Worldwide: 反垄断案例分析:宁波四家稀土企业诉日立金属拒绝许可案

Last Updated: February 23 2017
Article by Dentons  

2016-01-20 反垄断实务评论 作者:大成反垄断团队

1.  案件背景                     

2012年8月17日,日立金属公司向美国国际贸易委员会(ITC)就四项烧结钕铁硼的工艺专利提起"337调查"申请(案件号:337-TA-855),被告包括中国4家钕铁硼企业在内有29家公司。这4家企业为烟台正海磁性材料股份有限公司(正海磁材)、宁波金鸡钕铁硼强磁材料有限公司(宁波金鸡)、安徽大地熊新材料股份有限公司(安徽大地熊)和香港创科实业有限公司。此后,正海磁材、宁波金鸡和安徽大地熊与日立金属公司达成和解,并同时获得了日立金属公司的专利授权。

2012年8月同期,为打破日立金属公司在烧结钕铁硼领域的专利封锁,沈阳中北通磁科技股份有限公司等7家企业于成立了"稀土永磁产业技术创新战略联盟"(以下简称"联盟"),成员包括沈阳中北通磁科技股份有限公司、宁波同创强磁材料有限公司(宁波同创)、宁波永久磁业有限公司(宁波永久)、宁波科田磁业有限公司(宁波科田)、杭州永磁集团有限公司、宁波华辉磁业有限公司(宁波华辉)、广东江门磁源新材料有限公司等7家企业,宗旨就是共同出资、共同研发、共同发展,共同应对知识产权,并对日立金属公司的专利封锁实施反击。

2013年8月,联盟赴美国专利局起诉日立金属公司,诉其烧结钕铁硼核心专利无效。

2014年5月,联盟在美国旧金山与日立金属公司展开了一场围绕稀土永磁专利的谈判。谈判最终无疾而终,7家企业未能如愿获得专利许可。

2014年底,联盟中的4家宁波企业(宁波永久、宁波科田、宁波华辉和宁波同创)以日立金属公司滥用市场支配地位构成垄断为由,向宁波中级人民法院起诉。

2015年8月,美国专利商标局支持联盟7家企业申请,初步裁定日立金属公司的两件核心专利在美国无效。

2.  案件发展

2014年底,4家宁波企业向宁波市中级人民法院提起对日立金属公司的反垄断诉讼。

2014年12月11日,宁波市中级人民法院受理此案。

2015年3月,日立金属公司向法院提出管辖权异议,被驳回。

2015年9月21日,双方进行证据交换。

2015年12月18日,开庭审理,当庭未作审判。

3. 诉讼请求

宁波4家企业要求日立金属公司停止滥用市场支配地位的拒绝交易和搭售行为,赔偿因为日立金属公司的侵权行为,给4家企业分别造成550万元至700万元不等的损失,索赔金额共计2400万元。

4.  案件争议

1)  相关市场界定

原告提出相关市场为"烧结钕铁硼磁体必要专利",被告则主张自身从未公开表示其专利是必要的,其专利是非必要的,并非不可绕过的;之前的宣传仅为了商业目的,并非完整事实。

原告提交的证据中认为,日立金属公司的发言人南章雄曾公开表示"要绕开日立金属的专利去生产烧结钕铁硼磁铁在商业上是不可行的",日立金属公司在该问题的表态前后矛盾。

被告对此的回应是"企业对于产品的宣传行为有一定夸大是正常的,不能理解为日立金属公司自认其专利是必要的"。

2)  市场支配地位认定

原告认为被告拥有大量与烧结钕铁硼相关的专利,在烧结钕铁硼磁体必要专利市场上具有支配地位。

被告则认为其专利也不构成"标准必要专利",在相关市场不具有支配地位。

3)  是否滥用市场支配地位

原告主张被告在烧结钕铁硼生产领域拥有无法替代和回避的必需的"专利包",被告滥用了其在烧结钕铁硼产品专利许可市场的支配地位,通过拒绝许可其专利的方式,使得大部分中国烧结钕铁硼生产商无法进入美国、欧盟及日本等海外市场,同时在中国市场也面临专利诉讼的威胁。同时,被告还采取了专利搭售等滥用行为,使其专利许可期限不断延长。

