1. Jorge Contreras has posted a paper on ssrn titled Taking it to the Limit: Shifting U.S. Antitrust Policy Toward Standards Development, Minnesota L. Rev. Headnotes (2018, forthcoming). Here is a link, and here is the abstract:
In November 2017, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, chief of the Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division, gave a speech at University of Southern California provocatively entitled “Take it to the Limit: Respecting Innovation Incentives in the Application of Antitrust Law”. In this speech, Mr. Delrahim announced a new DOJ policy approach to the antitrust analysis of collaborative standard setting and standards-development organizations (SDOs) -- the trade associations and other groups in which industry participants cooperate to develop interoperability standards such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 4G and 5G, USB and the like. He explained that the DOJ had “strayed too far” in its focus on single firm conduct concerning standards, particularly the assertion of patents essential to the implementation of standards in technology products (“standards-essential patents” or “SEPs”), and that antitrust authorities should be more concerned with potential collusion by competitors within SDOs (i.e., an apparent shift in doctrinal focus from unilateral conduct under Section 2 of the Sherman Act to concerted action under Section 1 of the Sherman Act). One commentator described the DOJ policy shift announced by Mr. Delrahim as “a 180 degree turn” on SEP issues. The new policy also seems to put the enforcement priorities of the Antitrust Division at odds with those of the other principal U.S. antitrust enforcement agency, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and jeopardizes reliance of a long line of DOJ Business Review Letters outlining acceptable approaches to conduct such as forming patent pools. This article analyzes the contours of the emerging divide among U.S. antitrust agencies, as well as reactions to the “Take it to the Limit Speech” by industry, academics and Mr. Delrahim’s subsequent public statements.2. Professor Contreras also has posted a paper titled Global Rate-Setting: A Solution for Standards-Essential Patents?, forthcoming in the Washington Law Review. Here is a link, and here is the abstract:
The commitment to license patents that are essential to technical interoperability standards on terms that are fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) is a fundamental mechanism that enables standards to be developed collaboratively by groups of competitors. Yet disagreements over FRAND royalty rates continue to bedevil participants in global technology markets. Allegations of opportunistic hold-up and hold-out continue to arise, spurring competition authorities to investigate and intervene in private standard-setting. And litigation regarding compliance with FRAND commitments has led an increasing number of courts around the world to adjudicate FRAND royalty rates, often on a global basis, but using very different methodologies and doctrinal approaches. The issues affecting the FRAND licensing system can be summarized as deficiencies in transparency, consistency and comprehensiveness. Together, these issues reduce the overall fairness and accuracy of the system and result in excess administrative and transactional costs. This article, for the first time, lays out a roadmap for the establishment of an expert FRAND rate-setting tribunal that promotes the tripartite goals of transparency, consistency and comprehensiveness. This tribunal is modelled on the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board and similar rate-setting agencies, though it is envisioned not as a governmental body, but an international non-governmental organization. It is hoped that such a tribunal will bring greater predictability and stability to the technology development ecosystem while reducing inefficient litigation.