This week’s news headlines include nomination hearings for the potential incoming U.S. Commerce Secretary, the Supreme Court’s granting certiorari for an important case in biologics, a patent infringement suit targeting the NFL, the expiration of copyright protecting the works of a very influential science fiction author from the early 20th century, and another sports figure — this time UFC Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor — filing trademark applications.
The fine on Qualcomm is for allegedly refusing to license standard essential patents to competing companies on fair and reasonable terms. According to the Korean authorities, Qualcomm’s actions amounted to coercion for the purpose of strengthening its monopolistic power in the patent license market and chipset market… Not surprisingly, Qualcomm vehemently disagrees with the assertions made in the press release, has pointed out that a final written decision is not generally expected after an announcement like this for another 4 to 6 months, and promises to aggressively appeal… Rosenberg explained that Qualcomm was repeatedly denied access to documents and the right question witnesses, rights that are guaranteed to U.S. companies under the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.
The message is being received by patent owners around the world, including those with large U.S. patent portfolios, that China is a reasonable and fair place to resolve patent disputes… Aside from any anecdotal evidence and cultural bias theories, it is also hard to ignore the reality playing out inside the Chinese IP courts. Foreign patent holders have been having a great deal of luck in China’s IP courts, at least at the courthouse situated in Beijing… If these patent granting and litigation trends continue, we could be left with the rather mind-numbing conclusion that China, a country ruled by a communist government, has a more robust innovation protection regime than the United States, an ostensibly capitalist country that doesn’t seem to see the virtue in protecting the rights of innovators.
Another regulatory issue other than antitrust thatis likely to surface during review of the AT&T-Time Warner merger is zero rating, or the practice of providing content for free to consumers on a network. The way that the FCC has implemented net neutrality certainly would indicate that zero rating would likely be regulated at some point, even though it would do so to the likely detriment of the American consumer… This June, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler indicated that the investigation into zero rating practices was ongoing. In mid-October, a group of 76 organizations signed another letter urging the FCC to issue rules making zero rating illegal, so the momentum in this area looks like it’s increasing.
The IP Licensing Guidelines, which state the agencies’ antitrust enforcement policy with respect to the licensing of intellectual property protected by patent, copyright, and trade secret law and of know-how, were issued in 1995 and are now being updated. In the agencies’ view, the IP Licensing Guidelines remain soundly grounded, as a matter of antitrust law and economics. Nevertheless, the agencies have determined that some revisions are in order because the IP Licensing Guidelines should accurately reflect intervening changes in statutory and case law.
Google, the Internet software and services arm of Alphabet Inc. (NASDAG:GOOGL), offers a tremendously valuable portal to the wider Internet through its flagship search engine service. One of the more popular aspects of Google’s search engine is the image search features; as of July 2010, Google’s image search was delivering one billion pageviews per day to the company and 10…
Regulators face a twofold challenge: First, they need to balance the legitimate interests of patent holders and licensees in order to determine which activities and contracts the law will enforce, or otherwise recognize as creating legal rights. Second, they need to establish rules that minimize both the costs of assessing a given case, and the costs of taking wrong decisions. One traditional approach has been to use antitrust law.
The FTC’s complaint alleges that Endo paid the first generic companies that filed for FDA approval – Impax Laboratories, Inc. and Watson Laboratories, Inc. – to eliminate the risk of competition for Opana ER and Lidoderm, in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act. The FTC is asking the district court to declare that the defendants’ conduct violates the antitrust laws, and further seeking an order that the companies disgorge their ill-gotten gains. Of course, the FTC asks for a permanent bar to prevent the companies from engaging in similar anticompetitive behavior in the future.
When patents were brought up in the hearing, however, it seemed to focus mainly on their effects in the pharmaceutical world. Ramirez’s prepared remarks for the hearing touched on pay for delay in pharmaceutical patent infringement settlements, and she noted that the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2013 decision in Federal Trade Commission v. Actavis has given the FTC a greater capacity to challenge pay for delay schemes in court. Ramirez also stated that a report on the FTC investigation into patent assertion entities (PAEs) will be made available sometime this spring.
Pharmaceuticals is the industry sector where a strong patent system, promising substantial returns to successful innovation, is of paramount importance. Regrettably, the weakening of pharmaceutical patent rights through legislative means and antitrust lawsuits is symptomatic of a broader and more general policy attack that antitrust enforcers have directed against patents in recent years. Antitrust enforcers and legislators clearly need a few remedial lessons in the economics of innovation before their myopic meddling cripples the (up-to-now) highly successful American pharmaceutical sector and other key U.S. industries, which have stood as a testament to the value of strong patent rights.
The number of these potentially anticompetitive deals has fallen significantly following the Supreme Court’s landmark antitrust decision in FTC v. Actavis in 2013. The total number of such deals filed with the FTC has dropped to 21 in FY 2014 from 29 in FY 2013, and 40 in FY 2012 prior to the Actavis ruling. The FTC staff report for FY 2014 represents the first annual snapshot of such deals following the Actavis decision.
Both Korea and China are major players on the global patent stage, and the leading companies of these countries file and obtain thousands of patents annually. But it seems increasingly clear that the governments of these countries are attempting to support their domestic companies via antitrust enforcement to lower the price of access to patented technologies of foreign competitors.
On June 26, the Third Circuit held that payment includes more than just cash transfers. Judge Scirica, in a unanimous decision, wrote that Glaxo’s promise to Teva not to introduce an authorized generic version of epilepsy-and-bipolar-disorder-treating Lamictal was an “unusual, unexplained reverse transfer of considerable value.” And the court held that this transfer could “give rise to the inference that it is a payment to eliminate the risk of competition.”
The FTC is seeking a court judgment declaring that the defendants’ conduct violates the FTC Act, ordering the companies to disgorge their ill-gotten gains, and permanently barring them from engaging in similar anticompetitive behavior in the future. At issue in the alleged sham patent infringement suit is an ingredient in branded AndroGel, called isopropyl myristate or IPM. IPM is known as a “penetration enhancer” because it speeds the delivery of the drug’s active ingredient, testosterone, through the skin and into the bloodstream. The patent on branded AndroGel covers only a formulation using IPM as the penetration enhancer, according to the FTC complaint.
First, the Actavis decision is not limited to cash. The case itself involved not cash payments, but brand overpayments for generic services. In addition, the Supreme Court’s assertions on payments encompassed value from a generic’s reprieve from competition during its 180-day exclusivity period, as this period “can prove valuable, possibly ‘worth several hundred million dollars.’” Antitrust law makes clear that economic substance—not form—matters. And it does not make economic sense to apply Actavis to preclude antitrust scrutiny where, instead of overpaying for services, the brand pays the generic with real estate, gives the generic a lucrative business deal for free, or agrees not to launch its own generic version (known as an “authorized generic”).