Posts Tagged: "FRAND"

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”].

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.

P.S., I Don’t Love You: UK Court Delivers Blow to Apple in FRAND Fight with Optis But Laments ‘Dysfunctional’ SEP Dispute System

The England and Wales Court of Appeal this morning said that Optis Cellular Technology is entitled to an injunction before a lower court has set fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms for a license to Optis’ standard essential patents (SEPs) if Apple refuses to take a court-determined FRAND license. But in a post script to the ruling, Lord Justice Arnold said both Apple’s appeal and Optis’s cross-appeal “illustrate yet again the dysfunctional state of the current system for determining SEP/FRAND disputes” and that the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and other standards development organizaitons (SDOs) should “make legally-enforceable arbitration of such disputes part of their IPR policies” to curb the problem.

IEEE Approves Pro-Patent Holder Policy Updates

On Friday afternoon, the IEEE Standards Association Board of Governors (IEEE SA BOG) announced they had taken action to update the Patent Policy for IEEE standards development. The updates, which will not go into effect until January 1, 2023, appear at first glance to be minimal, but will likely have an extraordinarily positive impact for patent owners.

Worldwide Litigation of SEPs: Piecemeal Remedies for SEP Infringement Across the World

Technological standards promulgated by standards-setting organizations (SSOs) have greatly advanced the state of consumer technologies in areas like wireless communications. However, when dealing with infringing standards implementers, the remedies that one system of national courts provides can vary widely from another system. Navigating this complex system of global litigation and competing remedies against infringers was the subject of “Worldwide Litigation of SEPs: What the FRAND is Going On?,” a panel taking place on the third and final day of IPWatchdog LIVE 2022.

The Way FRAND Concepts are Applied in Other Sectors Illustrates the U.S. Government’s Orwellian View of Patent Rights

A while back, we set up an email alert to advise us of any legal developments involving fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licensing. Somewhat to our surprise, the notion of requiring FRAND terms and conditions for obtaining access to the otherwise exclusive property rights of others is not limited to patents essential to industry standards. Rather, FRAND licensing concepts, or minor variations thereof (e.g. “just, reasonable and nondiscriminatory”), appear in government regulation of stockyards (see 7 USC §208), vehicular air pollution information (see California’s Health and Safety Code §43105.5 (7)), and airports (see La. R.S. §1:135.1), to name a few.

Kudos to USPTO, DOJ, NIST for Abandoning a Bad Draft, but Future Remains Murky for SEP Holders

In a recent surprise decision, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology officially withdrew their 2019 Policy Statement on Remedies for Standards-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary F/RAND Commitments and declined to advance an alternative policy statement as a replacement. While the withdrawal of the 2019 policy statement was seen as a foregone conclusion (given the far more SEP-restrictive nature of a December 2021 draft policy statement (DPS) circulated by the agencies), moving forward without any guidance was not on anyone’s DOJ policy bingo card for 2022. The slim guidance that this withdrawal announcement does provide, however, paints a murky picture for the ability of SEP holders to obtain injunctive relief.

Announcements on Withdrawal of SEP Policy Statements Lack Clarity and Leave Patent Owners Guessing

As was recently reported by IPWatchdog (here and here), the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST), and the U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division (DOJ) issued a statement on June 8 withdrawing the December 19, 2019 Policy Statement on Remedies for Standards-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary F/RAND Commitments (2019 Policy Statement). A footnote to the statement further provides that “the agencies do not reinstate the January 8, 2013, Policy Statement on Remedies for Standards-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary F/RAND Commitments issued by the DOJ and the USPTO.” Curiously, this statement makes no mention of the 2021 Draft Policy Statement on Remedies for Standards-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary F/RAND Commitments (2021 Draft Policy Statement), which draft statement was criticized by a broad cross-section of industry participants for a variety of different reasons. Regardless, our question is simply this: why did the 2019 Policy Statement need to be withdrawn instead of simply not proceeding with the 2021 Draft Policy Statement or, alternatively, modifying those portions of the 2019 Policy Statement that the agencies did not agree with? By throwing the baby out with the bath water, patent owners are now left to guess where the agencies stand on such issues.