被告认为自己作为专利权人,有权选择被许可方,并不存在滥用市场支配地位的搭售和拒绝交易行为;如果原告认为日立金属公司成立垄断,应该就日立金属公司在相关市场具有支配地位,并且滥用了支配地位进行举证。

5.  案件简析

本案为专利拒绝许可的反垄断案件,吸引了国内外多方关注。由于案件尚未完全公开,根据现有资料,仅作一些初步分析。

首先,对于知识产权滥用的反垄断规制,从发改委2015年12月31日发布的《国务院反垄断委员会关于滥用知识产权的反垄断指南(征求意见稿)》(《指南草案》)中可以感受到,《指南草案》的态度是比较审慎的。其在执法原则中提到两个"充分",一是"对可能排除、限制竞争的知识产权行使行为进行分析,根据个案需要,充分考虑知识产权行使行为对竞争和创新的积极影响",二是"坚持公正透明,充分考虑经营者提出的行使知识产权正当与否的事实、证据和理由"。因此,在分析是否存在知识产权滥用的同时,还要尊重知识产权本身的排他专有属性。

其次,对于知识产权拒绝许可这一问题,《指南草案》列出了关于拒绝许可是否正当的六项考虑因素:"(1)相关知识产权所负担的许可承诺;(2)相关知识产权是否为进入相关市场所必需,以及是否存在可合理获得的替代知识产权;(3)许可相关知识产权对经营者进行创新的影响及程度;(4)被拒绝方是否缺乏支付合理许可费的意愿和能力;(5)被拒绝方是否缺乏必要的质量、技术保障,以确保知识产权的正当使用或者产品的安全和性能;(6)被拒绝方使用知识产权是否会对节约能源、保护环境等社会公共利益产生不利影响"。尽管有人对于将必要设施理论用于知识产权许可上存在不同看法,但是现实中存在知识产权拒绝许可排除、限制竞争的客观情况,因此反垄断法对知识产权和其他财产权在拒绝许可方面同样适用。然而,考虑到知识产权本身的特点,《指南草案》对拒绝许可同样采取了审慎的态度,罗列出六项因素充分考虑拒绝许可是否正当。

再次,就本案而言,无论日立金属公司的专利是否属于"标准必要专利",只要其为"必要"专利,就有可能被认定为具有市场支配地位,适用必要设施理论。本案的难点最后可能在于日立金属公司的拒绝许可行为是否正当。一方面专利权人有权拒绝许可,特别是如果其先前没有对外做出类似FRAND的承诺,而且专利权人也没有义务对竞争对手给予许可;另一方面,拒绝许可却有可能严重损害市场竞争。如何从中分辨行为的正当与否、进行价值平衡,所要考虑的因素可能不止以上六项,可能还需要考虑相关专利本身的价值、是否本身存在专利法项下的专利滥用、专利行使方式和过程等等。对于同一专利行使行为可能存在专利法和反垄断法适用的竞合,但是选择通过反垄断法来解决问题,可能更有效果和效应。

最后,知识产权拒绝许可问题实属疑难,本案如果最终判决,无论胜败如何,对败诉一方以及其背后的法律价值都会有所损伤。因此,不排除双方和解的可能性,从而再次使反垄断法成为知识产权拒绝许可的"达摩克利斯之剑"。

参考资料:

[1]http://www.cb.com.cn/special/show/522.html

[2]http://mt.sohu.com/20150922/n421803155.shtml

[3]http://money.163.com/15/1230/05/BC2G3ME600253B0H.html

[4]http://www.shangbiaomyd.com/news/4987.html

[5]http://daily.cnnb.com.cn/nbrb/html/2015-12/19/content_920736.htm?div=-1#rd&sukey=fc78a68049a14bb2ed3fdd1ed1dc42e76dbc6660b8ab97a89213606d5b7a75bab21744dc40f565f8c54c719fae6c9b7f

[6]http://jjs.ndrc.gov.cn/fjgld/201512/t20151231_770233.html

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