Brief of Electronic Frontier Foundation and R Street Institute As Amici Curiae, in WesternGeco, LLC v. ION Geophysical Corp., No. 16-1011

30 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2018

See all articles by Daniel K. Nazer

Daniel K. Nazer

Electronic Frontier Foundation; Center for Internet and Society - Stanford Law School

Bernard Chao

University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Brian J. Love

Santa Clara University School of Law

Charles Duan

R Street Institute

Date Written: April 2, 2018

Abstract

The Court’s ruling in this case could vastly expand the reach of U.S. patent law. Although the dispute before the Court involves a claim brought under 35 U.S.C. § 271(f), the theory of damages advanced by the Solicitor General and others could allow extraterritorial damages in all patent cases. Expanding patent damages in this way would effectively transform every U.S. patent into a worldwide patent. That result cannot be justified as a matter of doctrine or policy.

Damages for patent infringement are limited to acts within the United States—to hold otherwise would contradict the plain text of the Patent Act, which has a clear domestic focus. Section 271(a), which limits infringement to acts “within the United States” and importation “into the United States,” is expressly limited to domestic conduct. And although § 271(f) was enacted in response to an extraterritoriality decision of this Court, that statutory provision does not provide for extraterritorial damages; rather, it remains firmly rooted in conduct “in or from the United States.” The legislative history makes clear that Congress’ sole intention with § 271(f) was narrowly to abrogate that decision of this Court and no more, contradicting the notion that § 271(f) expands patent remedies to overseas use. Thus, contrary to the arguments of Petitioner and some amici, the Patent Act explicitly renders foreign injuries inactionable, an observation sufficient to reject Petitioner’s arguments and dispose of this case.

The long-standing assumption of international patent policy is that an innovator who wishes to recover damages for sales or uses in a jurisdiction must apply for a patent in that nation. Disrupting that arrangement will cause a number of harms, many of which would be felt particularly by companies operating in the United States. Extraterritorial damages, especially if imposed under a theory that would apply even to infringement under § 271(a), could expose companies that conduct research and development in the United States to worldwide damages. This would discourage companies from innovating here. International damages could also undermine other nations’ sovereignty. Both the scope of patent law and available remedies differ around the world. This means that allowing damages in U.S. courts for sales and uses overseas could undermine the autonomy of nations that have chosen not to extend patent law to certain fields. Moreover, allowing extraterritorial damages might encourage other nations’ courts to impose damages for sales and use in the United States, thereby undermining U.S. sovereignty.

Keywords: patent damages, extraterritorial, international, proximate cause, overcompensation, double recovery

JEL Classification: O34, K41

Suggested Citation

Nazer, Daniel K. and Chao, Bernard H. and Love, Brian J. and Duan, Charles, Brief of Electronic Frontier Foundation and R Street Institute As Amici Curiae, in WesternGeco, LLC v. ION Geophysical Corp., No. 16-1011 (April 2, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3155392 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3155392

Daniel K. Nazer

Electronic Frontier Foundation ( email )

815 Eddy Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
United States

Center for Internet and Society - Stanford Law School ( email )

Palo Alto, CA
United States

HOME PAGE: http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/blog/daniel-nazer

Bernard H. Chao

University of Denver Sturm College of Law ( email )

2255 E. Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208
United States

Brian J. Love (Contact Author)

Santa Clara University School of Law ( email )

500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95053
United States

Charles Duan

R Street Institute ( email )

1212 New York Ave NW Suite 900
Washington, DC 20009
United States

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