Jorge Padilla, John Davies and Aleksandra Boutin ‘The Economic Impact of Technology Standards‘

This Compass Lexecon report – which can be found here – argues that standards can lead to significant efficiencies: they not only solve coordination problems, they also seem to promote more rapid innovation than would otherwise be the case. Whether standards accelerate innovation depends greatly on who the ‘gatekeeper’ to the technology is. Among possible ‘gatekeepers’, the most pro-competitive one are voluntary standard setting organisations (SSOs). SSOs and the licensing arrangements they support enable a “market for technology,” in which smaller and specialized technology providers can thrive. As a result, competition authorities should be loath to interfere with the contractual arrangements that underpin the functioning of SSOs, should as clauses regarding FRAND terms. In more detail, the paper is structured as follows: The paper begins with an overview of why standards are valuable. Standards help certain industries achieve scale, giving users and suppliers the confidence to buy or make compatible products. While not exclusive to the IT sector, the ‘economics of…

Herbert Hovenkamp ‘Antitrust and Information Technologies’ 2017 Fla. L. Rev. 68 419

This is a polished version of a lecture given by Hovenkamp last year, and it can be found here.  As the name indicates it provides an overview of “the relationship between competition policy and the technologies of information.” A first section looks at the relationship between digital technology and market power. In particular, digital technology affects the way firms exercise market power and also creates serious measurement difficulties. A pervasive problem in analysing power in digital markets is that sellers typically have a very high ratio of fixed to variable costs. This entails that prices must be considerably above short-run marginal cost to be profitable. As a result of this, many traditional measures of market power produce unacceptable false positives. These measures include the Lerner Index and other tools derived from it, but are not limited to them: “None of the antitrust tools for assessing power is particularly sensitive to the presence of fixed costs”. He thus concludes that antitrust…

Alexander Galetovic & Stephen Haber ‘The Fallacies of Patent Hold Up Theory’ (2017) Journal of Competition Law & Economics, 13(1) 1

This paper – which can be found here – criticises the patent hold-up theory, which underpins most antitrust concerns regarding SEPs. The first section describes patent hold-up theory, which is said to: “consist of five nested claims. First, that patent owners can systematically overcharge manufacturers for licenses to their patents through the economic mechanism of holdup—the opportunistic appropriation of a downstream firm’s quasi rents (revenues in excess of short-run costs). Second, that when there are multiple patent holders, each practicing holdup on a downstream firm, cumulative patent royalty rates become astronomically high—a phenomenon patent-holdup theorists termed “royalty stacking. Third, that the holdup problem is exacerbated when patented technologies are included in the industry standards necessary to make IT products interoperable and compatible. Fourth, that patent holdup, royalty stacking, and the inclusion of patented technologies in industry  standards are strangling innovation, most particularly in SEP-intensive IT products. Fifth, that the government must intervene to solve this problem; the market, left on…

Jorge L. Contreras, Fabian Gaessler, Christian Helmers, Brian J. Love ‘Litigation of Standards-Essential Patents in Europe: A Comparative Analysis’Berkeley Technology Law Journal (2018, forthcoming)

This paper – which can be seen here – provides a comparative empirical study of European patent litigation relating to standards essential patents (SEPs). The paper begins with a description of SEPs and, more interestingly for our purposes, of the contexts in which SEP litigation arises. The simpler type of litigation occurs when the holder of a SEP and its potential licensee disagree whether an offered royalty rate is, indeed, FRAND. However, some SEP holders’ transfer patents to non-practicing entities (NPEs), including patent assertion entities (PAEs), for a variety of financial and strategic reasons. This practice is sometimes referred to as “privateering”. There are already a number of well-known cases involving SEP assertions by PAEs and other NPEs.  Moreover, there is increasing evidence that operating firms, often participants in SDOs, have been transferring significant numbers of SEPs to PAEs for enforcement purposes in privateering transactions. PAEs accounted for approximately 19% of patent assertions between 2000 and 2008 in Germany and 9%…

Richard A. Epstein and Kayvan B. Noroozi ‘Why Incentives for “Patent Holdout” Threaten to Dismantle FRAND, and Why It Matters’ IP² Working Paper No. 17006

This paper – which can be found here – argues that existing regulatory and judicial activity has unduly protected implementers (i.e. potential licensees) against SEP holders. In particular, the authors: “stress that implementers owe a significant duty to negotiate FRAND licenses in good faith, which courts have largely overlooked and underenforced. We demonstrate that implementers’ good faith obligations are a critical component of basic FRAND architecture that is strictly necessary to the development of innovation-driven standards. (…) [FRAND enables] the standards development effort to yield commercial benefits that would not exist absent innovators’ voluntary participation. We show both theoretically and empirically that courts’ failure to appreciate these aspects of the FRAND bargain, combined with their over-reliance on liability rules, i.e., damages over injunctions, incentivizes the very patent holdout problem FRAND was intended to avoid. That outcome, in turn, has motivated innovators to reduce their participation in FRAND bargains, threatening to unravel a massive innovation-commercialization marketplace, and its innumerable positive externalities to…

Jorge L. Contreras ‘FROM PRIVATE ORDERING TO PUBLIC LAW: THE LEGAL FRAMEWORKS GOVERNING STANDARDS-ESSENTIAL PATENTS’

This paper, focusing on the interaction of standards and international law, was published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology, and can be found here. It starts from the observation that there is a “basic question [about] whether technical standard setting is best conceptualized as a private activity governed most efficiently by its own internal rules and procedures, or whether it is at root a public activity that should be regulated within the sphere of public law.” The article proceeds as follows: after a general introduction to private ordering structures (i.e. rules systems that private actors conceive, observe, and often enforce through extra-legal means) in Part II, Parts III and IV describe how technical standard setting has evolved as a private sector activity. Part V analyses the incorporation of standards bodies’ rules and norms into private law adjudication. Part VI shifts the focus to the public benefits that standard setting affords, and Part VII describes the recent debate regarding public…