Posts Tagged: "FRAND"

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.

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.

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.

The IEEE IPR Policy Amendments: Strategic Behavior and Feedback Loops

Speaking at IPWatchdog’s Patent Master’s Symposium today, Professor Kristen Osenga of The University of Richmond School of Law gave attendees a glimpse of her upcoming paper examining problems with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers – Standards Association’s (IEEE-SA) 2015 amendment to its intellectual property rights (IPR) policy. In reference to the title of the panel on which she was speaking, “Balance, Transparency & Reasonableness: Converging Approaches to SEP Licenses and FRAND Royalties,” Osenga explained that “balance transparency, and reasonableness simply were not part of the process” by which IEEE adopted the new policy. Osenga’s paper, which is due to be published on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) by the end of 2019, will examine the actions leading up to the adoption of the 2015 amended policy, as well as the aftermath. Below is an abstract of the paper; many of the issues it will touch upon were also covered in Osenga’s 2018 paper, “Ignorance Over Innovation: Why Misunderstanding Standard Setting Organizations Will Hinder Technological Progress.”

Searching for Answers to the Standard Essential Patent Problem

Later this year (likely in October), the United Kingdom’s highest court will hear arguments on questions arising in two disputes concerning standard essential patents (SEPs). The UK Supreme Court has agreed to hear appeals in Unwired Planet International Ltd and another v Huawei Technologies (UK) Co Ltd and another UKSC 2018/0214 and the joined cases Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and another v Conversant Wireless Licensing SARL UKSC 2019/0041 and ZTE Corporation and another v Conversant Wireless Licensing SARL UKSC 2019/0042. The arguments are likely to focus on one question: can a national court impose a global license in SEP cases? The closely watched appeal will be the culmination of years of litigation between the parties. In the Unwired Planet case, Mr. Justice Birss of the High Court heard five trials on the validity and infringement/essentiality of Unwired Planet’s patents. In April 2017, he then gave a mammoth judgment determining what a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) license would be, and setting royalty rates. Critically, he found that only a worldwide license would be FRAND in the circumstances of this case. The England and Wales Court of Appeal upheld this conclusion, in a judgment in October 2018. The Supreme Court will likely sit in a five-judge panel in a hearing that will last about two days and will be live streamed on its website (the date and panel details have not been confirmed yet). It will hand down judgment later this year or early in 2020. (Ironically, patent specialist Lord Kitchin is a member of the Supreme Court but will not be sitting in this case as it is his own judgment that is under appeal.) You might have thought that—after decades of legal debate and academic writing, dozens of judgments addressing questions such as what constitutes a FRAND license and what are reasonable royalties, and extensive discussions between technology companies—the questions around SEPs would be close to being resolved. But that is far from the case. The outcome of the UK Supreme Court hearing, for instance, will have an impact on negotiations between owners of SEP portfolios and implementers worldwide, at a time when standards are set to become critical to many more industries.

Federal Circuit Struggles to Parse SEP Licensing Rates in TCL Communication v. Ericsson

On August 7, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit heard oral arguments in TCL Communication v. Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson, an appeal stemming from an action for declaratory judgment filed by TCL in the Central District of California. Among the various aspects of the district court proceedings being examined on appeal are the fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) rates set by the court for Ericsson’s standard essential patent (SEP) portfolio for cellular technology as well as whether the court abused Ericsson’s Seventh Amendment rights by entering a release payment based on factual issues that weren’t tried by a jury.

Ninth Circuit Told They Should Stay Judge Koh’s Qualcomm Injunction

On July 15, retired Federal Circuit Chief Judge Paul Michel filed an amicus brief in Qualcomm’s appeal of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) antitrust case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The following day, the United States government filed a statement of interest with the appellate court as well. Both parties filed in support of Qualcomm’s request for a partial stay of an injunction handed down this May in the Northern District of California, which requires Qualcomm to license its standard essential patents (SEPs) to modem-chip suppliers after determining that the company’s “no license, no chips” policy violated U.S. antitrust law.

The FTC’s Qualcomm Case Reveals Concerning Divide with DOJ on Patent Hold-Up

On May 2, the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) took the unusual step of submitting a Statement of Interest in the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) case against Qualcomm to take a position contrary to the FTC. The DOJ argued that “[b]ecause an overly broad remedy could result in reduced innovation, with the potential to harm American consumers, this Court should hold a hearing and order additional briefing to determine a proper remedy that protects competition while working minimal harm to public and private interests.” In response, the FTC informed the court that it “did not participate in or request” the DOJ’s filing, that it “disagree[d] with a number of contentions” made by the DOJ, and that the DOJ “misconstrues applicable law and the record.” In the end, the court agreed with the FTC and issued injunctive relief against Qualcomm without conducting the further remedy proceedings the DOJ advocated. The public feuding between the two federal antitrust enforcement agencies about how to resolve a case litigated by one them was a remarkable spectacle. It also brought into focus a broader divide between the FTC and DOJ on the role of antitrust law in addressing patents that are essential to industry standards (SEPs) and subject to commitments to license on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.