Posts Tagged: "Licensing"

CAFC Emphasizes the Importance of Contract Principles in Arbitrability Determination

On November 12, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) affirmed the decision of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California that compelled arbitration and dismissed Rohm Semiconductor USA’s declaratory judgment action without prejudice, holding that an arbitrator must determine arbitrability. In 2007, Rohm Japan and MaxPower Semiconductor entered into a technology licensing agreement (TLA). According to the TLA, Rohm Japan and its subsidiaries were permitted to use certain power-related technologies of MaxPower developed under a Development and Stock Purchase Agreement in exchange for royalties paid to MaxPower. In 2011, the TLA was amended to include an agreement to arbitrate “any dispute, controversy, or claims arising out of or in relation to this Agreement or at law, or the breach, termination, or validity thereof.” Further, the amendments provide that arbitration must be conducted “in accordance with the provisions of the California Code of Civil Procedure (CCCP).”

Judge Upholds UK Power to Set FRAND Terms

A judge has affirmed the ability of the UK courts to settle FRAND terms of a patent license covering foreign patents, despite the defendants challenging the court’s jurisdiction. But in his judgment, published on November 4 20201, His Honour Judge Hacon noted that the current framework for settling a global license between owners of standard essential patents (SEPs) and implementers “is plainly not satisfactory.” He explained: “[I]t does encourage expensive parallel litigation in several jurisdictions and more uncertainty than is necessary. I doubt that it can be sustained in the long term.” The case is one of many that SEP owners have brought before the courts since the UK Supreme Court judgment in the Unwired Planet and Conversant litigation established English courts’ jurisdiction to set global FRAND terms in August 2020.

The Use of ‘For the Avoidance of Doubt’ in IP License Agreements: Please Stop!

The phrase “for the avoidance of doubt” must be a Microsoft Word shortcut that comes standard in some legal IT package. Why do we say that? Well, we recently received an IP licensing agreement from an attorney working at a large law firm located in a large city, serving a large client, and presumably charging a large hourly fee. It seemed as though every 50th word in the agreement was “for the avoidance of doubt.” Now, this is not a personal attack on this particular attorney or law firm. We have seen the phrase used way too often and do not understand why. Perhaps this is just a phrase that makes agreements sound more legalese or maybe the attorneys in question think it makes certain provisions in the agreement more “airtight?” Nonetheless, we ask all of you to please stop!

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.

The Role of Standard-Essential Patents for the Auto Industry

Most market experts predict dramatic changes in the auto industry because of shifting consumer preferences, new business models and emerging markets. The sector also looks set to be heavily affected by new sustainability and environmental policy changes, as well as by upcoming regulations on security issues. These forces are predicted to give rise to disruptive technology trends, such as driverless vehicles, electrification and interconnectivity. Forecast studies posit that the smart car of the near future will be constantly exchanging information with its environment. Car-to-X or car-to-car communication systems will enable communication between cars, roadsides and infrastructure, while mechanical elements will soon be embedded into computing systems within the internet infrastructure. The auto industry is one of the first sectors to rely on Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, which connect devices, machines, buildings and other items with electronics, software or sensors. Interconnectivity across multiple vehicle parts and units relies on the specification of technology standards such as 4G or 5G, Wi-Fi, video compression (HEVC/VVC), Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) and Near Field Communication (NFC) or the wireless charging Qi standard to name a few.

CAFC Affirms Northern District of California on Interlocutory Appeal in Micron Infringement Suit

On August 26, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) affirmed the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California’s decision in an interlocutory appeal brought by MLC Intellectual Property, LLC (MLC) regarding orders that precluded certain opinions of MLC’s damages expert in its infringement suit against Micron Technology, Inc. (Micron). The orders precluded the expert from 1) characterizing specific license agreements as reflecting a 0.25% royalty; 2) discussing a reasonable royalty rate when MLC failed to provide essential information and documents related to its damages theory when requested prior to expert discovery; and 3) discussing the royalty base and rate because the expert did not apportion for non-patented features.

HEVC Royalty Stacking and Uncertainty Threaten VVC Adoption

he Versatile Video Coding standard (VVC), finalized in 2020, is now entering a fragmented, multi-codec market. However, VVC’s adoption is uncertain in the face of competitive video solutions that are subject to lower or no royalties. VVC owes thanks for this to the excessive royalties and licensing uncertainties that continue to plague VVC’s predecessor, HEVC. Over the past five years, the formation of multiple pools for HEVC has led to licensing inefficiencies and royalty stacking that have hampered HEVC’s adoption. This has prompted the video industry to develop competitive, lower cost solutions, such as the Alliance for Open Media’s Advance Video 1 codec (AV1) and MPEG’s Essential Video Codec (EVC) and Low Complexity Enhancement Video Coding (LCEVC) standards. These video solutions, together with the already existing AVC and HEVC standards, provide a lot of choices to device manufacturers, streaming platforms, and content owners. VVC’s chances of success are further weakened by the dramatic decreases in broadband download, shown below, and video storage costs, which negate any gains in compression efficiency generated by VVC for most uses.

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.

