Tag Archives: FRAND

Emerging Trends in IP

Intellectual Property has seen numerous modifications. Different Intellectual Properties have come about to exist, which some would say is the impact of IP Maximalism and some would regard them as a matter of necessity of changing times, which reminds me of Victor Hugo, he spoke in a speech and I quote, “no power on earth can stop an idea whose time has come.” This is very well the era IP evolution. Where software is expressly ousted from patent protection, CRIs come to their rescue. New types of intellectual property rights are on the rise, for example, Data Exclusivity, Orphan Drug Exclusivity, Standard Essential Patents etc. India lags behind in several of these emerging trends, partly because of the lack of legislature in several issues and partly because of its mixed priorities. Legal framework needs to substantiate these issues more coherently, while maintaining India’s pro public-benefit approach towards IP.

Invention in softwares

While identifying what kind of protection is to be granted to an IP, one needs to identify on what is the “intellectual” in that property, is it an invention or a literary work?Software i.e. computer programme has found its mode of protection in the Indian Copyright Act, 1957. S2(ffc) defines computer programme as “a set of instructions expressed in words, codes, schemes or in any other form, including a machine readable medium, capable of causing a computer to perform a particular task or achieve a particular result”. These are as such included in “literary work” defined in S.2 (o) of the Act, “literary work includes computer programmes, tables, and compilations including computer literary databases.”

On the other hand, the Indian Patents Act, 1970 expressly excludes computer programmes from the ambit of patentable subject- matter, visavis including it in Section 3 what are not inventions, S. 3 (k) a mathematical or business method or a computer programs  per se or algorithms; and S.3 (m) a mere scheme or rule or method of performing mental act or method of playing game; expressly excludes computer programs from patentable subject matter.[1]

However, the Patent Office prescribes guidelines to outline various regulations and explanations regarding patentability of computer related inventions (CRIs), last updated on 30 June, 2017.[2]

The legislative intent to attach the suffix per se to computer programme is evident by the following view expressed by Joint Parliamentary Committee while introducing Patents (Amendment) Act, 2002:

“In the new proposed clause (k) the words “per se” have been inserted. This change has been proposed because sometimes the computer programme may include certain other things, ancillary thereto or development thereon. The intention here in not to reject them for grant of patent if they are inventions. However, the computer programmes as such are not intended to be granted patent. This amendment has been proposed to clarify the purpose”.[3]

Example:

1. In re Accenture Global Service GMBH Vs. The Assistant Controller Of Patents & Designs[4], relates to Indian patent application number 1398/DELNP/2003, which is now a granted patent as patent number 256171, whose present legal status at the patent office database is, “Enforce with Due date of next renewal as 21/02/2017”. This patent application was initially refused for patent registration by patent office under the provisions of Section 3(k) of the Indian patents act.

However, the patent applicant appealed before the IPAB and as per the Controller’s decision, it was held that the instant invention as claimed is not software per se but, a system is claimed which is having the improvement in web services and software. Accordingly, it was held that the invention since not falling in the category of section 3(k), viz software per se, corresponding objection was waived and the patent was granted.

2. Nissan Motor filed a series of patent applications in 2017 with respect to the computer softwares inter alia a travel control device and method for vehicle[5] comprising: a target acquisition means for acquiring target information which includes the location of an avoidance target that exists near a vehicle, a vehicle information acquisition function for acquiring information which includes the location of a vehicle, and drive assist device[6] which is a driving assistance device for assisting driving when a host vehicle is changing lanes wherein the device is provided with; a position measurement means for measuring the position of the host vehicle; a detection means provided to the host vehicle the detection means detecting the conditions around the host vehicle; a database for recording map information.

The aforementioned claims of Nissan Motor are claims concerning Computer Related Inventions (CRIs) which mean to perform the function as mentioned above and hence are termed as means + functions defined in the Guidelines for Examination of Computer Related Inventions.[7]

In light of the guidelines published by the Indian patent office for examination of software patents / computer related inventions (CRIs), software patents can be applied in India by way of combination of hardware and software features, which are novel, inventive and possess industrial applications. It may be categorized as Hardware based inventions: apparatus/ system/ device, Method/process based, Computer program product/ computer readable medium. Unless the software is a computer program per se, it may be granted a patent in India, and hence Nissan stands a fair chance to be granted the aforementioned patents. However, in the case of any conflict between The Indian patents Act and the said Guidelines, the Act is to prevail and for such instances, it is essential to have rules with the effect of laws incorporating CRIs in patentable subject matter.

On the same lines European Patent Convention expressly excludes computer programs, per se, from the purview of patentable subject matter.

Whereas in USA, there is no specific exclusion of software or business methods from patentable subject matter.  The law states that the subject matter, to be patentable, must be a useful process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter. According to the US Supreme Court, the Congress intended the statutory patentable subject matter to include “anything under the sun made by man,” but the laws of nature, natural phenomena and abstract ideas are three specific areas which are not patentable.[8]

Emerging new IPs

SEPs and FRAND Licensing

A patent that protects technology essential to a standard is called a standard-essential patent.[9] A standard is a document that sets out requirements for a specific item, material, component, system or service, or describes in detail a particular method or procedure.[10] For example, a modern laptop computer implements around 251 interoperability standards.[11]

The concept of SEPs evolved in India when Ericson in 2011 objected to the importation of handsets by Kingtech Electronics (India), claiming that the handsets infringed several of their SEPs in AMR Codec (Adaptive Multi-Rate) technology. The Indian Patents Act, 1970 does not contain any special provision for SEPs. Although, the same have been recognized by the jurisprudence, SEP is defined as …for a technology that forms a part of a standard, the patent is regarded as an essential patent for such standard.An essential patent can be said to be a patent that corresponds to an industry standard. The same standard is mutually agreed by various service providers, equipment manufacturers etc to be mandatorily implemented for a particular technology (such standards are recognized and implemented by the concerned government authority as well). It is meant to ensure that complete compatibility is achieved. It is impossible to claim compatibility with a technology (as defined by the concerned standards) without actually infringing the specific patent (and hence the requirement to obtain a license).[12]

 Following cases in India,

  1. Ericsson and Micromax case,
  2. Ericsson and Intex case
  3. Ericsson and Best It World (India)
  4. Ericsson and Xiaomi Technology
  5. Ericsson and Lava International Private Limited
  6. Telefonaktiebolaget lm Ericsson (publ) v.Competition Commission of India and another,

have established clearly that the necessary steps to be taken by any company/ legal entity, intending to incorporate any technology in its product that is standardized by any SSO (Standard Setting Organisation). It has to,

1.Incorporate the patent which is essential to obtain that standard.

2. To enable themselves of the use of aforesaid patent, without infringing it, they require obtaining a license from the holder of the aforesaid patent.
However, such a situation can have an obvious monopolistic outcome in the hands of the patent holder, and to curb such a situation before-hand, the patent holder has its commitments as a member of the SSOs, these commitments are known as FRAND commitments. Whereas the question remains as to what are the clear boundaries of fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory license terms, is to be determined by the consensus reached by the parties, and if the parties are unable to reach such consensus, they may appoint a mediator for the purpose, and yet if the party seeking the license considers the license terms to be abusive of the dominant powers of the patentee, the CCI holds proper jurisdiction to inquire and investigate into the same.

Data Exclusivity

Data Exclusivity is a TRIPs Plus element that is much debated in India. It arises from the interpretation of the Article 39 of the TRIPs agreement, “Members, when requiring, as a condition of approving the marketing of pharmaceutical or of agricultural chemical products which utilize new chemical entities, the submission of undisclosed test or other data, the origination of which involves a considerable effort, shall protect such data against unfair commercial use. In addition, Members shall protect such data against disclosure, except where necessary to protect the public, or unless steps are taken to ensure that the data are protected against unfair commercial use [13]wherein the big Pharmaceuticals and countries like USA interpret, “protection against unfair commercial use” to obviously mean, “protection of clinical data required to be submitted to a regulatory agency to prove safety and efficacy of a new drug, and prevention of generic drug manufacturers from relying on this data in their own applications.” USTR (United States Trade Representative) has been negotiating bilateral agreements enforcing the said interpretation of TRIPs, which is beyond the actual agreement and is thus referred to as a TRIPs Plus clause, with India. The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 provides for data exclusivity for a “new drug” under section122E for a total period of 4 years from the date of approval. There were considerations in November, 2016 that this period of four years to be increased to ten years.[14] Such exclusivity is itself a protection and does not depend upon the validity of the patent associated to the same drug, so even if the patent associated to the drug stands invalidated, the exclusivity stands unaffected and the drug remains out of the reach of the generic producers. There is no evidence that the four years of protection, already provided, was insufficient, and neither is there any protocol necessitating India to increase the said period. Such provision would delay market access of drugs at reasonable prices to the common people. Although, USA itself provides for 7 years of data exclusivity but the economic and developmental status of India, would suffer with such an amendment to the section.

Orphan Drug Exclusivity

An orphan drug is a pharmaceutical agent that has been developed specifically to treat a rare medical condition. India currently has no regulations for orphan drug manufacturing or selling. Treating rare or orphan diseases is important to India but very costly, which increases the patient burden. In India, 72,611,605 people are suffering from rare diseases, and 6,000–8,000 rare diseases can be found, including LeishmaniasisNorrie disease,ArthrogryposisCystic FibrosisWilson Disease, etc., many of which still do not have any cure and are mostly genetic in nature.[15]

Many countries have different definitions and regulations of orphan drugs,

USA under its The Orphan Drugs Act (ODA) is a federal law concerning rare diseases that affect fewer than 200,000 people or are of low prevalence, oraffects more than 200,000 in the United States and for which there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing and making available in the United States a drug for such disease or condition will recovered from sales in the United States of such drug. Determinations under the preceding sentence with respect to any drug shall be made on the basis of the facts and circumstances as of the date the request for designation of the drug under this subsection is made.[16]

According to the Orphan Drug Regulation in Europe, an orphan disease is a disease or disorder that affects fewer than 5 in 10,000 citizens.[17]

In Australia, RareDiseases are defined as a condition, syndrome or disorder that affects 1 in 10,000 people or less (The Australian Therapeutic Goods Authority).[18]

The lack of regulation in India increases the burden on the patients but also negatively impacts the economic success of India’s pharmaceutical industry. Orphan drugs may help pharmaceutical companies reduce the impact of revenue loss by patent expiration of blockbuster drugs. Although there may still be challenges ahead for the industry, orphan drugs seem to offer the key to recovery and stability within the market. Governments of various countries have proactively implemented special incentives for the manufacturers of orphan drugs. For example, regulations include accelerated marketing procedures, marketing exclusivity, tax credit grants for research, reconsideration of applications for orphan designation, and technical assistance for elaboration of the application file.

