Keeping the LEDs on and the Electric Motors Running: Clean Tech in Court After Ebay

By: Eric Lane

The recent rise of non-practicing patentees (NPPs) in the clean technology space comes at a time when the international community is debating the role of intellectual property rights in the deployment and implementation of technologies to combat climate change. While the impact of intellectual property rights on the deployment of clean technology has been studied, less attention has been given to the role intellectual property regimes play in maintaining the operation of those technologies already deployed in the fight against global warming. This iBrief focuses on clean technologies that have already achieved substantial market penetration and observes that recent trends in patent law are, to a large extent, allowing those technologies to continue working to reduce carbon emissions. Specifically, the course correction in the law of patent injunctions brought about by eBay v. MercExchange and the endorsement of court-imposed ongoing royalty payments in Paice v. Toyota demonstrate an important shift in patent law that is tempering the impact of clean tech NPPs in Title 35 infringement actions in federal courts. However, these trends have caused a tactical adjustment by clean tech NPPs—namely, filing suits in the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), where the remedy of an exclusion order is available. These ITC cases could adversely affect implemented clean technologies.

Cite: 2010 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 013

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