FRAND Royalty Base Statements and Cellular Wireless Standard Essential Patents: A Reply to a Responsive Article

In a previous series of articles that were published on IPWatchdog, we analyzed and categorized various fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND)-related statements made by a variety of entities, including those that are primarily licensors of Standard Essential Patents (SEPs), those who sell network equipment products or components and who are also significant licensors of SEPs, those who sell end user products and who are significant licensees of SEPs, an association focused on FRAND policy development, and a patent pool. One of those articles considered statements made in relation to the appropriate royalty base to which FRAND licensing rates should be applied, with one camp apparently favoring use of the end product and another clearly favoring using a component thereof (oftentimes referred to as the smallest saleable patent practicing unit, or “SSPPU”). Conscious of the fact that there is a wide range of opinions on issues related to FRAND licensing, we intentionally chose to avoid putting forth any subjective views as to the way things should be, instead choosing to simply report such statements, highlight the main differences, and sprinkle in some FRAND-related decisions and court guidelines that appeared relevant, and sometimes contradictory, to such statements. Despite our approach, a recent responsive article, “The SSPPU is the Appropriate Royalty Base for FRAND Royalties for Cellular SEPs,”accuses us of “fail[ing] to present a balanced view” and supporting the extraction of “excessive revenues for SEP patent owners”.

Standard Essential Patents and Legal Risks Across Industries

The next industrial revolution will not only impact the smartphone and computer world but will spread to many more industrial verticals. Automotive, manufacturing, energy, health care, and MedTech are among the industries most likely to be impacted by connectivity, as they have high-value equipment that is constantly networked and needs to handle massive amounts of data. Standards such as 5G or Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) will connect industrial machinery and robots allowing for remote control, monitoring, and repair, as well as industrial automation. From smart grids to drone control, energy and utility, companies will rely on standards to handle massive data. Connectivity standards will be used by hospitals and medical equipment manufacturers to provide data to a variety of tablets and fixed machines, as well as to enable remote surgery. Enhanced monitoring and automation are likely to assist industries as diverse as agriculture and finance. Online shops will increasingly turn to virtual reality experiences. 5G based tracking will emerge in the logistic sector. Edge computing and low latency of 5G and the improved compression of the versatile video coding (VVC) standard will be used in the gaming business, as well as in general augmented and virtual reality applications. As transportation operators rely on connectivity standards to connect smart city infrastructure, media companies will boost mobile streaming speeds and quality. Over the next few years, when advanced cellular, wireless and video standards replace existing protocols, these developments will occur swiftly.

SEP Litigation Trends: What Does the Data Say?

Standard-essential patents (SEPs) are on the rise as the number of yearly newly declared patents has almost tripled over the past five years; there were 6,457 net new declared patent families in 2015 compared to 17,623 yearly net new declared patent families in 2020 (see figure 1). The 5G standard alone counts over 150,000 declared patents since 2015. Similarly, litigation around SEPs has increased. One of the driving factors of recent patent litigation is, on the one hand, the sharply increasing number of SEP filings, and on the other, the shift from connectivity standards (e.g. 4G/5G, Wi-Fi) mostly incorporated in computers, smart phones, and tablets to new industry applications where standards are implemented in connected vehicles, smart homes, smart factories, smart energy and/or healthcare applications.

A Standard Essential Patent Valuation Perspective on Ericsson v. Samsung

As the battle over the adequate forum for Ericsson v. Samsung continues, the question arises as to how the court will eventually deal with the valuation of the standard essential patents (SEPs) at stake. Here, the U.S. courts are at an advantage. After all, the United States has from the outset illustrated global thought leadership on the valuation of SEPs. Historically, courts have accepted two principal methods to determine the value of SEPs: the Comparable Licenses Approach and the Top Down Approach. These methods have come to be seen as compatible with the Georgia Pacific Criteria, which set out the core valuation principles in the United States and, increasingly so, even beyond U.S. borders.

Industry Comments on Proposed Changes to Bayh-Dole Regulations Zero in on March-In Language

On January 12, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) published a request for comments on proposed changes to regulations that support the University and Small Business Patent Procedures Act of 1980, which is more commonly known as the Bayh-Dole Act. At the time, NIST explained that this important update to Bayh-Dole represents a key element of the Return on Investment Initiative, which seeks to maximize American innovation arising from the federal government’s more than $150 billion annual investment in research and development. Monday, April 5, was the deadline to submit comments to NIST on the proposed rule revisions. Below are a handful of excerpts to comments submitted, together with links to the full text of the comments.

Stand Up to the Attacks on Our Tech Transfer System

It’s hard to believe that, not too long ago, alliances between the public and private sectors were unheard of unless the government was picking up the entire tab. After World War II, the policy was that if the government funded even a small percentage of the research, it would take any resulting inventions away from those who created them to make the discovery readily available to anyone and everyone. While that might sound noble, it was a death knell for commercialization because then, like now, these discoveries required significant private sector effort and investment to turn into commercial products. The result was that not only were few government funded inventions ever developed, but even worse, companies avoided alliances with government funded institutions.

The Fairness of FRAND: Patent Pools, SSO Policies and the Way Forward

Standard Essential Patents (SEPs), as the name suggests, are an essential set of patents used for the implementation of a standardized technology. This set of patents renders it impossible to implement or operate standard-compliant equipment without infringement. Does that mean every patent declared by any company is essential? In a word, no. This article intends to address this aspect in detail and pave way for licensees to save costs and pay for what they use in their implementations.