Thomas F. Cotter, Erik Hovenkamp and Norman Siebrasse on ‘Switching Costs, Path Dependence and Patent Holdup’

Patent holdup occurs when a patent holder extracts higher royalties ex post than it could have negotiated ex ante, where the difference is not explained by an increase in the technology’s value. To date, the literature principally has focused on—indeed, sometimes conflated—two potential sources of holdup: the sunk costs the user has incurred ex ante to adopt the technology, and the “switching costs” of adopting an alternative ex post. This paper holds that the common source of holdup is neither sunk nor switching costs as such, but rather path dependence – and in particular the opportunistic exploitation of path dependence effects that magnify the value of the patented invention relative to the best available alternative. The paper, which can be found here, is structured as follows: Part II discusses the prior literature on patent holdup, along with the early literature on path dependence. Many commentaries on patent holdup confuse two important concepts – sunk and switching costs. A reader may reasonably…

Gregory J. Werden and Luke M. Froeb ‘Why Patent Hold-Up Does Not Violate Antitrust Law’ (forthcoming, Texas Intellectual Property Law Journal)

As the title indicates, this paper argues that patent hold-up, as courts and commentators define the term, does not undermine the competitive process and thus cannot give rise to a valid antitrust claim, at least in the US. The paper is available here and is structured as follows: Part II describes patent hold-up and sets out the economic framework employed by many antitrust intervention advocates. A relatively recent phenomenon is that important standards are encumbered by many—perhaps thousands—of Standard Essential Patents (SEPs). “Inventors” own SEPs and grant licences to them, while “implementers” manufacture or sell standard-compliant components or devices. Antitrust intervention advocates argue that these sunk costs permit inventors to engage in “opportunism” by demanding royalties that could “capture part of the fruits of another’s investment,” i.e., part of the sunk investment of implementers. This “opportunistic” behaviour by inventors is what generally is meant by the term “patent hold-up.” Out of a conviction that inventor opportunism is a serious problem, advocates of…

Jorge Contreras ‘Much Ado about Hold-Up’

This paper criticises the longstanding debate about patent holdup – and particularly about whether it is a systemic issue. In short, the paper argues that the ongoing hunt for empirical evidence of systemic patent hold-up in standardised product markets, or lack thereof, is a fruitless academic exercise. The paper can be found here and is structured as follows: Part I offers some essential background on standard setting and standards-essential patents. As I am sure we are now all fed up with this, I will skip it. Part II explores the interrelated questions that form the core of the current hold-up debate: how is hold-up defined, and what can empirical evidence tell us about hold-up in today’s technology-driven markets? The notion of economic hold-up originated with Oliver Williamson’s leading work on transaction costs and information asymmetry in the 1980s. The owners of specific assets are vulnerable to opportunistic behaviour by potential transaction partners who act dishonestly (e.g., by using deceptive means to…

Noel Maurer and Stephen Haber ‘An Empirical Analysis of the Patent Troll Hypothesis: Evidence from Publicly-Traded Firms’ (2018) Hoover Institution Working Paper no. 17003

Do firms that earn revenues from licensing their patent portfolios, rather than producing physical products – often referred to as patent assertion entities (PAEs) or, more disparagingly as ‘patent trolls’ – frustrate or facilitate innovation? According to one view, PAEs purchase specious intellectual property and then file frivolous lawsuits in order to extort revenues from operating companies that would rather settle than go through the expense of litigation. The revenues earned by PAEs are therefore a tax on innovation: dollars that would be spent on R&D by operating companies are diverted to non-productive uses. A business model based on using low value patents to file frivolous lawsuits for their nuisance value, with little risk of being countersued, should yield easy returns—and a high yield, low risk business model that is not characterized by barriers to entry should proliferate rapidly. It follows, accordingly, that PAEs are a systemic threat to innovation, economic growth, and consumer welfare, and thus the laws governing…

Jorge Padilla, Douglas H. Ginsburg and Koren W. Wong-Ervin ‘Antitrust Analysis Involving Intellectual Property and Standards: Implications from Economics’ (forthcoming, George Mason Law Review)

The paper, which can be found here, provides an overview of the economics of innovation and IP protection, licensing, and compulsory licensing, with specific applications to standards development and standard-essential patents. The authors also propose principles based on their economic analysis that courts and antitrust agencies can apply at each stage of an antitrust inquiry. The paper concludes with a summary of the approach to IP applied in China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, and the United States. The paper covers a lot of ground (and is quite long). I will try to summarise the argument as much as possible, but, to make it easier to read, I will also attempt to flag the specific topics addressed at each point, so that you may focus on those matters of greater interest to you. The paper is structured as follows: Section II summarises the relevant economic literature. While consumers gain from increases in static efficiency in the short run, economics teaches us…

