Vincent Angwenyi ‘Hold-up, Hold-out and F/RAND: The quest for balance’ (2017) Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice 12 (12) 1012

This paper – which can be found here –  provides a good (and straightforward) overview of the various sides of the debate on how to deal with the standardisation of intellectual property rights, standard essential patents (SEPs) and their licensing. It covers a bit of the same ground as the paper just reviewed in the post below, but in a more detailed fashion. The relevance and recent prominence of SEPs derives from the fact that end-products in a number of economic sectors now require the incorporation of numerous patented technologies (resulting in a so-called multi-component product). The production of multi-component products requires manufacturers to manage patent thickets (i.e. networks of overlapping IP rights owned by multiple patent holders) and to obtain licences from multiple rights holders. The alleged patent thicket problem is linked to the hold-up problem because the threat of an injunction by a right holder against a patent implementer who has already invested heavily in the manufacture 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…

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…

Koren W. Wong-Ervin, Evan Hicks, and Ariel Slonim ‘Tying and Bundling Involving Standard-Essential Patents’ (2017) George Mason Law Review 24 1091

This paper – which can be found here –  slooks at whether it is “unfair” (and therefore unlawful) for a SEP holder to license its patents, including both SEPs and non-SEPs, on a portfolio basis. The basic argument is that “SEP and non-SEP portfolio theories of harm” advanced thus far are not economically sound (this is unsurprising, given that the very first sentence of the article is: “Competition agencies around the world have taken the unwarranted position that antitrust enforcement involving standard-essential patents (SEPs) upon which a patent holder has made an assurance to license on fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory (FRAND) terms should be subject to special rules or unique presumptions and burdens of proof” (emphasis is mine)). Instead, for these portfolios to infringe competition law there: “would have to be an exclusionary effect on other sellers because bundling thwarts buyers’ desire to purchase substitutes for one or more of the goods in the bundle from those other sellers to an…

David Teece and Edward Sherry ‘On Patent “Monopolies”: An Economic Re-Appraisal’ Antitrust Chronicle, Spring 2017

This paper – which you can find here – provides a short critical introduction to the intersection between IP and antitrust laws. It begins by pointing out the obvious:  in exchange for public disclosure, the patent system gives a successful patent applicant the right to exclude others from using the patented technology without her/his permission  for a period of time. The first instinct is to consider that this exclusivity amounts to a legal monopoly, which can make antitrust antennas start to tingle. However, it is now a truism that having an IP right does not mean one also has market power. Nonetheless, in the US a number of (older) decisions  refer to “patent monopolies.” This piece ask whether this “patent monopoly” language is useful, misleading, or something in between. Without surprise, the authors seek to argue that it is exceedingly misleading: simplistic assertions that patent rights constitute “monopolies” are not particularly informative or helpful. The argument starts by looking at the…

Unwired v Huawei [2017] EWHC 711 (Pat)

This judgment – which you can find here – is a recent UK court decision on FRAND terms. The factual background to this decision is convoluted (including five “technical” trials relating to the validity and infringement/essentiality of the relevant patents, which preceded the present trial regarding all competition law and FRAND issues), but the situation can be summarised shortly. Unwired Planet is a company that owns a number of worldwide patents, including many of the foundational technologies that allow mobile devices to connect to the Internet (4G, 3G and the like) – most of the relevant portfolio in this case was acquired from Ericsson. A number of these patents are essential to the relevant technical standards, and are thus deemed Standards Essential Patents (“SEPs”). The process of standardisation involves holders of patents which are essential to an international telecommunications standard declaring them to be essential to the relevant standards body –  in this case, the European  Telecommunications Standards Institute (“ETSI”). Standard…

Douglas Ginsburg, Koren Wong-Ewing and Joshua Wright ‘The Troubling Use of Antitrust to Regulate FRAND Licensing’ CPI Antitrust Chronicle October 2015 (1)

This paper – which can be found here – criticises the use of “antitrust sanctions on holders of standard essential patents (“SEPs”) for seeking injunctive relief against alleged infringers and for reneging on their commitment to license their patents on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (“FRAND”) terms”.  They make two main criticisms of the use of antitrust to regulate FRAND licensing: First, they criticise the assumption, underpinning these developments, that patent “holdup” is a widespread problem that leads to significantly adverse consequences for competition and innovation. Instead, they argue that: (i) there is no empirical support for this assumption. On the contrary, sectors where SEPs are preponderant are among the most competitive ones around; (ii) as economic theory would predict, patent holders and those seeking to license and implement patented technologies write their contracts so as to minimize the probability of holdup; (iii) several mechanisms – including reputation and business costs – are available to transactors to mitigate the incidence and likelihood…

Pierre Larouche and Nicolo Zingales ‘Injunctive Relief in FRAND Disputes in the EU – Intellectual Property and Competition Law at the Remedies Stage’ in The Cambridge Handbook of Technical Standardization Law: Competition, Antitrust, and Patents (CUP, 2017) 406

This paper – which you can find here – asks: what does (EU) competition law have to do with FRAND? It is, as far as I’m concerned, a rather good question. The paper begins by sketching a basic model of standards-related IP licensing negotiations and related litigation. Competition issues tend to arise when two parties are negotiating over the licensing of a SEP and the SEP holder is under an obligation to grant licenses on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. This negotiation is framed by the parties’ ability to start judicial proceedings under IP Law: SEP holders can ask for injunctions in order to enforce their rights, while potential licensees can challenge the validity, infringement or essentiality of a SEP. A number of outcomes are possible in this context: (i) the parties may negotiate on the terms; (ii) the SEP holder may rely on its market power to holdup the licensee in order to obtain exorbitant royalties; (iii) the potential…