Posts Tagged: "SEPs"

Antitrust and Patents: A Conversation with Makan Delrahim

Last week, as a part of the Virtual Patent Masters™ Program hosted by IPWatchdog, I had the opportunity to interview Makan Delrahim, who is Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). During his tenure at the Antitrust Division, AAG Delrahim has moved the policy of the federal government in a direction that is viewed as being more friendly to patent owners and innovators. For example, in December 2018, Delrahim indicated that the Antitrust Division was withdrawing its assent to the to the 2013 joint DOJ-U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Policy Statement on Remedies for Standards-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary F/RAND Commitments (the 2013 Joint Policy Statement) during remarks delivered at the 19th Annual Berkeley-Stanford Advanced Patent Law Institute. It was the Delrahim’s view that patent remedies shouldn’t be unilaterally unavailable for one category of patent simply because the patent owner may be subject to an obligation to engage in fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory negotiations with implementers.

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.”

Clearing Up Confusion on SEPs: A Line-by-Line Response to a Problematic Essay

I recently became frustrated after reading an essay in the AIPLA newsletter by an attorney with Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP on the topic of the new USPTO-DOJ-NIST Joint Policy Statement on Remedies for Standards-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary F/RAND Commitments. I have seldom seen a writing where I disagree with everything a man writes, with the exception of a joke and his name. I took it apart paragraph by paragraph; my comments follow in red, while the author’s original text is in black.

USPTO, DOJ & NIST Issue Joint Policy Statement on Injunctions for Standard Essential Patents

Earlier this afternoon, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division (DOJ), issued a Joint Policy Statement on Remedies for Standards-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary F/RAND Commitments (“2019 Joint Policy Statement”). This Joint Policy Statement explains that “[c]onsistent with the prevailing law… injunctive relief, reasonable…

Ericsson Wins, But CAFC Dodges Whether Offers Were FRAND

Earlier today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a decision in a standard essential patent (SEP) appeal involving Ericsson and TCL Communication Technology—a closely watched case that many hoped would produce some case law relating to what constitutes a FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) offer of a licensing royalty rate relative to SEPs. See TCL Communication Technology Holdings Ltd. V. Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson, No. 2018-1363, 2018-1732 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 5, 2019). Because the Federal Circuit determined that Ericsson was deprived of its constitutional right to a jury trial, the district court decision was reversed, and the case remanded for further proceedings. However, the question of whether Ericsson’s offers to TCL qualified as FRAND offers were not reached by the Federal Circuit.

Netlist Wins ITC Exclusion Order: Will the USPTO Support It?

Several weeks ago, the International Trade Commission (ITC) announced that Chief Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Charles Bullock issued a Notice of Initial Final Determination recommending that certain memory modules manufactured and imported by SK Hynix, Inc. and its subsidiaries should be excluded from importation into the United States. As is common with these announcements, the ITC first released a one-page indication of the decision, which was followed by the redacted full decision once the parties had an opportunity to request redaction of trade secrets and confidential information. The full decision has now been released, and the ITC is asking for comments relating to public interest issues from the parties, interested persons, and other government agencies and departments.

‘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.

UK Supreme Court Rules on Employee Compensation for ‘Outstanding Benefit’ of Invention, Hears Arguments in High-Profile FRAND Cases

A professor is entitled to a payment of £2 million (about $2.5 million) from his former employer due to the “outstanding benefit” from his invention, the UK Supreme Court has ruled. The judgment was handed down on October 23, eight months after the Court heard the case and some 37 years after the invention was conceived. Cases over outstanding benefit in the UK are rare, and the amounts involved relatively small. But this decision by the Supreme Court may embolden inventors to bring more applications for compensation, given the clarification of what constitutes “outstanding benefit,” particularly in the context of large, diverse businesses.

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.

Standard Essential Patents: Statistics and Solutions to the Real Party in Interest Problem

As I noted in part one of my talk at the IPWatchdog Patent Masters Symposium, the validity statistics for SEPs do not look very good at first glance. Thus, according to a 2017 PricewaterhouseCoopers study, plaintiffs in U.S. courts (ignoring patent type) have on average a 33% chance of success—only a 27% chance in the case of telecommunications patents. This chance of success is probably overstated for Standard Essential Patents (SEPs), based on the easy availability of prior art. Indeed, according to RPX’s 2014 study, in the United States, SEPs are likely to be less than half as successful as non-SEPs.In my talk, I pointed to the high invalidation rates in Europe to buttress my point that, at first glance, SEPs seem particularly vulnerable to validity challenges. Thus, in Germany, a supposed nirvana for patent assertion, the authors of the study “Patent Paper Tigers” reviewed the case law of the German Federal Patent Court and the German Federal Court of Justice in nullity matters in the period from 2010 to 2013 and found that: The nullification rate of all Senates of the German Federal Patent Court is 79.08% in total; and the nullification rate at the German Federal Patent Court regarding Software and Telecom patents which are (currently) of particular relevance from an economic point of view is 88.11%. Returning to the point made in the first part of my talk, having noted that most SEP nullification comes from obviousness, and not novelty, there should be no public interest exception to my argument that: unprovoked—that is, without first having made a FRAND offer or counteroffer—serial nullification of SEPs is contrary to the duty to negotiate in good faith and should remove a party’s defense against an injunction to SEPs.

Now, there is a flaw in this theory, and that is that, in the past few years, third parties have emerged that will—for their members or other contracted entities—kill patents.

Standard Essential Patents: Examining and Learning from the European Approach

Standards-declared patents have been challenged in ex parte and post-grant review for years as part of enforcement efforts and other strategies, though the volume of patents declared essential and their largely unlitigated status has limited the appeal of post-grant challenges against them.  One such standard, High-Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC), promises to be the successor to the current H.264 standard used by most streaming visual media.  As all parties seek to clear risk and license as they implement, developing patent pools have been utilizing new strategies for licensing standard-declared patents. Recently, Unified Patents launched an HEVC zone aimed at encouraging adoption and shedding light on the standard-essential patent (SEP) landscape, and has conducted damages studies, landscape models, and analysis of the patent landscape around the HEVC standard. As part of those efforts, Unified has been challenging patents related to the standard. To date, only a handful of litigations have been filed related to HEVC patents. 

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.

Restrictive IP Policies Could Limit Innovation Opportunity

In the wake of fraudulent IP applications from foreign nations—namely China—the United States has recently enacted or called for policies that require foreign entities to complete more thorough IP applications. For instance, in August, we heard about the new USPTO rule requiring all foreign trademark applicants and registrants to be represented by a licensed U.S. attorney when filing. According to the USPTO website, this is intended to “increase USPTO customer compliance with U.S. trademark law and USPTO regulations, improve the accuracy of trademark submissions to the USPTO and safeguard the integrity of the U.S. trademark register.” And then just last week, news broke that the USPTO had issued new instructions requiring trademark examiners to ask applicants for proof of legal residence in the United States to enforce this new rule (note: these instructions have since been rolled back). The reasoning behind these legislations, or proposed legislations, seems to be that by making the IP application process more involved and more challenging, the USPTO will limit the number of foreign IP applications received—and therefore the number of fraudulent applications received. This will undoubtedly work, but is it the right approach?

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.”