Standards × Patents ÷ Antitrust = ∞: The Inadequacy of Antitrust to Address Patent Ambush

By: Jonathan Hillel

“Patent ambush” describes certain rent-seeking behavior by the owner of patent rights to a technology that is essential to an industry standard. Two cases, Qualcomm and Rambus, represent attempts of the Third and D.C. Circuits, respectively, to address patent ambushes using federal antitrust statutes. In both cases, antitrust law proves inadequate to the task. Under Qualcomm, licensees gain too much power to extort undervalued royalty rates from patent holders who have disclosed their rights during standard-setting. Under Rambus, coupled with the dearth of other options to combat patent ambushes, non-disclosing patent holders are given free reign over standardized markets, to the detriment of end-users. This iBrief argues that the flaws in each rule inhere from a fundamental inadequacy of antitrust law to address patent ambush.

Cite: 2010 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 017

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