Curtis Dodd is Chief Intellectual Property Officer (CIPO) at Harfang IP. He is a veteran of patent monetization, enforcement and portfolio management in the telecommunications and consumer electronics space with over twenty years of industry experience. Amongst other roles, Mr. Dodd was counsel for Nortel Networks and lead the management of its 4G wireless portfolio (twice being named as an inventor). Mr. Dodd also worked for Wi-LAN as Vice President, Patents and Counsel, for Acacia as Senior Vice President and Licensing Executive, and as Senior Licensing Specialist for Fitch Even. Mr. Dodd has been named to Intellectual Asset Management magazine’s 2021 list of the World’s 300 Leading IP Strategists.
For more information or to contact Mr. Dodd, please visit his Firm Profile Page.
As was recently reported by IPWatchdog (here and here), the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST), and the U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division (DOJ) issued a statement on June 8 withdrawing the December 19, 2019 Policy Statement on Remedies for Standards-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary F/RAND Commitments (2019 Policy Statement). A footnote to the statement further provides that “the agencies do not reinstate the January 8, 2013, Policy Statement on Remedies for Standards-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary F/RAND Commitments issued by the DOJ and the USPTO.” Curiously, this statement makes no mention of the 2021 Draft Policy Statement on Remedies for Standards-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary F/RAND Commitments (2021 Draft Policy Statement), which draft statement was criticized by a broad cross-section of industry participants for a variety of different reasons. Regardless, our question is simply this: why did the 2019 Policy Statement need to be withdrawn instead of simply not proceeding with the 2021 Draft Policy Statement or, alternatively, modifying those portions of the 2019 Policy Statement that the agencies did not agree with? By throwing the baby out with the bath water, patent owners are now left to guess where the agencies stand on such issues.
As we have previously explained, many implementers wish to require patent owners to establish (1) the need for licenses, and (2) that any terms offered are in fact fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND), but without having to make any commitment to accepting FRAND licenses, and without ever losing entitlement to the same. With respect to the latter, recall, for example, Apple’s position it its case with PanOptis, namely that PanOptis had “no legal right under U.S. law to impose on Apple an obligation to negotiate a license to Plaintiffs’ portfolios of declared-essential patents or forfeit any defenses for failing to do so” (Apple Inc.’s Motion to Dismiss Count VIII for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Optis Wireless Technology, LLC, Optis Cellular Technology, LLC, Unwired Planet, LLC, Unwired Planet International Limited, and PanOptis Patent Management, LLC v. Apple Inc., Civil Action No. 2:19-cv-00066-JRG (E.D. Texas, June 22, 2020)) [hereinafter Optis v. Apple]. Basically, such implementers want the option of capping their exposure at FRAND rates if ever found to infringe. We refer to this as an implementer wanting to have its FRAND cake and eat it too.
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”):
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.