Posts in Antitrust

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.

IP/Antitrust Policy Changes are Afoot in the Biden Administration’s DOJ

The intersection of intellectual property (IP) and antitrust law is again a hot debate after a recent speech by the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division’s (“DOJ” or “Division”) Economics Director of Enforcement, Jeffrey Wilder, titled Leveling the Playing Field in the Standards Ecosystem: Principles for a Balanced Antitrust Enforcement Approach to Standards-Essential Patents. Before we dive in on the key takeaways from the speech, and our thoughts on potential ramifications, it bears briefly mentioning how we got here.

Jonathan Kanter Responses to Senate Provide Insight on Approach to Antitrust-IP Nexus

On July 20, President Joe Biden nominated Jonathan Kanter as Assistant Attorney General, a position that would place him at the head of the Antitrust Division at the Department of Justice. Kanter is an antitrust lawyer with over 20 years of experience. He is currently a partner at The Kanter Law Group LLP, which is a boutique antitrust law firm that advocates in favor of federal and state antitrust law enforcement. Prior to founding the The Kanter Law Group, he was Co-Chair of the antitrust practice at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, and Garrison LLP. Kanter also served as an attorney for the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Competition. 

Judge Koh Responses on Antitrust-IP Intersection Promise More of the Same

On October 5, the Senate Judiciary Committee considered the nomination of Judge Lucy Koh, currently of the U.S. Federal District for the Northern District of California, to an appointment by President Biden to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. After that hearing, several Senators submitted written questions, which Judge Koh responded to last week. There is no indication that Judge Koh’s nomination to the Ninth Circuit is in jeopardy, but it is noteworthy, and at least somewhat unusual, numerous Senators asked Judge Koh virtually the same questions regarding her decision in FTC v. Qualcomm. This level of overlapping interest by multiple members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which IPWatchdog.com has learned was not coordinated and developed organically, is normally reserved for nominees to the Supreme Court, and even then, typically reserved to social or constitutional issues. So, even though it is believed Judge Koh can and will easily receive a favorable confirmation vote, the questions relating to the intersection of antitrust and patent law demonstrate a keen awareness and interest in these issues on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senators Tear into Facebook and Google Reps During ‘Big Data, Big Questions’ Hearing on Competition and Privacy

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights held a hearing yesterday titled “Big Data, Big Questions: Implications for Competition and Consumers,” in which both Republican and Democratic senators pushed representatives of Facebook and Google to answer difficult questions about their platforms’ impact on everything from competitive marketplaces to teenagers’ body image. The hearing is one in a series that aims to conduct a bipartisan review of America’s competition issues, according to Subcommittee Chair, Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

The FTC’s Repair Restriction Ambition May Face Friction

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has pledged to use more of its enforcement resources to ensure that consumers are free from manufacturer-imposed restrictions on self-repair or third-party repair, to the maximum extent allowed under the law. The unanswered question is: how far does the law allow the FTC to go? The answer is, quite possibly, not as far as the White House or the new Chair of the FTC, Lina Khan, would like. One problem for the FTC: doubts about the authority granted to the agency under the FTC Act. Another hurdle will be the legal protections granted to manufacturers—both as market participants responding to consumer demand and, in many cases, as the owners of intellectual property rights. This blog has already discussed some of the ways that the “right to repair” movement might conflict with copyright protections. Here, we focus on the limits of the FTC’s authority and antitrust doctrine, as well as conflicts with patent law.

IPWatchdog LIVE Event Wraps Up with Featured Speakers Makan Delrahim and Vishal Amin

On day three of IPWatchdog LIVE in Dallas, Texas, former Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Makan Delrahim, who is now a Member of the Board of the Directors at Osiris Acquisition Corporation and a Lecturer in Law at the University of Pennsylvania, told attendees of the event that it’s unfortunate that antitrust [and its interaction with intellectual property rights] has become a partisan issue when “it doesn’t need to be.” Delrahim recalled during a Luncheon Fireside Chat with IPWatchdog Founder and CEO Gene Quinn that, 20 years ago, when he was detailed to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), “the approach to strong IP was a unifying issue, and something that was not questioned, nor its value.” He added that he has become a bit discouraged by the “echo chamber” that has been created about IP to “devalue its actual impact on economics and on society”—particularly when our trading partners, like China, have realigned to recognize the value.

FTC’s Antitrust Complaint Against Facebook Highlights Another Missed Opportunity to Address Big Tech’s Anticompetitive Activities Through Patent Reform

On August 19, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a first amended complaint for injunctive and other equitable relief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking a judgment that would split Instagram and WhatsApp away from Facebook as punishment for the social media giant’s alleged violations of antitrust law. The complaint, which traces many of the same arguments raised in a previous FTC suit that was dismissed by the District of Columbia this June, is yet another reminder that the current wave of antitrust enforcement against Big Tech has been an inevitable result of abysmal reforms of the U.S. patent system that have taken place since the mid-2000s, especially those reforms creating the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and turning Section 101 subject matter eligibility analysis into “validity goulash.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Advances Legislation to Reduce Drug Prices, Rein in Pharma Industry Practices

Earlier today, the Senate Judiciary Committee held an Executive Business Meeting in which the Committee discussed and favorably reported four bills aimed at reducing prescription drug prices for consumers and curbing perceived abuses of the patent system by brand pharmaceutical companies. The bills would do so by increasing the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) authority to initiate enforcement actions against drug companies. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, opened the meeting with an explanation of the need for the bills. He said that nearly 40% of U.S. patients struggle to pay for medication. The world’s best-selling drug, Humira, brought in $16 billion in sales in 2019 and Humira manufacturer, AbbVie, has obtained 130 patents on the drug, with 90% filed after Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.

Federal Circuit Nixes Appeal on Claims of Unfair Treatment by California Court in Pro Se Lawsuit Over Restrictions to Cancer Research

On July 20, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) issued a non-precedential decision in Siegler v. Sorrento Therapeutics, Inc. in which the appellate court affirmed a series of rulings on motions in a copyright and trade secret lawsuit filed in the Southern District of California. Although the Federal Circuit panel in the case “[understood] that Siegler feels unfairly treated as a result of the events she outlines, she was treated more than fairly by the district court,” said the CAFC, and the court did not err or abuse its discretion in reaching decisions to deny several motions for default judgment and reconsideration, as well as dismissing a pair of amended complaints filed by Siegler.

ITC and Trade Secret Cases Against Apple Over Pulse Oximetry Tech Highlight Need for Better Ways to Rein in Big Tech

In late June, medical technology firm Masimo Corporation and its consumer device subsidiary Cercacor Laboratories filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) asking the agency to institute a Section 337 investigation into several versions of the Apple Watch. Masimo’s allegations, which also include trade secret litigation ongoing in U.S. district court, follow an increasingly familiar narrative in which a Big Tech player, in this case Apple, engages in licensing negotiations with a small tech developer, only to poach employees and ideas from the smaller firm without paying the original developers.

The Biden Executive Order’s Restraint on Freedom of Contract: Regulation by Anecdote May Lead to Unintended Consequences

Capping months of anticipation, President Joe Biden on July 9 unveiled his Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, which he argues will “lower prices for families, increase wages for workers, and promote innovation and even faster economic growth.” To achieve these lofty goals, the order prescribes regulatory interventions that interfere with property and contract rights in industry after industry. Undergirding the order is the premise that “competition has weakened in too many markets, denying Americans the benefits of an open economy and widening racial, income, and wealth inequality.” The White House offers only a handful of anecdotes to justify this sweeping conclusion, which remains highly disputed. In fact, few sectors of the U.S. economy are especially concentrated, and many markets that have become concentrated at the national level have become less concentrated at the local level, as national chains open up in more areas.

Antitrust Suit Filed by 36 State AGs Targets Google Anticompetitive Practices on Android App Distribution

Last week, the attorneys general of 36 U.S. states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of California against internet services and mobile operating system (OS) provider Google. The complaint lists various causes of action under the Sherman Antitrust Act and a number of state antitrust laws that have allegedly been violated by Google’s practices in leveraging its monopoly power in the mobile OS sector to maximize its revenues on app purchases through the Google Play Store through suppression of competing app platforms and charging exorbitant fees from app developers.

Supreme Court to NCAA: You are Not Immune from Antitrust Laws

On June 21, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling in National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston (Alston) in which the nation’s highest court affirmed an injunction entered by the Northern District of California prohibiting the NCAA from restricting education-related benefits that member schools can extend to student-athletes. Consolidated by the Supreme Court last December with related proceedings in American Athletic Conference v. Alston, this decision brings a close to the latest chapter in the ongoing skirmish between NCAA member schools and their student-athletes seeking a larger cut of revenues earned by colleges and NCAA athletic associations.