The Biden Administration’s Neutrality Position on SEP Remedies is a Good Move

On June 8, the Biden Administration announced a detente on the issue of standard essential patents (SEPs) through coordinated statements made by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Department of Justice Antitrust Division, and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The casual reader, or reader who only quickly glanced at the headlines, might be mistaken into believing the Biden Administration had declared war on SEP owners due to the Administration rescinding the 2019 Joint Policy Statement between the USPTO, DOJ and NIST that was biased in favor of the possibility of SEPs being like any other patent, with remedies for infringement possibly including injunctive relief. Those familiar with Administration’s efforts on SEPs will recall that a 2021 draft policy statement had been published, which swung heavily against patent owners and resurrected the debunked myth that patent owners engage in hold-up activities.

Examining the Confounding Public Interest Statement by the FTC in a Recent ITC Investigation

On May 17, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) submitted to Lisa Barton, Secretary of the International Trade Commission (ITC), a statement they believed was relevant to the public interest considerations before the Commission in a matter involving certain UMTS and LTE cellular communication modules (337-TA-1240). The ITC in many cases will invite statements on the Public Interest, and the FTC is often invited to make a submission. It should be noted, however,  “Public Interest” in the ITC is a matter of statute, and there are four public interest factors which are statutory. Any statement in the Public Interest must address one or more of those factors. Other matters not within the statute are not public interest factors.

More Bipartisan Support from Congress for Restoring 2019 SEP Policy Statement

Two bipartisan members of congress, Representative Scott Peters (D-CA) and Representative Bill Posey (R-FL), sent a letter yesterday to President Joe Biden urging him to maintain the 2019 version of the  Joint Department of Justice (DOJ)-U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)-National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Policy Statement on Remedies for Standards-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary FRAND Commitments. A comment period on the latest iteration, which was issued in 2021, ended on February 4. The new version of the Statement came on the heels of President Joe Biden’s July 2021 Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, which asked the three agencies to review the 2019 statement.

Senators Rubio, Tillis, Cotton Warn Attorney General Merrick Garland Against Revising SEP Policy

The DOJ should refrain from taking any steps that would make it more difficult for Americans to innovate amid fierce competition abroad. Further challenges to American innovation will jeopardize national security by disadvantaging and ceding U.S. technological leadership to China and other foreign competitors actively looking to displace the United States as the world leader in critical technologies.

Fifth Circuit Says Auto Parts Suppliers Have No Article III Standing to Bring Antitrust Claims Against SEP Holders

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Monday vacated and remanded a district court decision that had dismissed Continental Automotive Systems, Inc.’s suit against several standard-essential patent holders and their licensing agent, claiming violations of federal antitrust law and state law. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas dismissed with prejudice Continental’s Sherman Act claims for lack of antitrust standing and, alternatively, for failure to plausibly plead certain elements. Continental appealed, but the Fifth Circuit said Continental’s claims should have been dismissed for lack of Article III standing because it had not proven that the SEP holders had “denied Continental property to which it was entitled and that Continental thereby suffered a cognizable injury in fact.”

Big Tech and China, Inc. Rejoice in DOJ Draft SEP Policy Statement and FTC Speech

Last summer, I lamented how the Department of Justice – Antitrust Division (DOJ), without Senate confirmed leadership, was hastily pushing through policies that augmented the already-enormous power of Big Tech and benefitted China’s interests. Similarly, I uncovered how the App Association, a Big Tech-funded advocacy organization masquerading as a group of small app developers, was able to trick the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) into inviting it to speak at its July 2021 Commission meeting alongside legitimate small businesses. This is the same association that supported Apple in its litigation against (real) app developers, issued a June 2021 press release against the House bills aimed at regulating Big Tech, and misses no opportunity to support Big Tech interests.