Concerns and Evidence for Ex-Post Hold-Up with Essential Patents
34 Pages Posted: 22 Sep 2015
Date Written: September 22, 2015
Patented technologies may add significant value to technical standards. But the owners of patents that are necessary required in order to implement a standard (“essential patents”) obtain a particularly powerful position. One of the widely recognized risks here is patent holdup, where the patent owner demands inflated prices, much beyond the value of their specific patented technology, knowing that implementers are locked in and have no other choice than to obtain a license. Many standard setting organisations have “FRAND” patent policies in place that aim to avoid hold-up, among other things.
While it has been argued that hold-up is a theoretical risk only, and does not manifest itself in 'real world' scenarios, this paper discusses a number of recent, seminal court cases in which the judge determined that for essential patents, fees were demanded that wildly exceeded what the court ultimately deemed to be a FRAND royalty rate. In other cases, competition authorities have issued decision in which they ruled that for a patent owner, seeking injunctive relief for essential patents can be an illegal act as such, considering that such conduct further increases the risk for hold-up.
The risk for hold-up is recognised by standard setting bodies, witnessed by the many discussions taken place in these organisations, in the past but especially over the last two years. Yet, possible policy changes are often hard to agree upon, given the strongly divergent interests of the members of such organisations. IEEE is the first standard setting body to make significant changes to its policy, aiming to mitigate hold up risks. As pointed out by the US Department of Justice in their review, IEEE’s new policy has some significant potential benefits.
Keywords: Patents, Standards, Standard Essential Patents (SEPs), ex-post hold-up, IEEE
JEL Classification: O34, O31, O31, K11, D23
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation