Patents

The Justice Department’s December 6, 2021 Draft Policy Statement on Licensing Negotiations and Remedies for Standards-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary F/RAND Commitments (“2021 DPS”) badly misses the mark and merits a failing grade. By contrast, the 2019 PS (issued by the Justice Department, NIST, and the U.S. PTO) is eminently sound, and merits being reaffirmed. The DPS should be viewed in the context of the benefits conferred on society by patents that read on standards, commonly referred to as standard essential patents (SEPs). Given the economic importance of SEPs, public policy should encourage investment in them and ensure that they receive adequate legal protection. Such sound policies inform the New Madison Approach (NMA), publicly described by Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Makan Delrahim in 2018.

SEPs in Europe and Beyond: Highlights From 2021

Even as Europe and the rest of the world continued to face the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, the development of 5G and other Standard Essential Patent (SEP)-enabled technology standards has continued at an unabated pace. While the year has not yet ended, more than 100,000 technical contributions have already been submitted at 3GPP meetings for 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G in 2021 – a near-record yearly contribution count. The invention and standardization of massive, complex communication technologies continues to generate significant numbers of SEPs. According to IPlytics data, the cumulative number of self-declared SEP families has surpassed 72,000 in 2021, indicating a five-fold increase in just 10 years.

Top 2021 FRAND/RAND Licensing Developments in the United States: Part II

This is Part II of a two-part article discussing FRAND (fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory) licensing developments taking place in the United States in 2021. Read Part I here. After a slow summer on the FRAND licensing front, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit’s ruling in the matter of HTC v. Ericsson came in the dog days of August. As we wrote about here, the August 31 ruling dealt with, amongst other things, an appeal challenging the district court’s instructions to the jury regarding whether or not the license terms offered by Ericsson were FRAND and, more specifically, with respect to the issue of apportionment. Beyond finding that the failure to give instructions on an undisputed issue did not impair HTC’s ability to present its claims, the majority found that HTC’s proposed instructions “were not ‘substantially correct’ statements of law”.

One Thumb Up for the New Draft Administration Statement on FRAND Licensing

On December 6, the Department of Justice – Antitrust Division (DOJ), U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) issued for public comment a “draft revised statement on remedies for the infringement of standards-essential patents (or SEPs) that are subject to a RAND or F/RAND licensing commitment, which also provides guidance on what demonstrates good-faith negotiation in this context.” The 2021 SEP Licensing Draft Statement responds to President Biden’s Executive Order on Competition, which called on the agencies to review the 2019 Trump Administration Statement dealing with SEP infringement remedies. The 2019 Statement in turn excised the anti-IP language from a 2013 Obama Administration Statement on this topic.

DOJ Issues Revised Draft Joint Policy Statement on Remedies for SEPs Subject to FRAND

The U.S. Department of Justice – Antitrust Division (DOJ) is requesting public comment on a new iteration of the Joint DOJ-USPTO-NIST Policy Statement on Remedies for Standards-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary FRAND Commitments. The announcement comes in response to President Joe Biden’s July 2021 Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, which asked the three agencies to review the 2019 statement.

Patent Infringement, Antitrust, and the Discovery Rule

On September 20, 2021, Judge John Robert Blakey in the Northern District of Illinois issued an opinion in a Walker Process patent fraud antitrust case denying defendants’ motion for summary judgment on their statute of limitations defense. TCS John Huxley America, Inc. v. Scientific Games Corp., No. 1:19-cv-1846, 2021 WL 4264403 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 20, 2021). The opinion established important principles regarding application of the statute of limitations to the “discovery rule” in a Walker Process antitrust case. The author’s firm, Freeborn & Peters, was one of the firms representing the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs had sued Scientific Games Corp. alleging a violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act. The complaint alleged that Scientific Games, through its acquired entity, SHFL Entertainment, brought patent infringement litigation in 2009 and 2012 based on fraudulently obtained patents for automatic card shufflers used in licensed casinos.

Virtual SEP 2021 Day One: Panelists Weigh in on the State of the SEP Ecosystem and More

tandard Setting Organizations (SSOs) exist as a mechanism for industry innovators to work together to collectively identify and select the best and most promising innovations that will become the foundation for the entire industry to build upon for years to come. Those disclosing patented technologies to an SSO during the development of a standard commit to offering a license at a FRAND (which stands for Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory) rate to the extent the patent is essential, as explained by Curtis Dodd, Chief IP Counsel for Harfang IP, during the second panel of SEP 2021 yesterday, which focused on FRAND and patent damages. Indeed, the myriad issues surrounding FRAND obligations and the disclosure of innovations to SSOs were the focus of the three panels that took place on day 1 of SEP 2021, hosted by IPWatchdog.

Acquisition Contamination: The Mythology of the ‘Clean Team’

Have you ever shopped for something dangerous? Back in the 1950s, my mother wanted to buy a pressure cooker to make dinner faster (and use cheaper cuts of meat). That wasn’t an easy decision, because the early models had a reputation for occasionally exploding (there was no Consumer Product Safety Commission then). My father, a self-taught steam engineer, was skeptical that a kitchen appliance could safely contain double the normal atmospheric pressure. But Mom did her homework, researching what the problems were (usually a single pressure valve prone to clogging) and finding cookers with redundant pressure relief systems. It worked for years, and no one went to the hospital. Companies shopping to buy other companies, or to acquire a license to their technology, also entertain risk. That’s because in the process of interviewing potential targets they can become exposed to highly valuable trade secrets. If any particular transaction doesn’t go forward, but the shopper implements similar technology, the disappointed seller may file a lawsuit claiming misappropriation.