Intellectual Property Rights came into existence with the primary objective of promoting the progress of science. Patents are the rights that grant exclusivity to the patent holders, where they can exclude others from exploiting their invention which they have spent their R&D upon. This creates a monopoly in the hand of the right holder; this monopoly was intended to serve as an incentive for creation.
What we can observe with the emerging trend of IP is that the protection is shifting its focus from promoting innovation in every field to reserving exclusivity. Pharmaceuticals have been trying to evergreen their patents on blockbuster drugs by merely changing the form of the drug, which when restricted by the Indian Courts by the mandate of S.3(d) of the Indian Patents Act, the validity of which section was found to be challenged in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court held the section to be constitutionally valid, thereby striking down Bayer’s contentions[19], leading to many disappointed Pharmaceutical Companies. Data exclusivity is yet another tool aiming at the same monopolistic outcome, protecting the clinical data of any “new drug” for an absurd period of time. A “new drug” is not defined as a patented drug but simply a drug which has not been used in the country to any significant extent under the Drugs and the Cosmetics Act[20].

In re Ericsson v. CCI, it was alleged that Ericsson had added a covenant subjecting all disputes relating to matters under their FRAND license to the jurisdiction of Swedish Courts, thereby causing unnecessary costs for Indian mobile phone companies.[21] There are no specific guidelines as to what is fair, reasonable and non- discriminatory, due to which big fishes in the market construe the terms in their own brackets of convenience. Considering the economic condition of the Indian market, such licensing terms can lead to winding up of small and medium enterprises which is to be further evaluated by the Competition Commission of India.

This prevailing trend is untimely exclusivity masked in the disguise of evolution. However, exclusivity is an innate part of evolution, provided, used in the solution of overlooked issues such as orphan care drugs. Exclusivity is indeed very appealing for pharmaceutical companies to invest their R&D in the production of orphan drugs. It curbs their fear of negative commerce which appears to be an obvious result of producing any product with low commercial demand. With regulations such as a fixed exclusivity period over their drug and royalty standards, a profit margin can be achieved in addition to the recovery of production costs in the aforesaid duration.The shifting trend towards exclusivity can positively shape the Indian IP regime, if given the right direction.

About the Author: Namisha Jain, ILS law college, Intern  at Khurana and Khurana Advocates and IP Attorneys and can be reached at info@khuranaandkhurana.com

[1]  Indian Patents Act, 1970

[2] www.ipindia.nic.in/writeraddata/Portal/Images/pdf/Revised_Guidelines_

for_Examination_of_Computer-related_Inventions_CRI.pdf

[3] Report of the Joint Committee presented to the Rajya Sabha on 19th December, 2001 and laid on the table of Lok Sabha on 19th December 2001.

[4]  http://www.ipabindia.in/Pdfs/Order-283-2012-OA-22-2009-PT-DEL%20(Final).pdf

[5] Application No. 201747007327 A; www.Ipindia.nic.in/writeaddata/Portal/IPOJournal/1_471_1/Part-2.pdf

[6]  Application No. 201747015385;www. Ipindia.nic.in/writeaddata/Portal/IPOJournal/1_471_1/Part-2.pdf

[7] http://www.ipindia.nic.in/writeraddata/Portal/Images/pdf/Revised_Guidelines_for

_Examination_of_Computer-related_Inventions_CRI.pdf

[8] Bilski v. Kappos

[9]  http://ec.europa.eu/competition/publications/cpb/2014/008_en.pdf

[10]  http://www.cencenelec.eu/standards/DefEN/Pages/default.aspx

[11]  http://www.standardslaw.org/How_Many_Standards.pdf

[12]  In re Telefonaktiebolaget lm Ericsson (publ) v. Intex Technologies (India) Limited I.A. No. 6735/2014 in CS(OS) No.1045/ 2014

[13]  https://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/legal_e/27-trips.pdf

[14] https://www.ip-watch.org/2016/11/06/indian-generic-pharma-warns-government-caving-us-pressure-data-exclusivity/

[15] Adapted from the Rare Diseases List provided by the Foundation for Research on Rare Diseases and Disorders (accessed May 7, 2015)

 [16] https://www.fda.gov/forindustry/developingproductsforrarediseasesconditions

/howtoapplyfororphanproductdesignation/ucm364750.htm

[17] http://eurlex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2000:018:0001:0005:en:PDF

[18] http://www.rarediseasedayaustralia.com.au/what-is-a-rare-disease/

[19]  Novartis AG v. Union of India CIVIL APPEAL Nos. 2706-2716 OF 2013 (ARISING OUT OF SLP(C) Nos. 20539-20549 OF 2009)

[20] Rule 122E of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1945- Directorate General of Health Services. The Drugs and Cosmetics Act and Rules. D&C Rule’s 1945- 122E:2005. Delhi: D&C; 2005. p. 134.

[21]  Ericsson v. CCI W.P.(C) 464/2014 & CM Nos.911/2014 & 915/2014

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FRAND-ING PATENT LICENSES AND ITS IMPLICATION IN LANDMARK CASES IN INDIA

Everyday, a number of products are being invented all over the world, some cascading over the improvement of existing inventions, and the others, portraying a unique set of methods and products unknown to man at large. Simultaneously, there is an eruption of infringements that remain unnoticed or noticed following an incredulous load of proceedings and exorbitant costs. It is essential to protect the rightful rights of these owners against such infringements and unlawful interference to avoid any possible losses or damages in their peaceful functioning of their entities. In the field of protection of inventions, the adoption of Agreement of Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the Patent Act, 1970 and related amendments aim to let these owners benefit from their inventions without any unnecessary disturbance.

1. DEFINING STANDARDS

In our day-to-day activities, we try to sculpt our needs as per certain benchmarks to achieve our desired results. Similarly in the field of patents, every invention requires certain targets to abide by in order to facilitate an irreplaceable position in the market. To put it technically, standards are technical specifications that seek to provide a common design for a product or process[1]. Ensuring that the products conform to standards facilities almost definite reliability, quality, stability when purchasing the products and subsequently, an increase in their demand. To lay it down simply, a standard is a document that exhibits certain requisites for a particular product, element, system or service or elaborately describes a specific method. Formal standards are declared by Standard Setting Organizations (SSOs) and include establishments such as the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and various other ad hoc informal organizations[2].   Standards can also be of two different kinds- those with are mandatory or those that are up to one’s discretion[3].

2. STANDARD ESSENTIAL PATENTS

The concept of Standard Essential Patents (SEPs) cropped up when controversies between smartphone giants came about. Standard Essential Patents are basically, patents that inform the users or anyone else that the particular invention conforms to a particular standard denoted by that patent. SEP was also defined by the Washington District Court in Microsoft Corp. v Motorola Mobility, Inc.[4], as “A given patent is essential to a standard if use of the standard required infringement of the patent, even if acceptable alternatives of that patent could have been written into the standard”. It is a universal truth that consumers prefer standard compliant products as they deliver an incorrigible quality. Thus, in order to save a spot in the demand market, the inventors are forced to adopt technologies conferred by Standard Essential Patents. In turn, these SEP holders gain a huge competitive edge in the market and do not face any competition until they expire and move into the public domain.

3. FAIR, REASONABLE AND NON-DISCRIMINATORY TERMS (FRAND)

Due to the ubiquitous yearning for snowballing sale of one’s products, the market players are in a constant struggle to find the most desirable, the most profitable, and the most economically efficient techniques to garner demand for their brands. For this reason, SEPs play an unparalleled role to fulfill such wishes of the inventors. However, this also means that they have unbridled power in the market. Creating a monopoly of such SEP holders would be detrimental to the inventors, as they will have no say in the unfair and discriminatory terms brought before them. They will be forced to succumb to such terms for meeting the primary objective of every company in the market. There are a number of issues that rise during the event of licensing SEPs to other companies that inevitably cause a disruption in the unadulterated functioning of licenses in the country. A commonly occurring issue is patent holdup when an SEP holder realizes his irreplaceability in the market and consequently, causes a rise in the royalty rates to order to unjustly profit from his dominance, thereby burdening the licensee companies. Another frequent issue is royalty stacking where the companies are forced to pay for all the patents held by the SEP holder, patents that are not even incorporated by them in their products, purely under the coercion by the SEP holders of revoking the license

Hence, in order to evade such prejudiced demands of the SEP holders, the concept of FRAND was incorporated. The SSOs stress the requisite for such holders to enter into a promise to not cultivate any unwanted competitive strategies and misuse of the power granted to them. This promise is to coincide with the FRAND terms. Following the licensing strategies stated under the FRAND terms forms the basis of the standard development process. Conformance to FRAND terms guarantee that the SEP holders do not abuse their dominant position in the market and they license SEPs to desiring companies in a ‘fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory’ manner.

4. THE ERICSSON AND MICROMAX CASE

On the 4th of March, 2013, Ericsson filed a case of patent infringement against Micromax for eight of its SEPs which related to its 2G, 3G and EDGE devices, in the Delhi High Court. In response, on the 19th of March 2013, the Court passed an order stating that both the companies would enter into a contract under FRAND terms for the next month purely under an ad-interim arrangement, with prescribed royalties given in the table below.

A mediator was appointed to resolve the disputes between the two companies, but it was in vain. As a result, on the 24th of June 2013, Micromax filed information under Section 19(1)(a) of the Competition Act, 2002, alleging Ericsson to have inculcated an abusive and unfair mode of setting royalties. On the 12th of November 2014, the Court agreed to a new set of interim arrangement for the parties wherein Micromax was asked to pay the royalty on different terms given in the table below.

 

Phones/devices Capable of GSM Capable of GPRS + GSM Capable of EDGE+ GRPS+GSM WCDMA/HSPA, calling tablets
From 19/03/2013(earlier interim order) 1.25% of sale price 1.75% of sale price 2% of sale price 2% of sale price Dongles or data cards- USD 2.50
From date of filing till 12/11/2015 (later interim order) 0.8% of net selling price 0.8% of net selling price 1% of net selling price 1% of net selling price
From 13/11/2015 to 12/11/2016 0.8% of net selling price 0.8% of net selling price 1.1% of net selling price 1.1% of net selling price
From 13/11/2016 to 12/11/2020 0.8% of net selling price 1% of net selling price 1.3% of net selling price 1.3% of net selling price

 

With regard to the complaint filed by Micromax, it was stated that Ericsson was allegedly demanding an unfair royalty for its SEPs relating to the GSM Technology. It contended that the royalty should be based on the patents relating to the chipset technology and not arbitrarily calculate the royalty as a percentage of the sales price of the licensed downstream product[7]. It also stated that Ericsson was confident that there was no alternate technology for its patents in the market and hence, Ericsson believed that it had the right to charge such royalty for its patents. Moreover, Ericsson also wanted Micromax to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement, which was restrictive and was not in conformance with the FRAND terms. On the 12th of November 2013, under Section 26(1) of the Competition Act, 2002, in pursuance to the complaint filed by Micromax, the CCI laid down the following:

  1. Ericsson was the largest holder of SEPs in the country with regard to 2G, 3G and 4G patents used for smart phones, tablets, etc. Due to this, it undoubtedly held a dominant position in the market for devices that use the GSM and CDMA standards.
  2. While FRAND licenses were primarily meant to prevent patent hold-up and royalty stacking, the competitive endurance showcased by such SEP holders might prove detrimental to their integrity.
  3. Ericsson’s royalty rates were excessive and absurd, and these royalties had not linkage to the patented products. Thus, it was clear that there were discriminatory and contrary to the FRAND terms.

Due to these inferences, CCI ordered for an investigation on the same matter by the Director General, which was challenged by Ericsson in the court. What happened to the case from this point shall be discussed in detail in combination with two other cases with Ericsson.

 5. ERICSSON AND INTEX CASE

In 2013, Intex had filed a suit against Ericsson on the same terms as in the case of Micromax, about setting discriminatory and unreasonable royalties for the SEPs. The CCI, on its account, ordered for an investigation along with the complaint filed in the previous case. Ericsson filed a writ petition against this move for an investigation. Alongside, it filed a suit against Intex for the alleged patent infringement of the same eight patents and demanded damages of Rs. 56 crores.

6. ERICSSON AND BEST IT WORLD (INDIA)

In November 2011, Ericsson had sent a letter to Best IT World that it had infringed the same eight patents as in the previous cases due to its GSM and WCDMA related products. Ericsson suggested both the companies get into a Global Patent Licensing Agreement (GPLA) for all the infringed patents. Best IT stated that it was interested in entering the said agreement only under the condition that Ericsson discloses the alleged infringed patents in order to find out whether the allegations were valid and enforceable in the country. Ericsson intentionally refused to respond to that request and went ahead to impose the need to draft an NDA with ten years confidentiality agreement wherein all the confidential information would be shared only with the company affiliated to it, and any disputes arising out of the same would be settled in Stockholm, Ericsson’s location of its headquarters, which was evidently onerous and one-sided.  It further stated that the license agreement to be entered into would have to apply to the previous and future sale of the company. In September 2015, Best IT filed a suit under Section 4 of the Competition Act, 2002 against Ericsson for an abuse of dominant position.

Thus, as occurred in the cases above, the CCI ordered for an investigation to take place. Ericsson challenged the order of CCI and claimed that the order was ‘arbitrary in nature and without jurisdiction’. It was noticed by the Delhi High Court that the plea by Best IT ought to be disregarded as it had not entered into the licensing agreement with Ericsson and that it was evident that it used Ericsson’s SEPs.

ANALYSIS OF THE ABOVE ERICSSON CASES

Extracting the detail from the Micromax v Ericsson case, Intex v Ericsson case and Best IT World (India) v Ericsson case about Ericsson filing writ petition against the order of CCI for investigations, as per the judgment laid down by the Delhi High Court on the 30th of March 2016, the CCI had the authority to direct the investigations as in the event of an abuse of dominance, jurisdiction lies within the scope of Competition Act. The court agreed to use the net sales prices of the downstream product as the royalty base, and ordered that the royalty for licenses based on FRAND must be derived from sound economic reasoning.

In the Micromax case, the court ordered Micromax to pay the royalties as per the rates stated in the later interim order, rates mentioned in the table.

By the judgment delivered on the 13th of March, 2015, the Delhi High Court ordered that the royalties which were stated in the case of Ericsson v Micromax shall be applicable in this case too. The only difference that lies is that the court ordered Intex to pay 50% of the royalty as per total selling price per device and not chipset, from the date of filing of the suit till 1st of March, 2015, shall be paid directly to Ericsson by way of a bank draft within four weeks from the date of the judgement. The balance shall be secured with a bank guarantee within the said four weeks with the Registrar General, who would invest the same in an FDR for twelve months.

As per the order passed on the 2nd of September, 2015, the court declared that Best IT World must restrict importing mobiles, handsets, devices, tablets, etc. all articles that infringe the patents of Ericsson, which would be operative from the 9th of September, 2015.

7. ERICSSON AND XIAOMI TECHNOLOGY

Ericsson had filed a patent infringement suit for eight of its patents essential to 2G and 3G standards registered in India, against Xiaomi in December 2014. Ericsson had requested to obtain license from it before it sold the infringing products in India, but Xiaomi had entered into an agreement with Flipkart Internet Private Limited to sell the products under Xiaomi’s name. It had begun launching such products from the month of July 2014. Subsequently, the court had issued an injunction order against Xiaomi to restrain the import or sale of its infringing device. Xiaomi appealed to the injunction stating that it had entered into a ‘Multi Product License Agreement’ with Qualcomm Incorporated and used the chipset, which in turn was licensed to Qualcomm by Ericsson. Thus, it argued that it had not infringed any of Ericsson’s patents. As an interim measure, on the 16th of December 2014, the court allowed Xiaomi to sell only those devices that contained the chipsets, which were licensed by Qualcomm and had to deposit Rs.100 per device with the Registrar General of the Delhi High Court.

On the 22nd of April, 2016, the Court revoked the interim injunction on Xiaomi on account of concealment of significant information regarding the alleged infringing patents, by Ericsson. It laid down that Xiaomi was using the 3G patents licensed by Qualcomm, which in turn was licensed to it by Ericsson. The amount of royalty paid by Xiaomi to Qualcomm was provided to Ericsson as royalty and hence, there lay no requirement of paying royalty directly to Ericsson.

8. ERICSSON AND LAVA INTERNATIONAL PRIVATE LIMITED

Ericsson challenged Lava in a suit for patent infringement related to its AMR, GSM and EDGE technologies. On an order passed by the Delhi High Court in March 2015, both the companies tried to negotiate an agreement on FRAND terms but it was in vain. An interim order was passed by the Delhi High Court, operative from the 21st of June, 2016, ordering an injunction to prevent the import, export, manufacture and sale of mobile phones that use the concerned patents of Ericsson. The final order on the case is still pending before the Court.

With the judiciary at the brim of delivering justice to the deserving, the SSOs and various organization striving to protect the rights and inventions of the lawful owners, the Intellectual Property Appellate Board to discuss matters of concern of the distressed, and the laws on various aspects merging to bridge the gap between the people and justice, it is almost impossible to fathom a situation wherein the aggrieved parties could not be redressed. The only aspect which have to be looked into by these mechanisms is its clear and untainted practice. The salvo of the dominance and power of multi-national companies being fired at domestic companies who strive to maintain a position in the market have to be adjudicated in a fair manner, without any involvement of duress and coercion. The elixir of righteousness lies in the hands of these deciding authorities. The real question here is ‘Would the adjudicators choose impartiality and morality, or would they surrender to dominance?’

About the Author : Ms. Anjana Mohan, Symbiosis Law School, Pune, intern at Khurana and Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys. Views expressed in this article are solely of the intern and do not reflect the views of either of any of the employees or employers. Queries regarding this may be directed to swapnil@khuranaandkhurana.com or swapnils@khuranaandkhurana.com.

9. REFERENCES

1. ONLINE NEWSPAPER/ MAGAZINE/BLOG ARTICLES

a. Narula, Ranjan. “Standard Essential Patents.” Rouse The Magazine, 2015. Available On Http://Www.Rouse.Com/Magazine/News/Standard-Essential-Patents/?Tag=India

b. Rao D And Shabana N, Standard Essential Patents, Singhania & Partners, Available On Http://Www.Singhania.In/Wp-Content/Uploads/2016/04/Standard-Essential-Patents.Pdf

c. Lakshane R, “Compilation of Mobile Phone Patent Litigation Cases in India”, The Centre for Internet & Society, Available on http://cis-india.org/a2k/blogs/compilation-of-mobile-phone-patent-litigation-cases-in-india

d. Chawla K, “Ericsson v. Intex, Part 1- SEPs, Injunctions, and gathering clouds for Software Patenting?”, SpicyIP, available on http://spicyip.com/2015/03/ericsson-v-intex-part-1-seps-and-injunctions-and-a-new-era-of-software-patenting.html

2. ONLINE JOURNALS AND OTHER GUIDELINES

a. Sidak G, Frand In India: The Delhi High Court’s Emerging Jurisprudence On Royalties For Standard-Essential Patents, Journel Of Intellectual Property Law & Practise, 2015, Vol. 100, No.8, Available On Https://Www.Criterioneconomics.Com/Docs/Frand-In-India-Royalties-For-Standard-Essential-Patents.Pdf

b. Meniere Y, ‘Fair, Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory (Frand) Licensing Terms’, Jrc Science And Policy Report, 2015, Available On Http://Is.Jrc.Ec.Europa.Eu/Pages/Isg/Euripidis/Documents/05.Frandreport.Pdf

c. Department Of Industrial Policy And Promotion, Ministry Of Commerce & Industry, Government Of India, Discussion Paper On Standard Essential Patents And Their Availability On Frand Terms, Available On Http://Www.Ipindia.Nic.In/Whats_New/Standardessentialpaper_01march2016.Pdf

d. Agreement On Technical Barriers To Trade, Annexure I, Available At Https://Www.Wto.Org/English/Docs_E/Legal_E/17-Tbt.Pdf

e. Delhi High Court Cases, available on http://delhihighcourt.nic.in/

f. Indiankanoon, available on http://indiankanoon.com/

Submission on SEPs and Their Availability Under FRAND Terms

  1. Introduction

This submission is with respect to the discussion paper published by DIPP on Standard Essential Patents (SEPs) and their availability under FRAND terms. As one of the prime objects of IP laws is to promote/establish a fair balance between IP protection and Public interest, it is becoming essential for the governing bodies to have a closure look on the way SEPs are being commercialized.  In absence of any clear frameworks or guidelines by the government and standards making organizations, a lot of concerns have been raised recently with regards to working of standard essential patents.  It has been observed across the globe that there is no standard for terming any patent as Standard Essential Patent and there certainly are no standard /clear enforceable guideline under which the SEPs should be licensed to interested parties.

In view of the issues raised during recent litigations and foreseen issues related to SEPs and the ways they are licensed, the DIPP has taken a welcome step to develop a suitable policy framework to define obligations of the essential patent holders and their licensees.  Though the discussion paper under heading of “issues for resolution” attempts to explore a variety of issues, the objective appears to be conservatively defined. We think that the objective should be to develop a suitable framework/guideline for (a) Standards Setting Organizations (SSOs), (b) Government Bodies that approve or mandate any standard, (c) Rights holders of SEPs and  (d) Potential Licensees; and to evaluate need for change in domestic laws, if required.

Through this paper, we intent to submit our opinion on different issues listed for resolution and some other inputs to be evaluated further. We have also made an attempt to propose some obligations for each of the above listed entities

  1. Legislative measure

Let’s start with the first issue listed for resolution.

  1. Whether the existing provisions in the various IPR related legislations, especially the Patents Act, 1970 and Anti-Trust legislations, are adequate to address the issues related to SEPs and their availability on FRAND terms? If not, then can these issues be addressed through appropriate amendments to such IPR related legislations? If so, what changes should be affected.

Though the Patent Act, 1970 incorporates several provisions (like compulsory license) to strike a balance between the interest of IP owners and public interest, the issues related to SEPs were never explored to be addressed by the law.  As the issues related to SEPs have potential to directly impact public interest, it is right time for the legislators to explore possibility of suitable changes in the law or clarification of law to address the issues related to SEPs.

            The patent act 1970 through section 66 has also provided tool for revocation of patent in public interest that reads as “Where the Central Government is of opinion that a patent or the mode in which it is exercised is mischievous to the State or generally prejudicial to the public, it may, after giving the patentee an opportunity to be heard, make a declaration to that effect in the Official Gazette and thereupon the patent shall be deemed to be revoked”.Though the provision has been rarely, in fact never,  invoked (at least to my knowledge), there should be some clarify on the term “generally prejudicial to the public”, and whether the section 66 can be a potential tool to revoke the SEP if the public interest is undermined due to abuse of dominance by the SEP holders.  Here are some of the proposals that can be incorporated through appropriate amendments after careful evaluation.

Proposed Legislative Measures:

  • Addition of grounds of revocation: An additional group of revocation under section 64 can be added to enable revocation of patent in case of failure of timely disclosure of essential patents related to a standard by a member or non-member of the associated standard, especially when the patent makes a claim of it being a SEP, to avoid any potential patent hold-up issues.
  • Requirement under section 146 rules 131 requiring disclosure on working on patents in form-27 to clearly state if the patent is a SEP and associated standard,if any, for which the patent has potential of becoming SEP. Though most of the SSOs require disclosure of the IP by member of the SSOs, the obligation is mostly contractual and may not have binding effect in the law of land, and hence a suitable legislative measure in this regard is required to avoid practice of patent hold-up.
  • Avoid injunction by the court if bona-fide intent is shown by the potential licensee: Courts should refrain from granting injunctions in suits initiated by the SEP holders without giving reasonable opportunity to the potential licensee to prove a bona-fide intent to take a license from the SEP holder.
  • Limiting the right conferred by a patent in case the patent is an SEP.
  • Provision for “license of right” should be explored in order to ensure license of the patent to a potential licensee at RAND terms. Section 46 of the UK Patent Act 1977 (as amended) provides a patent proprietor with the possibility of having an entry made on the register that licences are available as of right under a patent.   By having a patent endorsed “licences of right”, a patent proprietor effectively offers any third party the opportunity to have a licence under the patent, on reasonable terms. If terms of a licence cannot be agreed between the parties then the UK Patent Office sets the licence terms[1]. A similar provision can be made in India, as it benefits both the right holder and the potential licensee.  Through this provision, the patent holder can get rebate on the annuity fee as well.

Though it is a well perceived notion that the interference of Government in IP commercialization can undermine interest of the right holders, the same cannot be said for SEPs, as unregulated SEPs create opportunity for abuse of dominant position of right holders. Legislative measures to address issues related to SEPs have also been discussed and explored during thirteenth session by the WIPO standing committee on the law of patents[2]. The legislative measures are also required in absence of any strong enforceability within India for contractual violation by members of SSOs with respect to agreement of the members with the SSOs. Requirement of legislative measures has also been felt in recent cases which show uneven negotiating power of IP owner and potential licensor-especially in case of SEPs, where mutual contracts-especially with unreasonable terms of NDA-may not be right tool for executing the licensing agreement.  The advantages of these solutions are that they are universal, and also apply to non-participants in the standard-setting process.

  1. Guidelines for Standards Setting Organizations (SSOs)

The proposed policy framework should also define the guideline/obligation for standards setting organizations, especially with respect to adaptation of technology for setting the standard and terming any patent essential for standard. The rationale behind FRAND is that it benefits the inclusion of patented technology in technical standards while ensuring that the holder of SEPs should not abuse the dominant market position it gains from widespread adoption of a voluntary technical standard. It has clearly been observed by the communities over the world that Patents are essential to implement  chosen industry standards, and those patents (SEPs) cannot be exploited like any other patent, and certainly not to the exclusion of other market participants.

SSOs should also ask members to identify their most restrictive licensing terms and conditions, including the maximum royalty rate, basis of royalty (whether smallest tradeable unit or the end product etc.), that they would demand if access to their patents becomes necessary to implement the standard. Such disclosures, made in advance of a standard being selected, provide SSO members important information that allows them to choose a standard based not only on technical merit, but also on the cost of accessing the IP needed to implement that standard.

Selection of SEPs should be one of the essential part during standard making.  Members should / must disclose all granted and pending applications, which should be examined by a team of SSO with respect to their essentiality and should be termed as SEP only if their essentiality is established at a broad level.  Members should also disclose in future any granted and pending applications in order to allow SSOs to evaluate essentiality and terming those patents as SEPs.  Members should essentially disclose the IPR which might be essential if that proposal is adopted and the law should be amended accordingly to ensure invalidation/revocation of IPRs in absence of such disclosure.

The SSOs should have a transparent system in which technology standards are adopted, and should have clear IP policy requiring binding obligation on the members to disclose their IP.

  • Representation of Government

To make the system more transparent, wherever possible or for standard having potential to impact public at large, there should be representation of the Government during standard making process.

  • Onus of SSOs to monitor SEP

Having technical experts in their panels, the SSOs should have an onus to monitor SEPs and evaluate IP declared by its members to determine whether the disclosed patent is essential for the standard or not.  There should be guideline on what becomes an essential patent and what should be reasonable terms and conditions for licensing the SEPs.

