Saturday, 26 September 2015

Training for UPC technical judges - Antitrust Law

On the last day of the first block of the CEIPI Training Program for Future Technical Judges of the UPC, Nicolas Petit (Univ. Liège) gave a very dynamic and lively talk about the interface between competition law and IP rights. He expects that the UPC will have to establish case-law on antitrust-based defences in patent litigation (FRAND, Standard essential patents ...) as explicitly laid down in Art. 32(1) UPCA.

Prof. Petit
The question whether or not, in case of dubious settlements between the parties, the court will have a duty to raise a motion on breach of competition, was answered by analogy to what is considered to be applicable to mediation procedures: Such a duty exists only where the breach is very glaring and manifest.

He further emphasizes that a source of misunderstanding between lawers and scholars on both fields lies in the different use of the word "monopoly" in IP and antitrust law. While patents are permanently qualified as "monopolies" by IP lawyers, this is not true based on the understanding of this expression in the world of antitrust law. Actually, the patent alone does not confer the sufficient market power to the patentee because there may be lots of competing technologies around. "The patent grants an exclusive right to use a technology but typically does not exclude third parties market" (roughly Quoted from Hovenkamp).

The case law of the FRAND defence is put in analogy to the "essential facilities" case law in the field of antitrust law because the CJEU qualifies intellectual property merely as yet another kind of "raw material" to be processed in secondary markets. Requirement of the admissibility of such a defence would be that the parties are competing in at least a secondary market, which is not the case for Non-Practicing Entities in dispute with potential licensees of their patents. In other words, the FRAND defence will never be applicable to "trolls".

CEUJ Judgement July 2015 (Huawei / CTE C‑170/13) develops a sort of "good faith" test for the behavoir of both the holder of the standard essential patent (SEP) and the implementer who have to respect "certain conditions" in the course of negotiations and when bringing an action to the court.  These new conditions will replace the BGH Orange Book Standard in the future case-law and will be discussed in a separate post.

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