Monday, March 7, 2011
Posted by D. Daniel Sokol
The FTC has released The Evolving IP Marketplace: Aligning Patent Notice and Remedies with Competition.
According to the press release:
The new report recognizes that patents play a critical role in encouraging innovation. At the same time, it observes that some strategies by patent holders risk distorting competition and deterring innovation. This is especially true, the report concludes, for activity driven by poor patent notice, and by remedies that do not align the compensation received by patent holders for infringement with the economic value of their patented inventions.
To address these issues, the report first recommends improving policies relevant to the patent notice function through actions by the courts and the Patent and Trademark Office. Clear notice of what a patent covers promotes innovation by encouraging collaboration, technology transfer, and design-around. But poor notice undermines these benefits if potential licensees cannot find relevant patents, or if companies hesitate to invest in technology because the scope of others’ patents are unclear. Poor patent notice also can distort competition by forcing firms to design products and make investments with incomplete knowledge of the cost and availability of different technologies. The report suggests mechanisms to improve the public’s ability to identify relevant patents, to understand the scope of patent claims, and to predict the breadth of claims that are likely to emerge from patent applications.
The FTC’s recommendations to improve patent notice include:
- making patent claims more definite and improving the utility of descriptions
in patents for delineating their boundaries;
- enhancing the patent examination record as a source for interpreting claim
- more fully incorporating consideration of third parties’ ability to predict
the potential breadth of evolving claims into the administrative and judicial
review of the written descriptions of patent applications.
The report also explains that patent remedies that align compensation of
patent holders with the economic value of their patented inventions are
important for both innovation and competition. Patent damages that
under-compensate patentees for infringement can deter innovation. But
overcompensation can lead to higher prices and encourage speculation in patent
rights, which also deters innovation.
The report makes recommendations to courts that would ground damages
calculations and injunction analysis in economic principles that recognize
competition among patented technologies.
The FTC’s recommendations to courts to improve patent remedies law
- capping reasonable royalty damages at the amount a willing licensee would
pay, which may be determined by the value of the invention over alternative
- increasing the role of district courts in excluding unreliable expert
testimony on damages from trial; and
- incorporating concerns into the injunction analysis about the leverage that
an injunction may give a patentee to obtain royalties exceeding the economic
value of an invention.