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Posts Tagged: "FTC v. Qualcomm"

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.

Judge Lucy Koh Tapped for Ninth Circuit Alongside Seven Other Biden Nominees to Federal Bench

President Joe Biden on Wednesday nominated eight new judges for federal courts, including Judge Lucy Koh for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Koh has been a prominent figure in intellectual property (IP) cases in recent years, particularly due to her 2019 order finding that Qualcomm had engaged in unlawful licensing practices, which included her issuance of a permanent, worldwide injunction against several of Qualcomm’s core business practices. IP leaders including retired Federal Circuit Chief Judge Paul Michel and law professor Kristen Osenga submitted amicus briefs in FTC v. Qualcomm detailing Koh’s legal errors in that ruling. The Ninth Circuit ultimately vacated her decision and reversed the injunction.

Despite ‘Tortured’ Statement from FTC’s Slaughter, Win for Qualcomm is a Win for American Innovation

The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) March 26 deadline for filing a petition for writ of certiorari at the U.S. Supreme Court has come and gone, officially ending the FTC’s opportunity to appeal its loss at the Ninth Circuit in its antitrust enforcement action against semiconductor developer Qualcomm. As federal regulators move on from this final vestige of Obama-era antitrust enforcement activity against patent-related business activities, much of the intellectual property world continues to await key appointments under President Joe Biden that will reveal the tenor of the policy debate in patents and antitrust during the current administration.

DOJ Affirms Pro-Competitive Benefits of End-Device Licensing in Avanci 5G Platform Review

Several weeks ago, the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice announced a positive Business Review Letter (BRL) concluding an eight-month review of Avanci’s new platform for licensing 5G standard essential patents. “In sum, the proposed 5G Platform has the potential to yield efficiencies by reducing transaction costs and streamlining licensing for connected vehicles,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, who heads the DOJ Antitrust Division. “Together these efficiencies may allow cellular standards-essential patent owners and vehicle manufacturers to focus resources elsewhere, such as investment in further research and development in emerging 5G technologies and applications. This possibility could enhance competition in these technologies, improve safety, and benefit American consumers.” The finding that the Avanci 5G platform could enhance competition is critically important for Avanci, and positively affects the technology licensing landscape.

Qualcomm Vindicated in Ninth Circuit Reversal of California Court’s Antitrust Ruling

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit today vacated a decision of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California finding that Qualcomm had engaged in unlawful licensing practices and reversed a permanent, worldwide injunction against several of Qualcomm’s core business practices. In May 2019, Judge Lucy Koh issued a 233-page order finding that Qualcomm had engaged in unlawful licensing practices and ordered in part that Qualcomm “must make exhaustive SEP licenses available to modem-chip suppliers on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (“FRAND”) terms and to submit, as necessary, to arbitral or judicial dispute resolution to determine such terms…[and] submit to compliance and monitoring procedures for a period of seven (7) years.” Koh’s ruling was widely criticized, and today’s unanimous opinion was a total reversal of her findings.

Anticompetitive or Hyper-Competitive? An Analysis of the FTC v. Qualcomm Oral Argument

On February 13, the Ninth Circuit heard oral argument in the FTC v. Qualcomm case. Counsel for Qualcomm and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) argued primarily about whether Qualcomm’s behavior resulted in anticompetitive harm, while the attorney from the Department of Justice, which had been granted five minutes to argue on Qualcomm’s behalf, faced tough questions about claims that the district court’s injunction posed a threat to national security. While the DOJ’s intervention in this case is interesting, the best summation of the argument came from the bench when Judge Stephen Murphy, District Court Judge of the Eastern District of Michigan sitting by designation stated: “Anticompetitive behavior is prohibited under the Sherman Act. Hyper-competitive behavior is not. This case asks us to draw the line between the two.”

Innovators Brace for Ninth Circuit Oral Arguments in FTC v. Qualcomm

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is set to hear oral arguments tomorrow in the closely-watched case of FTC v. Qualcomm, which will review the issue of whether Qualcomm is required to license its standard essential patents (SEPs) to modem-chip suppliers, after the district court determined that the company’s “no license, no chips” policy violated U.S. antitrust law. In May 2019, Judge Lucy Koh of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a 233-page order finding that Qualcomm had engaged in unlawful licensing practices and ordered in part that Qualcomm “must make exhaustive SEP licenses available to modem-chip suppliers on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (“FRAND”) terms and to submit, as necessary, to arbitral or judicial dispute resolution to determine such terms…[and] submit to compliance and monitoring procedures for a period of seven (7) years.”

‘It Is a Mess’: Recapping the U.S. Patent System’s Race Toward Uncertainty

What I tried to do for this presentation is figure out in about seven or eight minutes how I could convey to you what’s really going on in the United States. Because, frankly, it is a mess. The patent system in the United States, for those of you who are unfamiliar, is extraordinarily weakened from where it was 12 years ago. Getting an injunction in the United States is simply not possible anymore in litigation, except for in the most extreme situations. Over the last 12 years, the U.S. patent system largely has become a compulsory licensing system, and increasingly so. This obviously has ramifications for all patent owners. And during this time period, Congress also passed the America Invents Act, which created what’s known as the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), which has made it more easy to invalidate patents in the United States. As it turns out, 90% of patents that actually get to a final decision at the PTAB are found to have a mistake.

Tillis and Coons Nudge DOJ to Provide Revised Joint Statement on SEPs

Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Chris Coons (D-DE), Chair and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, sent a letter on October 21 to U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Assistant U.S. Attorney General, Antitrust Division, Makan Delrahim, asking them to “work with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to provide guidance on remedies for infringement of standard-essential patents (SEPs) subject to fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory (FRAND) licensing commitments.” Tillis and Coons applauded the Department of Justice (DOJ), Antitrust Division’s decision to withdraw from the 2013 joint DOJ-U.S. Patent and Trademark Office “Policy Statement on Remedies for Standards-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary F/RAND Commitments,” but expressed concerns over a “growing divide” among the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the USPTO about the role of antitrust law in policing SEPs.

Patent Masters™ Agree on Recommendations to Curb Harm to SEPs and Overreach of Antitrust Law

Standard Setting Organizations (SSOs) exist to identify and select the best innovations entire industries will build upon. Those contributing patented technologies are asked to provide fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory assurances. In essence, patent owners contributing technologies are committing to provide access to their Standard Essential Patents (SEPs). Whether one thinks it is good or bad, it is an inescapable truth that over the last decade the patent system in the United States has become weakened. The weakened patent system, and a patent grant the Supreme Court now considers to be a “government franchise,” has shifted leverage from patent owners to technology implementers. Amidst this uncertainty, in September IPWatchdog.com held a two-day symposium to discuss the state of standard essential patents in the United States. During this symposium, overwhelming consensus was achieved by the Patent Masters™ faculty and symposium attendees on a variety of principles and recommendations.

Analyzing Judge Koh’s Errors in FTC v. Qualcomm: Highlights From Three Amicus Briefs

On August 30, a number of amicus briefs were filed in the FTC v. Qualcomm appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The appeal stems from a May 2019 order finding Qualcomm liable for anticompetitive behavior and issuing “sweeping” injunctive relief. Following Judge Koh’s ruling, her opinion has been called “disastrous,” an “utter failure,” and “based on scant evidence,” and further been accused of “mangling” antitrust law. The Ninth Circuit, in granting a partial stay of the injunction, noted there were “serious questions on the merits” of Judge Koh’s decision. Three of the amicus briefs in particular point out the errors in Judge Koh’s opinions that have given rise to these “serious questions.” Retired Federal Circuit Chief Judge Paul Michel filed an amicus brief focusing primarily on patent law issues, including the smallest salable patent-practicing unit (SSPPU) concept and reasonable royalty calculation. The International Center for Law & Economics (ICLE) and Scholars of Law and Economics filed an amicus brief arguing that Judge Koh’s decision “is disconnected from the underlying economics of the case” and will cause serious harm to antitrust law. Finally, a number of Antitrust and Patent Law Professors, Economists, and Scholars filed an amicus brief highlighting how antitrust overreach, as they allege is present here, will harm innovation and arguing that the district court failed to engage in the level of real-world economic analysis as is required by this case.

FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson Tells Patent Masters Attendees FTC v. Qualcomm Decision ‘Scares Me’

Commissioner Christine Wilson of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) addressed the IPWatchdog Patent Masters Symposium on Tuesday, September 10, emphasizing three main points in her keynote: that Judge Lucy Koh’s decision in FTC v. Qualcomm was flawed, that antitrust analyses should be more focused on dynamic, rather than static effects, and that, despite the latter point, antitrust authorities routinely try and fail to integrate dynamic effects into antitrust law. She was clear up front that her views did not necessarily match those of her fellow commissioners. First, Wilson reiterated the ideas expressed in her May 28 op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, which she summarized by saying that U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California Judge Lucy Koh’s opinion in the FTC v. Qualcomm case “creates bad law and bad policy.” Wilson explained that Koh in her lengthy analysis took the opportunity to “radically expand a company’s legal obligation to help its competitors” by reviving a “discredited” 1985 Supreme Court case, Aspen Skiing Co. v. Aspen Highlands Skiing Corp. “My opposition to the court’s opinion does not stem from any desire to help or protect Qualcomm,” Wilson said. “I am focused on applying and preserving sound antitrust principles and this decision scares me.”

Antitrust Experts Characterize FTC v. Qualcomm Decision as Mangling of Sherman Act’s Section 2

Judge Douglas Ginsburg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Professor Joshua Wright, and attorney Lindsey Edwards of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, have condemned the decision in FTC v. Qualcomm Inc. (N.D. Cal. May 21, 2019) in the George Mason University Law & Economics Research Paper Series. In their paper, “Section 2 Mangled: FTC v. Qualcomm on the Duty to Deal, Price Squeezes, and Exclusive Dealing,” the authors characterize the decision as being a part of “the misguided trend of using antitrust law to intervene in contract disputes between sophisticated parties negotiating over intellectual property rights.”

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.