The Licensing Function of Patent Intermediaries

By: John E. Dubiansky

The contemporary patent marketplace is a complex ecosystem comprised of innovators and manufacturers who are often connected by a varied group of intermediaries. While there are a variety of intermediary business models—such as patent assertion entities and defensive aggregators—each facilitates a variant of a similar licensing transaction, connecting a set of patents held by a patent owner with a product or service offered by a prospective licensee. One explanation for the prevalence of intermediaries is that they engage in practices tantamount to arbitrage, acquiring patents and then licensing them at a profit because they enjoy greater success in patent litigation than patent holders would on their own. This paper advances an additional explanation: some intermediaries may serve a function analogous to a platform trading in non-exclusive licenses, overcoming search and valuation costs to facilitate licensing.
This paper focuses on the use of two contract terms in intermediaries’ dealings with technology market participants: revenue sharing in patent acquisition and non-exclusive licensing. The Federal Trade Commission’s Patent Entity Activity Study reported that intermediaries used both of these terms. Building on those findings, this paper argues that intermediaries that use both provisions may, under some conditions,

Frand v. Compulsory Licensing: The Lesser of the Two Evils

By: Srividhya Ragavan, Brendan Murphy, and Raj Davé

This paper focuses on two types of licenses that can best be described as outliers—FRAND and compulsory licenses. Overall, these two specific forms of licenses share the objective of producing a fair and reasonable license of a technology protected by intellectual property. The comparable objective notwithstanding, each type of license achieves this end using different mechanisms. The FRAND license emphasizes providing the licensee with reasonable terms, e.g., by preventing a standard patent holder from extracting unreasonably high royalty rates. By contrast, compulsory licenses emphasize the public benefit that flows from enabling access to an otherwise inaccessible invention. Ultimately, both forms of license attempt to create a value for the licensed product that can be remarkably different from the product’s true market value. Nevertheless, both forms ultimately benefit the end-consumer who pays less to access a product subject to either of these forms of license. In comparing these two forms of licenses, the paper hopes to determine whether one form is better than the other, and if so, from whose perspective—the consumer, the licensor or the licensee. In doing so, this paper compares the different prevailing efforts to embrace such licenses as well as the impact of such licenses on the industry.

The FTC Has a Dog in the Patent Monopoly Fight: Will Antitrust’s Bite Kill Generic Challenges?

By: Jennifer D. Cieluch

Antitrust laws have been notoriously lenient in the patent realm, the underlying reason being that patents’ grant of exclusion create monopolies that defy antitrust laws in order to incentivize innovation. Thus, antitrust violations have rarely been found in the patent cases. But after the Supreme Court’s holding in FTC v. Actavis, brand name pharmaceutical companies may need to be more cautious when settling Hatch-Waxman litigation with potential patent infringers. Both brand-name drug manufacturers and generic drug manufacturers have incentives to settle cases by having the brand-name pay the generic in exchange for delaying their entry into the market. While courts usually found that these reverse-payment settlements did not violate antitrust laws, the Supreme Court recently held that they sometimes can, even if the settlement’s anticompetitive effects fall within the scope of the exclusionary potential of the patent. The Court tried to take the middle ground after rejecting several bright line rules promulgated by appellate courts, including the Third Circuit’s “quick look” presumption against reverse payment settlements and the Second, Eleventh, and Federal Circuit’s “scope of the patent” test. This note finds that the Supreme Court’s ruling will make the Hatch-Waxman legal landscape murky and,

Understanding the Backlog Problems Associated with Requests for Continued Examination Practice

By: Sean Tu

One of the greatest problems facing the current patent administration is a long patent pendency period. This study focuses on Request for Continued Examination (RCE) practice, and its effects on the current patent application backlog problem. RCEs are used to continue prosecution after a patent examiner has issued a final rejection. However, now that RCEs are placed on an examiner’s special docket, some examiners may pick up prosecution one to two years after the last action. Accordingly, there are great inefficiencies that may be created by this delay, such as relearning issues and questions from the previous action, diminished value of examiner interviews, and a higher likelihood of transfer to a new examiner. This study suggests that the RCE problem may be much worse for some art units compared to others. Specifically, the RCE problem is unevenly distributed between certain art units with technology center 1600 (biotechnology and organic chemistry) suffering the most from unexamined RCEs, while technology center 2800 (semiconductors, electrical and optical systems and components) remain unaffected. This RCE backlog can result in a delay of approximately three years for some art units. Possible solutions to the RCE problem include creating a two-track examiner specialization program: one track focusing on drafting office actions and a second track focusing on finding relevant prior art.

Pleading Patents: Predicting the Outcome of Statutorily Heightened Pleading Standards

By: Arjun Rangarajan

The tension between an extremely barebones Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Form 18 for patent infringement lawsuits and Supreme Court case law through Twombly and Iqbal has made it difficult for courts to dismiss frivolous patent litigation at the complaint stage. In this article, I look at the Federal Circuit’s treatment of Twombly and Iqbal, empirically evaluate 12(b)(6) motions from various district courts, and summarize local patent rules from the Eastern District of Texas. I conclude that the biggest likely impact of statutorily heightening and defining patent pleading standards through the proposed Innovation Act would be to provide much-needed uniformity in the endeavor of gatekeeping weak lawsuits, without serious adverse impact.

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Cite: 13 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 195