Posts in Licensing

Licensor Beware: Copyright Protections in Peril

Companies rely on copyright protections to shield their software, data sets, and other works that are licensed to their customers; however, a reframing of what constitutes a “transformative use,” and the extent a license can restrict such fair uses, may whittle away all avenues of protections. On October 22, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments for Andy Warhol Foundation v. Goldsmith. The question before the Court is where does a copyright holder’s right to create derivative works stop and “fair use” of the work begin? Companies that license data sets or data feeds should pay close attention, as the Court’s decision could narrow contractual remedies. 

U.S. Chamber Warns Global Wave of Anti-IP Policy Proposals May Be Slowing IP Progress

The Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC) of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued its 11th annual International IP Index today, striking what seems like a more dismal tone than usual compared with past reports. While 18 economies saw modest progress on IP protection improvements, 28 economies, including many of the high-scorers, like the United States and the United Kingdom, had a 0% change in score. Only two countries had a 0% change in the 10th edition of the Index. The Index covers 55 economies that represent “most of the global economic output, together contributing over 90% of global GDP.”

Why Voluntary Licensing is Best for Increasing Access to Medicines

When it comes to how to best increase access to medicines in l0w and middle-income countries (LMICs), compulsory licensing gets most of the attention. Academic articles, non-governmental organization (NGO) campaigns, conferences and United Nations (UN)-endorsed technical symposia assert it is the best approach. Certain World Trade Organization (WTO) members are pushing for COVID-19 treatments and diagnostics to be included in the waiver of intellectual property rights under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of IP Rights (TRIPs waiver), which revolves around compulsory licensing. Brazil has recently amended its IP laws to make compulsory licensing easier. Despite its high political profile, compulsory licensing has rarely been used (mainly by a handful African countries in the mid 2000s to address the HIV pandemic). Even then, IP-respecting treatments available from global procurement bodies have proven cheaper. No country has yet seen the need for a compulsory license for a COVID vaccine.

SEP Battles in Europe, 2022: Fair, Reasonable and—Unlike the Whisky Wars—Not Over Yet

The past year has proven a difficult one for many. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the death of the UK’s longest reigning monarch are among the things for which the year will be remembered. But amid those dark days, one less known event shines like a tiny candle of hope: the end of the Whisky War. For 50 years, Canada and Denmark have been in dispute over the ownership of Hans Island: a battle in which the principal weapons have been strong drink and a sense of humor….. The standard essential patent (SEP) wars may feel like they have been going on for almost as long as the Whisky war. They are not as close to resolution, but 2022 has seen some progress.

The Top U.S. FRAND / RAND Licensing Developments of 2022: Policy Statements, Patent Pools and IEEE Changes

While 2022 was somewhat less eventful than 2021 in terms of significant developments in fair/reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND/RAND) licensing occurring in the United States, the past year still did not disappoint and underscores the continued and growing interest from government in the standards related patents space. In 2022, the most progress was made on matters and issues we wrote about last year: i.e. government policy developments, Continental v. Avanci, the IEEE’s standards-related Patent Policy, and Ericsson v. Apple / Apple v. Ericsson  (see here and here)

Bringing Unwilling Licensors to the Table

Some months ago, two courts in Germany granted injunctions against Oppo, one based on a standard essential patent (SEP), and another on a non-SEP related to Wi-Fi. Rather than cave to the demands of Nokia, Oppo has since decided to pull its products out of the German market. Since then, some commentators have claimed that this is another example of so-called “implementers” engaging in hold out. They point to the need for strong injunctive relief in order to force these “unwilling” licensees to the table.

What Unauthorized Manipulation of Starlink Signals Teaches Us About the Importance of IP

Starlink signals can be manipulated. In fact, they already have been, by unauthorized third parties. The agents are proclaiming their success and letting the world know that there is nothing Starlink can do about it. I’m inclined to agree. A professor at the University of Texas has found a way to use Starlink signals to develop a new global navigation technology that would operate independently of GPS or its European, Russian, and Chinese equivalents (Starlink’s terminals have also been successfully hacked, but that’s a different issue. This article deals with the unauthorized usage and alteration of the Starlink signals).

Patent Experts Urge Kanter to Reject Calls to Scrap Avanci Business Review Letter

A group of 25 experts in intellectual property law sent a letter to Assistant Attorney General (AAG) Jonathan Kanter today in support of a business review letter that the group said, “represented a legally sound and evidence-based approach in applying antitrust law to innovative commercial institutions.” The letter is also a response to an earlier letter sent to Kanter on October 17, 2022, by 28 former government enforcement officials, professors, and public interest advocates that urged the AAG to reconsider the business review letter. The Avanci business review letter was published by the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice on July 28, 2020. In the letter, the DOJ said that Avanci’s licensing platform, which plans to license patent claims declared essential to implement 5G in cars, did not harm competition in the industry. Business review letters represent guidance by the DOJ to inform businesses how to best coordinate their practices to ensure they don’t violate antitrust laws.