Ariel Ezrachi on ‘EU Competition Law Goals and The Digital Economy’ (2018) Report for BEUC – The European Consumer Organisation

This paper  can be found here. I have already reviewed it in an earlier post. At the time, I focused on the article’s overview of the goals of EU competition law. However, the article also contained a detailed discussion of the impact that the digital economy may have on these goals. I was unable to review this discussion then, so I propose to do it here. Competition policy is one of several instruments used to advance the goals of the European Treaties. According to the European Commission, competition on the market is protected as a means of enhancing consumer welfare and of ensuring an efficient allocation of resources. This notwithstanding, EU competition law has also consistently been held to protect ‘not only the interests of competitors or of consumers, but also the structure of the market and, in so doing, competition as such.’ Moreover, a genuinely indigenous objective is worthy of note, namely that of promoting European market integration. In addition…

Philippe Aghion, Stefan Bechtold, Lea Cassar and Holger Herz ‘The Causal Effects of Competition on Innovation: Experimental Evidence’ (2018) The Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization 34(2) 162

This paper, which can be found here, adds to the literature on the relationship between competition and innovation, which has been the subject of longstanding attention by economists. However, existing empirical studies on competition and innovation suffer from a number of limitations. The authors seek to address these limitations as regards a specific type of innovation models – so called ‘Step-by-Step Innovation Models’. Their study shows that, as long as key assumptions of the step-by-step innovation model are met, theoretical predictions of this model are confirmed by laboratory empirical data. Section 2 looks at ‘Step-by-Step Innovation Models’. The main characteristic of step-by-step innovation models when compared with previous Schumpeterian models (where competition is for the market) is that innovation incentives do not depend on post-innovation rents only, but rather on the difference between post-innovation and pre-innovation rents of incumbent firms. In the basic model setup, an industry consists of two firms which produce the same good and compete over selling the…

Peter Georg Picht  ‘FRAND determination in TCL v. Ericsson and Unwired Planet v. Huawei: Same same but different?’ Max Planck Institute for Innovation & Competition Research Paper No. 18-07

This paper, which can be found here,  compares Unwired Planet/Huawei – a UK case reviewed here, and which appeal was discussed last week – and TCL/Ericsson, a US case. TCL deals with Ericsson-owned SEPs and Ericsson-granted licences, while Unwired Planet focuses on SEPs acquired by Unwired Planet from Ericsson. While looking at similar sets of facts, the courts arrived at different conclusions regarding how to determine FRAND royalty rates. This paper argues that this difference arises from the courts’ take on two core approaches in FRAND royalty calculation – “top-down” and “comparable prior licences” (‘Comparables’). Unwired Planet can be said to have favoured a ‘Comparables’ approach, while TCL looks more favourably at the top-down approach. The paper contends that both methods are important in FRAND licensing, it is unlikely that either a top-down or Comparables approach will – or should – prevail as the obviously best approach to complex cases. The paper is structured as follows: Section II provides the…

Gunther Friedl and Christoph Ann ‘A cost-based approach for calculating royalties for standard-essential patents (SEPs)’(2018) The Journal of World Intellectual Property 21 369

This article, which can be found here, proposes a novel approach for calculating FRAND royalties, based upon average total cost per patent plus a reasonable return for the patent holder. Unlike the methods discussed in the paper above – which focus on the value of a patent – this method is cost-based. The paper is structured as follows: An introductory section explains why standards are important and why FRAND obligations are imposed. A significant increase in the relevance of standards can be predicted in the near future. Industry 4.0 will greatly increase the degree to which industrial processes will depend upon the exchange of information not only between people, but also between toolkits, that is, between “hardware.” The same holds true for a number of new technologies such as autonomous driving, data compression, or 3D printing. Standard-setting organizations (SSOs) are tasked with the development and creation of standards by identifying and selecting the most suitable technologies for the standard. It goes…

Ashish Bharadwaj ‘A note on the neglected issue of reverse patent holdup’. (2018) Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice 13(7) 555

The purpose of this article – which can be found here – is to provide a comparative analysis of EU, US and Indian case law on reverse patent holdup in the context of standard essential patent licensing. The piece is structured as follows: The paper begins with a discussion of patent holdup and reverse holdup in general terms. Technological standards have become ubiquitous. Such standards foster interoperability, avoid inefficient rivalry between competing systems and facilitate competition in downstream product markets. It has been held that firms that commit their patents to a standard – and thereby own standard essential patents (SEPs) for the purposes of that standard – often abuse their dominant position by demanding excessive royalties or by seeking injunctive relief against infringers of their essential patents. Owning a SEP provides its holder with a certain amount of market power, because users of the standard must reach a licensing agreement with the patent holder. Theoretically, a SEP holder can…