Posts Tagged: "FRAND"

FTC v. Qualcomm: Court Requires Licensing of Standard Essential Patents to Competitors

The Qualcomm decision is unique in that it appears to be the first decision to require a SEP holder to license its patented technology to its competitors, and not just its downstream customers, on FRAND terms.  This decision casts doubt on the longstanding practice, common in industries such as the telecommunication and automotive industries, in which SEP holders seek to secure “FRAND” licenses with downstream companies that make finished products, while refusing to license (or licensing on non-FRAND terms) those same SEPs to their competitors or other companies further up the supply chain (such as component suppliers).  The decision also emphasizes U.S. courts’ focus on the express language of SSOs’ IPR policies and the willingness to review the SSO guidelines in interpreting the agreements SEP holders enter into with SSOs.  In this regard, the decision may bode well for SEP implementers, given the court’s broad understanding of what it means to “practice” a relevant standard and its view that SEP holders’ FRAND obligations extend to all potential licensees, irrespective of their position in the supply chain.

Koh rules Qualcomm is Obligated to License SEPs to Competitors

Qualcomm was not refusing to abide by its agreed to promises to license SEPs as required by the SSOs, as alleged by the FTC. Instead, Qualcomm wasn’t interested in licensing competing chip makers who wanted to used Qualcomm’s technology so they could make their own chips incorporating Qualcomm’s patented technology. Licensing competing manufacturers of chips is not what the IP policies of the SSOs require. What is required is that patent owners of SEPs not discriminate against applicants desiring to utilize the license for the purpose of implementing the technology. But that isn’t what a competing manufacture would be doing. A competing manufacturer would be creating the chip that enables, not implementing the technology into an end product. In fact, as Qualcomm pointed out, industry practice of SSOs is to require licensing only fully compliant end-user devices, and not components.

Qualcomm Reaches Settlement With Taiwan Free Trade Commission Wiping Out Most of $773M Antitrust Penalty

On Thursday, August 9th, San Diego, CA-based semiconductor developer Qualcomm Inc. announced that it reached a mutually agreed settlement with the Taiwan Fair Trade Commission (TFTC) which greatly reduces the financial penalty assessed to Qualcomm by the TFTC for antitrust issues. Although the TFTC will retain about $93 million USD in fines which have been paid by Qualcomm through July, the settlement eliminates the remainder of the original fine valued at $773 million USD and issued by Taiwan’s fair trade regulator last October.

Ericsson and LG Enter into Global Cross-Licensing Agreement for 2G, 3G and 4G Mobile SEPs

Swedish multinational telecommunications company Ericsson and South Korean consumer electronics firm LG Electronics announced that they had entered into a global licensing agreement to cross-license patent portfolios held by both companies. The patents in these portfolios include standard-essential patents (SEPs) related to various cellular technologies, including those related to second generation (2G), third generation (3G) and fourth generation (4G) cellular standards.

Does Apple’s Move Away from Intel as Chip Supplier Signal Future Infringement Battles?

Intel is not the only chipmaker feeling the pinch from Apple’s decision to move away from third-party vendors for its device components. Reports from last November indicated that Apple was also planning on developing its own power management chips for use in its iPhone products… News reports have indicated that Apple has poached engineering talent from firms like Imagination and Qualcomm, including the former head of Qualcomm’s core communications chip business, in recent years. While many will tout the superior nature of Apple’s computing chip products, there will likely be few who point out the damage wrecked on the company’s suppliers and the potential of intellectual property theft which might be enabling the consumer tech giant’s attempts to further consolidate the personal computing market into its own hands.

An Interesting Year on the Horizon: What to Watch in 2018

The issues I will be watching in 2018 other than Oil States are as follows: (1) What does the new Director of the USPTO do with respect to reforming the PTAB? (2) Will the USPTO adopt a code of judicial ethics for PTAB judges? (3) Will the U.S. drop out of the top 10 countries for patent protection in the annual U.S. Chamber IP Index? (4) How will the Federal Circuit resolve Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity and the assertion of sovereign immunity by Indian Tribes? (5) Will the Federal Circuit continue its unprecedented disposition of cases without an opinion by relying on Rule 36 summary affirmance? (6) Will Conservative groups become even more vocal advocates of a strong patent system?

Standard Essential Patents, Antitrust and Market Power

Antitrust agency communications, such as the EU Commission’s Horizontal Guidelines and the FTC/DOJ Licensing Guidelines underline that market power does not necessarily result from patent ownership as such. They contain, however, no specific language on standard-essential patents which are – if they are valid and truly standard-essential – different from other patents in that they must, by definition, be used in order to operate on the respective standard-based market. In Europe at least, it seems to be increasingly accepted that SEPs can convey market power but that they do not necessarily always do so. Advocate General Wathelet’s proposition (para. 57 et seq. of his opinion in the Huawei/ZTE case) to establish a rebuttable presumption that SEP ownership generates market power has not been taken up by the CJEU’s Huawei/ZTE-decision, probably because the parties already agreed that Huawei held a dominant position (para. 43). But court decisions from the UK (for instance Unwired Planet/Huawei, a summary of the case is provided here) and Germany (for instance LG Düsseldorf, 26.3.2015, 4b O 140/13) have taken a case-sensitive approach, looking not only at the leverage generated by a SEP but also at circumstances which may limit its holder’s power.

Broadcom Announces Bid Valued at $130 Billion to Buy American Semiconductor Giant Qualcomm

On Monday, November 6th, Singapore-based semiconductor designer Broadcom (NASDAQ:AVGO) announced that it had offered a proposal to acquire San Diego, CA-based semiconductor rival Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM). The deal values Qualcomm at about $130 billion and Broadcom would pay $70 per share; stockholders would receive $60 in cash and $10 in Broadcom shares in the deal. That $70 per share price was higher than Qualcomm’s per share price on November 6th, when it popped above $65 per share early in the day before declining towards $62 by midday trading. According to Broadcom’s press release on the news, its proposal represents a 28 percent premium over the closing price of Qualcomm stock on Thursday, November 2nd.

Qualcomm files suit in China seeking to ban iPhone sales by asserting three non-SEPs

A major legal battle over patented technologies in the mobile device communication sector between San Diego, CA-based semiconductor developer Qualcomm Inc. and Cupertino, CA-based consumer tech giant Apple Inc. took a new turn as multiple news reports indicated that Qualcomm had filed suit in China seeking a ban on the sale and manufacture of iPhones. Qualcomm’s court filing in China is the latest salvo in a barrage of legal challenges between both company’s over licensing activities between Qualcomm, Apple and the many Asian contract manufacturers who fabricate smartphones for Apple which incorporate technologies allegedly covered by Qualcomm’s patents.

Qualcomm’s Antitrust War and The Patent Licensing Issues

Even at ground level, where American courts in San Diego and San Jose are now being called on to apply the law laid out in prior court decisions to the particular facts of the smartphone chip market, the multipronged attack on Qualcomm’s patent licensing practices offers an unusually rich platter of meaty issues to feast upon for those who advise patent licensors and licensees. Leaving aside the implications for the smartphone industry and the market for cellular baseband processors that Qualcomm now dominates, the new precedents that will be set in court—if the parties don’t settle or a Republican-controlled FTC doesn’t withdraw its case—will have broad and deep implications for patent owners and users—much as the US v. Microsoft case has had since it was decided almost two decades ago.

ITC institutes Section 337 investigation into Hisense Wi-Fi TVs infringing on Sharp patents

On Wednesday, September 27th, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) announced that it had decided to institute a patent infringement investigation against Chinese electronics manufacturer Hisense (SHA:600060). The investigation, which follows from a Section 337 complaint filed by Japanese electronics firm Sharp (TYO:6753), will seek to determine whether certain Wi-Fi enabled devices and their components, specifically televisions which are capable of wireless Internet connectivity, which are imported into the U.S. by Hisense infringe upon two patents covering similar technologies held by Sharp.

ITC opens patent infringement investigation after Qualcomm files complaint against Apple

On Tuesday, August 8th, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) announced that it was opening up an investigation on claims that Cupertino, CA-based consumer electronics behemoth Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is infringing upon patented technologies, specifically baseband processor modems, in its mobile electronic devices. The investigation follows a Section 337 patent infringement complaint filed on July 7th with the ITC by…

How Many Times Should Qualcomm be Paid for Old Technology?

The FTC laid out Qualcomm’s predatory licensing tactics in its complaint. Instead of treating all companies the same, Qualcomm refuses to license to other chip makers so that it has a virtual monopoly on CDMA chips. And instead of licensing on FRAND terms, Qualcomm forces its customers to buy licenses they don’t need and massively overcharges them for those licenses… No one denies Qualcomm’s place in telecommunications history, but Qualcomm has been paid many times over at this point. Enough is enough.

Bogus claims of patent abuse must be ignored

On April 20, 2017, a group of auto and technology companies sent a letter to President Trump urging him to direct the Federal Trade Commission and other U.S. agencies to do something “to address patent abuse involving standardized technologies,” which the letter goes on to explain are vital to the “nation’s innovation and economic development.”… So what is going on that has these companies all hot and bothered? It is a contract issue, nothing more. It is merely paraded around as patent abuse in an attempt to both deceive, and to make it more likely the government will want to step in and tip the balance with an agency finger on the scale. After all, if it were a private contract matter it would be much more difficult to get the federal government to pick a side. So the decision is made to grossly misrepresent the heart of the problem and pretend it is something that it is not.

FTC acting chair Ohlhausen tells ABA IP conference agency revised IP guidelines are ‘modest’, give FTC flexibility

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will not be radically changing the analysis used to address antitrust issues presented by patent law issues. The news stems from comments made by FTC acting chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen at the 32nd Annual Intellectual Property Law Conference sponsored by the American Bar Association (ABA). Ohlhausen would go on to explain that the recent updates to the IP Licensing Guidelines, which occurred in January 2017, were “modest”, provided the FTC with flexibility, and continue to recognize that “IP law grants enforceable rights.”