United States: Could Federal Circuit Decision Weaken FRAND Defense?

Last Updated: May 8 2014
Article by Aarti Shah

On Monday, May 5, 2014, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, by transferring the Microsoft v. Motorola case to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, issued an order which may significantly impact the ability of participants in standard-setting organizations ("SSOs") to obtain relief for patent infringement.

The Microsoft v. Motorola case, first filed in the W.D. Washington, has been closely observed by the patent community for some time.  Microsoft and Motorola had been engaged in licensing discussions when Microsoft sued Motorola, alleging that Motorola broke its promise as a member of the ITU and IEEE SSOs by refusing to offer Microsoft a license to its standard-essential patents on what Microsoft considered fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory ("FRAND") terms. Motorola, a unit of Google, Inc., then countered by suing Microsoft for patent infringement, and the two cases were consolidated.

While these cases were pending, in a related proceeding between Microsoft and Motorola, a German court enjoined the sale of Microsoft's Xbox and certain Windows products in Germany.  The Western District of Washington preliminarily enjoined Motorola from enforcing the German court's injunction on the basis that Microsoft's contract action would resolve whether injunctive relief is an appropriate remedy for infringement of Motorola's standard essential patents. Motorola appealed the preliminary injunction to the Ninth Circuit which found that Microsoft's complaint was based on contract, therefore giving the Ninth Circuit jurisdiction.

The U.S. District Court Judge James Robart held a bench trial to decide what a FRAND rate for Motorola's patents would be, and issued an opinion finding that the patents were worth about four cents a patent for a total of about $1.8 million.

Judge Robart's opinion was hotly discussed both because it was the earliest district court opinion determining a FRAND rate and because the discrepancy between what Motorola had  sought (2.25 percent of the sale price of the Xbox products for a total of about $4 billion) and what the judge found lead some observers to state that standard essential patents would lose value, and that this loss in value might in turn trigger a reluctance of patent holders to either participate in SSOs or to seek patent protection in the first place.

After determining the RAND rate, Judge Robart held a jury trial that found that Motorola had breached its FRAND obligation and issued a final judgment on the RAND rulings.  The portion of the case relating to Motorola's infringement allegations was stayed, and Motorola appealed the RAND rulings to the Federal Circuit.  Microsoft then filed a motion to transfer the appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

On May 5, 2014, the Federal Circuit granted the motion to transfer the appeal to the Ninth Circuit, finding that Microsoft's complaint that Motorola breached its FRAND obligations was not a case "arising under" the patent law.

Important Implications

Though this ruling seems at first glance to be purely procedural, it could have important implications for those seeking to assert standard essential patents and those facing charges of infringing such patents.  The discussion of whether participants in SSOs should be able to seek injunctive relief for standard essential patents has been heated, and those arguing against the ability of patentees to assert standard-essential patents have often supported their positions using arguments relating to public policy and the uniquely important position patents play in today's innovation economy.  In this context the Federal Circuit's ruling that Microsoft's allegation of a breach of FRAND obligations is not a unique issue of patent law is significant.

When Microsoft's case is before the Ninth Circuit, it will be analyzed using traditional rules of contract interpretation, making it highly likely that future allegations of violation of FRAND commitments will be judged using the same analysis.  This could significantly impact the viability of the FRAND defense.  The FRAND commitments entered into by many participants in SSOs often fail to include some or all of the elements of an enforceable contract, such as royalty rate, product base, and term.  Therefore, a judicial analysis viewing FRAND commitments through a contract law lens could result in many of the commitments being found to be unenforceable, and a considerable weakening of FRAND as an affirmative defense against charges of patent infringement.

Further, the fact that FRAND obligations are being viewed under a contract lens means that accused infringers who wish to raise a FRAND defense but lack a strong contract law basis for doing so, such as a written agreement explicitly agreeing to license the patents on FRAND terms may be facing an uphill battle.  Thus, patentees who never agreed to license their patents on FRAND terms, but hesitated to assert their patents due to a fear that they would be estopped by a finding that their patents were standard essential, should find this decision reassuring.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Aarti Shah
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Banner & Witcoff
McDermott Will & Emery
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Banner & Witcoff
McDermott Will & Emery
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions