Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Upcoming Conference in Bayreuth, Germany

On February 6-7, 2015, Bayreuth University will be hosting a conference titled "Intellectual Property and the Public Domain--Results and Perspectives."  I will be on a panel with Professor Herbert Zech of the University of Basel on the topic "Intellectual Property and Economics--Can You Have One Without the Other?"  I haven't finalized my presentation yet, but I plan to talk a bit on this paper that I presented at the University of Pennsylvania a few years ago, supplemented by some thoughts on whether it is preferable to deal with FRAND/SEP issues (such as the availability of injunctive relief) primarily by means of patent law/patent remedies or competition law or something else--a topic I discuss to some extent in this paper, and have continued to discuss on this blog.  Other speakers include leading European and U.S. IP scholars, and I'd be very happy to meet any of my European readers who happen to be in the area.

Here is a link to the conference agenda. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Update on Ericsson v. Xiaomi SEP Dispute (India)

Spicy IP has a couple of updates (here and here), and a link to another article, on the Ericsson v. Xiaomi patent dispute that I mentioned here last week.  I don't have any further information beyond what I've read in these sources, but apparently Xiaomi will be allowed to sell devices that include chipsets made by Ericsson's licensee Qualcomm, and another hearing is scheduled for January 8.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Some More Recent SEP/FRAND Papers

1. Janusz Ordover and Allan Shampine published a paper titled Implementing the FRAND Commitment in the October 2014 issue of The Antitrust Source, available here.  From the introduction:
For many years, standard-setting organizations (SSOs) have required members to commit to license standard-essential patents (SEPs) on Fair, Reasonable and Non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. How FRAND terms can and should be interpreted has been the subject of extensive debate (as well as litigation in many jurisdictions). While we acknowledge other objectives behind these commitments, we focus here on their role as constraints on the ability of the holders of the SEPs to hold up implementers of such FRAND-encumbered patents, with potential anticompetitive effects.
In this article, we explain why, from a practitioner’s perspective and given the economic goals of FRAND terms, a mere commitment to license on FRAND terms does not ensure that the ex-post negotiations will invariably satisfy the FRAND principles. We then describe when and how we believe FRAND commitments should be enforced to achieve the economic goals of FRAND terms and avoid anticompetitive effects.
2.  The same issue of The Antitrust Source also features an article by Douglas H. Ginsburg, Taylor M. Owings, and Joshua D. Wright titled Enjoining Injunctions:  The Case Against Antitrust Liability for Standard Essential Patent Holders Who Seek Injunctions, available here.  From the introduction:
A standard essential patent (SEP) may give the patent holder market power in the market for an input that technology manufacturers need in order to make their products compatible with each other. Several commentators have argued that, when a patent becomes part of a standard pursuant to an agreement among competitors given in exchange for the patent holder’s promise to license the technology under fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms, antitrust law should limit the holder’s right to seek an injunction to stop an infringing manufacturer from selling its standardized product. We disagree for two reasons: First, antitrust sanctions are not necessary, given the law of contracts and of injunctions, to avoid harm to consumers and, second, the application of antitrust law in this situation could, by undermining the ability of courts to tailor appropriate remedies, diminish the incentives for companies to innovate and for industries to adopt standards.
3.  Elaine Xu has published a student comment titled Brave New Frontier:  Antitrust Implications of Standard-Setting Patents in the Smartphone Market, 32 Wisconsin International Law Journal 384 (2014).  It doesn't appear to be available yet on the journal's website but can be accessed on Westlaw.  From the introduction:
This article discusses two topics. Part I discusses standardization and how antitrust issues can arise as a result of standard essential patents. It introduces the legal framework for antitrust analysis, and gives an  overview of important standard setting cases. Comparing how Europe and the United States have ruled on antitrust violations of standard essential patents provides the framework for analyzing whether Samsung committed antitrust violations in its interactions with standard essential patents.
Part II, using the antitrust analysis, defines how Samsung's patented technology and its substitutes form the relevant market. It discusses Samsung's monopoly power and analyses whether Samsung abused its standing by withholding information regarding its patents from the European Telecommunications Standards Institute during the development of the third generation universal mobile telecommunication system standard.
4.  Philip Maume has a paper on ssrn titled Compulsory Licensing in Germany, which is a chapter in a forthcoming book titled Compulsory Licensing (Reto Hilty and Kung-Chung Liu eds., MPI Studies on Intellectual Property and Competition Law, Vol. 22, Springer).  Here is a link, and here is the abstract:
In the last 20 years, German courts have developed a sophisticated approach to compulsory licensing of patents. Compulsory licences under competition law are of particularly high relevance. In short, German competition law obliges the holder of a patent, which is essential in a standard to grant a licence on terms that are fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND). Users of such patents can also raise a so-called competition law defence against imminent injunction orders. 
The resonance of the German debate in international scholarly literature has remained relatively low, probably because of the language barrier. Most works merely scratch the surface of the particularly complex issues. This paper provides an in-depth analysis of the German legal background and the consequences in practice. It suggests a streamlined, simplified approach to competition-law-based defences.
5.  Gunther Friedl and Christoph Ann have published a paper in the October issue of GRUR titled Entgeltberechnung fur FRAND-Lizenzen an standardessenziellen Patenten ("Calculating FRAND License Fees with respect to Standard Essential Patents").  Here is the abstract (my translation from the German).  I haven't read the paper yet and may have more to say about after I have:
If SEP owners are obligated by competition law to license their patents on FRAND terms, questions remain concerning the terms of such licenses.  Above all is the question of how to calculate the amount of a FRAND-conforming license fee.  Fundamentally, valuation approaches are conceivable that are based on patent usage, but problems present themselves here with respect to complex products such as FRAND-notorious smartphones.  A cost-based assessment for FRAND license fees, such as is common in regulated industries, presents itself as suitable.  Such an approach, based on the total costs of a patent, is sketched in the present essay.   On the one hand, this approach ensures to the patent owner a reasonable rate of return, and on the other preserves the FRAND conformity of the so-determined license fee.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Breaking News: U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Case on Post-Expiration Royalties