USPTO, Copyright Office Joint Study on NFTs Could Help Dispel Confusion About IP Ownership in Media Content Underlying Digital Assets

On November 23, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the U.S. Copyright Office published a joint notice of inquiry in the Federal Register announcing that the two agencies would be collaborating on a study regarding intellectual property legal issues related to digital assets known as non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The announcement follows the dramatic rise in mainstream attention on NFTs due to their wildly fluctuating value, which has in turn created a great amount of confusion surrounding IP rights to NFTs and the underlying digital files used to create them.

Are Your IP License Agreements Undervalued? What to Consider Before Starting a Forensic Royalty Audit

Companies that license intellectual property may not realize they are leaving money on the table in royalty underpayments and calculation errors made by their licensees. Forensic royalty audits can identify issues and correct royalty underpayments and IP valuations, but there are many aspects, not just financial, to consider. Beyond the costs and benefits associated with conducting a royalty audit, it’s also important to understand why and how licensees underreport and underpay royalties, and the key terms to scrutinize in your licensing agreement.

How French and California Contract Law Would Interpret SEP Patent Owner Obligations Under the ETSI Licensing Declaration

In the United States, the issue of whether or not one has complied with a licensing-related commitment made to a standards setting organization is often treated as a matter of contract. As we have written about before (here and here), some implementers wish to interpret such commitments so as not to lose entitlement to fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licenses despite not negotiating in good faith or, as we like to say, to have their FRAND cake and eat it too. In a recently prepared article, we explore how such an interpretation lines up with basic contract law principles, particularly having reference to the language of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute’s (ETSI) Intellectual Property Rights Information Statement and Licensing Declaration [“the ETSI Licensing Declaration”].

Unauthorized Hamilton Production Underscores Issues with Unlicensed, Infringing Staged Theatrical Productions

This August, the Door Christian Fellowship McAllen Church made some unfortunate headlines after it came to light that the church had produced and staged a performance that made unauthorized use of original works from the blockbuster Broadway musical, Hamilton. By the end of the month, The Door had issued an apology for the unauthorized performances and agreed to pay damages and destroy any recordings of the staged performance in respect of the intellectual property protections of Hamilton’s creators. While this unlicensed and infringing use was quickly dealt with by Hamilton’s legal team, there have been other instances of recalcitrant producers who have only been held accountable for staging unlicensed theatrical works after years of infringement.

SEPs in Europe: From Huawei/ZTE to Apple/Optis, Europe Has Become a Friend to Patentees

During IPWatchdog’s Standards, Patents & Competition Masters 2022 program last week, one panel examined the standard essential patent (SEP) landscape in Europe, which has become decidedly more patent owner friendly than that of the United States in recent years. Beginning with the landmark 2015 decision by the European Court of Justice in Huawei v. ZTE, ([2015] EUECJ C-170/13), European courts have held SEP holders and implementers to account by applying the framework set forth in that ruling, which panelist Inna Dahlin of Valea AB summarized for attendees.

Advice from the SEP Masters: Rely on the Data, Engage with Courts and Regulators, Be Wary of Calls for Special Tribunals

IPWatchdog held its Standards, Patents and Competition Masters ™ 2022 Program this week, November, 14-15, in Ashburn, Virginia, covering topics from how to define “fair reasonable and non-discriminatory” (FRAND) rates to litigating standard essential patents (SEPs) in South America and Europe. Almost all of the panels touched on how courts around the world are viewing the practices of implementers and patent holders in the SEP debate and how standoffs between implementers and patent owners in FRAND cases can be better resolved.

CAFC Delivers Win and Loss for Uniloc in Separate Precedential Rulings on Standing

In a precedential decision issued Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) affirmed a district court decision that Uniloc USA, Inc., Uniloc Luxembourg, S.A. and Uniloc 2017 all lacked standing to sue Motorola and Blackboard for patent infringement because it was collaterally estopped by a previous decision in its case with Apple. But in a separate precedential ruling, the CAFC said Uniloc’s non-exclusive license with Fortress Credit Co, LLC was terminated by agreement prior to Uniloc’s patent suits against Google, eliminating Fortress’ ability to sublicense the patents-in-suit and maintaining standing for Uniloc.