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Apple, Ford Push Agency to Keep Standard-Setting Patents Policy

Dec. 5, 2019, 10:50 PM

Apple Inc. and Ford Motor Co. are among over three dozen companies and associations urging the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to preserve a policy discouraging the use of injunctions to stop companies from using standard essential patents.

The policy statement “reflects a balance that is consistent with American law, incentivizes innovation, and encourages domestic investment in critical technologies, the groups wrote in a Dec. 5 letter to PTO Directer Andrei Iancu and Wilbur Ross, secretary of the Commerce Department, the patent office’s parent agency.

“The 2013 Policy Statement fully allows for appropriate monetary remedies if patent infringement is proven, while also recognizing appropriate limits for exclusionary relief when the SEP owner has instead promised to grant fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory (FRAND) licenses,” the group wrote.

The patent office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The PTO and the Department of Justice released the joint statement in 2013 to deter patent owners from using injunctions to bar SEP use. But Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s antitrust division, said in April that the policy no longer reflected DOJ policy because seeking an injunction shouldn’t be considered an antitrust violation.

The Justice Department is close to releasing a new joint policy with the PTO, William Rinner, chief of staff and senior counsel at the DOJ’s antitrust division, said Nov. 18 at an American Bar Association conference. But the letter’s signatories, including Volkswagen of America, Inc., HP Inc. and Intel Corporation, want the agencies to affirm the 2013 policy statement rather than write a new one.

Many of the signatories previously wrote to Ross and Iancu to support keeping a U.S. policy promoting patent standards, according to the letter.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ian Lopez in Washington at ilopez@bloomberglaw.com; Victoria Graham at vgraham@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebecca Baker at rbaker@bloomberglaw.com; Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com