Here is the order granting certiorari in Kimble v. Marvel Enterprises, Inc.  The petition for certiorari poses the following question:
Petitioners are individuals who assigned a patent and conveyed other intellectual property rights to Respondent. The court of appeals “reluctantly” held that Respondent, a large business concern, was absolved of its remaining financial obligations to Petitioners because of “a technical detail that both parties regarded as insignificant at the time of the agreement.” App. 2-3; 23. Specifically, because royalty payments under the parties’ contract extended undiminished beyond the expiration date of the assigned patent, Respondent’s obligation to pay was excused under Brulotte v. Thys Co., 379 U.S. 29, 32 (1964), which had held that “a patentee’s use of a royalty agreement that projects beyond the expiration date of the patent is unlawful per se.”
A product of a bygone era, Brulotte is the most widely criticized of this Court’s intellectual property and competition law decisions. Three panels of the courts of appeals (including the panel below), the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission, and virtually every treatise and article in the field have called on this Court to reconsider Brulotte, and to replace its rigid per se prohibition on postexpiration patent royalties with a contextualized rule of reason analysis.
The question presented is: Whether this Court should overrule Brulotte v. Thys Co., 379 U.S. 29 (1964).
I don't want to appear overconfident about the outcome, since only four votes are required to grant cert; but I think it is reasonable to assume that the Court wouldn't have done so (against the wishes of the Solicitor General, no less) unless there was a very good chance of reversal.  As I've noted before (here and here), economic analysis suggests that Brulotte v. Thys was wrongly decided.  It looks to me like Brulotte's days are now numbered.

Indian Court Grants Ex Parte Injunction Against Xiaomi

Earlier this week the SpicyIP Blog published a couple of interesting posts on the availability in India of ex parte injunctions for the alleged infringement of FRAND-encumbered SEPs, one titled Delhi High Court Grants Injunction Against Xiaomi (available here) and another titled FRAND-ly Injunctions from India:  Has Ex Parte Become the "Standard"? (available here).  The authors are not happy about the way the Indian courts thus far have been dealing with the issue.  Within the last 24 hours the Wall Street Journal has published a few articles about the Xiaomi case as well, available here, here, and hereHere is a copy of the Delhi court's order. 
 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

New Book, "Selected Chinese Patent Cases"

A new book that recently came to my attention is Selected Chinese Patent Cases (Dongchuan Luo ed., Haining Song & Seagull Haiyan Song trs., Wolters Kluwer 2014).  Justice Luo is the Chief Judge and President of the Fourth Civil Division of the Supreme People's Court of China.  Mr. Haining Song is a patent attorney based in China, and Dr. Seagull Song is a visiting Associate Professor of Law at Loyola-LA Law School in the U.S.  A full description of the book and the table of contents can be accessed here.  

Of particular interest to readers of this blog are Chapter 19 ("Patentee's Liability for Improper Enforcement of Patent Right") by Judge Yao Bingbing, which discusses a countersuit by Yangzhong City Tongfa Industrial Co. against Yuan Lizhong "for losses caused by the bad faith enforcement of patent right," and Chapter 20 ("Preliminary Injunction Against the Import of a Patented Product") by Judges Sun Hailong and Yao Jianjun, which discusses an action by Ju Li Integrated Chip Design Co. against U.S. SigmaTel Inc. and others.  

In the Yanghzhong case, the owner of a utility model "had clear knowledge that his application was not patentable, but still filed it to get a patent" and "harassed innocent parties in the market."  As a result, the court concluded that the lawsuit was in bad faith and awarded RMB 21,500 to the counterclaimant Yangzhong.  The chapter discusses problems with low-quality patents in China, and states that even if a patent is eventually invalidated, an infringement judgment entered against a defendant usually would not result in the defendant getting its damages back.  (For comparison with certain European countries, see here.)  The chapter goes on to state that, in determining whether a patent owner has committed misuse, a court should consider "various factors, including the abuser's intent, goal and actual damages caused by such abuses" (p.245).  It also recommends the adoption of a requirement that owners of utility models and design patents, which are not subject to rigorous substantive examination prior to grant, file a Pre-Litigation Substantive Examination Report (p.247).

In the Ju Li case, the court set out the factors to be considered in granting a preliminary injunction--that the defendant is infringing or is about to infringe, causing the plaintiff to suffer irreparable harm, and the posting of security.  On the question of infringement, the authors state that "[t]he court shall set a  high standard to determine whether the applicant has proven the likelihood of infringement," albeit in a setting that does not amount to a full trial on the merits (hence the need for adequate security) (p.257).  The authors also list as a fourth element "whether the public interest will be harmed by granting a preliminary injunction," noting however that "there is not much precedent on this point" but that "the court will however make a fact-based analysis to decide this element" (p.258). 

For further discussion on this blog of preliminary injunctions in China, see here, here, here, and here.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Recent Federal Circuit Oral Arguments on Damages

Last Thursday was a busy day for the Federal Circuit.  In addition to issuing an opinion in Ericsson v. D-Link (for my post, see here), a panel consisting of Judges Prost, O'Malley, and Chen heard oral argument in the Apple v. Samsung appeal.  Two big damages issues on appeal are whether section 289 of the U.S. Patent Act requires the disgorgement of the entire profit earned from the sale of a product that infringes a design patent (see here), and whether Apple was entitled to damages for trade dress dilution.  Here is a link to the recording of oral argument, and here is a write-up from the Wall Street Journal. 

In addition, on Monday, December 1, a panel consisting of Judges O'Malley, Clevenger, and Bryson.  heard oral argument in Apotex v. Astrazeneca (for previous posts on this case, see here, here, and here).  Here is a link to the recording of oral argument, and here is a write-up from Law360.  Some interesting discussion of whether damages can be based on "holdup" or switching costs--particularly in response to questions by Judge Bryson who, however, didn't seem to be distinguishing between ex post switching costs (which in my view are the ones that should be considered as holdup costs and shouldn't be reflected in the damages award) and the advantages of the patented invention over alternatives (which should).