Washington District Court in Microsoft Corp. v. Motorola Mobility, Inc. defined SEP as “A given patent is “essential” to a standard if use of the standard requires infringement of the patent, even if acceptable alternatives of that patent could have been written into the standard.” A patent is also essential “if the patent only reads onto an optional portion of the standard.” Thus, it is impossible to manufacture standard-compliant products without using technologies covered by one or more SEPs.

The judgement very broadly defines the term SEPs and has never been examined by any other court in other jurisdiction, which leaves a question mark on the merit of the definition itself. With this very broad definition of SEP, the SSOs have to have  an obligation to define a transparent way in which  patents become SEPs and how they should be licensed. As some of the standards set by the SSOs are directly impacting the public interest, the SSOs can’t be an elite club of influential corporate houses and a tool for the elites to secure dominant position.  SSOs should take onus to getting the license from the IP owners and make them available at FRAND terms.

  • IP Policy of the SSOs

IP policy of the SSOs should have some mandatory provisions to create binding obligation on the members. Some of the essential provisions are listed as below

  • Disclosure requirement: IP policy should have a building clause for disclosure of patent or pending applications by the members on timely manner (may be within 6 month of claim being grated or application being filed).The ANSI Patent Policy Guidelines suggest that, in order to encourage early disclosure of essential patents, one or more requests be made to participants during the development of standards for the disclosure of essential patents. Such a request could be made by including it in letter ballots or in requests could be repeated at working group(s) or by a semi-annual notice given to each participant. The Guidelines, however, clarify that participants in the standards development process are not required to conduct a patent search of their own or others’ patent portfolios. The Guidelines also suggest that the ASD makes it clear that any participant in the process, and not only a patent holder, is permitted to identify or disclose essential patents. They state that it is desirable to encourage disclosure of as much information as possible concerning the patent, such as the identity of the patent holder, patent number, information regarding how it may relate to the standard being developed and relevant unexpired foreign patents. Further, the Guidelines encourage disclosure of existing pending US applications, although there may be an issue of confidentiality regarding unpublished applications and uncertainty as to whether the application would mature into a patent and what the scope of the claims in the granted patent would be.
  • Disclaimer to offer license on FRAND terms: Written declaration by the member to grant the license of SEPs on FRAND terms without any discrimination between existing or potential licensees should be mandatory. Agreement to grant the SEPS on FRAND terms should be the primary requirement when any technology is adopted by the SSOs and they must ensure that the FRAND terms are used in essence. Deviation of set guideline of FRAND should be treated as violation of agreement and should be linked with loss of IP rights.
  • Royalty base: Declaration by the members that they will negotiate Royalty for the SEPs based on smallest saleable component. The same view on royalty base has been suggested by the CCI and even by the some SSOs for example IEEE-SA. There can be an indicative price of royalty set by the SSOs, and share/percentage of each member, which respect to contribution of claim in the technology should be defined by the SSOs for each member. For example the SSO can define that the highest royalty rate for a compliant smallest saleable component would be “X” percentage of the cost of that smallest component, and royalty share for company A be M percentage of X, company B be N percentage of X and like that.
  • Injunction Against potential Licensee: Member can’t seek, or threaten to seek, injunction against potential licensee who is willing to negotiate for license.
  • NDA: Terms of the NDA for execution of licensing agreement can’t hide the SEPs in question. SSOs around the world have raised the issue of Patent Hold-up and Royalty Stacking in view of non-conformity of FRAND practices by licensors which gets complicated due to the discriminatory NDAs. Hence, there is a need to frame an acceptable framework for NDAs, in case both the licenser and licensees consider it as obvious in some cases.  To supplement, SSOs should seek advanced binding commitments from members before a standard is accepted.
  • Bundling of SEP patent with other patents: The member should not bundle SEPs with other patents of the members, as this creates an unfair practice and leads to abuse of dominance.
  • Patent Pool

The stacking up of royalty rates is a major issue, particularly in the IT industry where thousands of patents are involved in a single product.  In the instance of multiple royalty rates, that too with jacked-up values, at times the viability of profit diminishes, and thereafter, the burden shifts to the customer. A probable solution, although somewhat hard, would be step-down royalty rate or total royalty pool.  For step-down royalty rate, the share of each subsequent SEP holder will diminish as per a present declining rate. This makes sure that the multiple SEPs bring in their patents and the cost of the standard is disclosed to the SSO.

Patent pool managed by the SSOs can be a suitable option that may benefit all the members and potential licensees.  SSOs or any appropriate administrative body should facilitate patent pool for SEPs and define portion of royalty to be made to each SEP holders.  By doing so, chance of a single member getting an unreasonable royalty and undermining the interest of other member can also be avoided.   SSOs/ administrative body can work in coordination with Patent offices and should keep an eye on any potential patent-hold up. An attempt should be made to include maximum patents, those are essential for standard. A suitable royalty model for sharing of royalty among members can be explored.

In order to bring more transparency and predictability to the overall royalty price for the implementation of standards, some propose a new model (“Industrial Royalty Pie” model). In the telecom environment which is characterized by complex and dynamic standards having broad technical scope and long evolution cycles over many years, it is felt that a mere ex ante disclosure of licensing terms at the SSO is not effective, since it is too early for prospective patent owners to put a meaningful price tag on the technology. The Industrial Royalty Pie model therefore combines the ex ante process with other measures so that both individual royalty rates are FRAND-compliant and cumulative royalty rates are reasonable.

  • Special IP policy for Standards enforced/recommended by Government /Law

There should be guidelines from the Government for licensing of patents relating to technical requirements that are imposed by law, referred as technical regulations based a defined framework. There should be special guideline for licensing SEPs under FRAND for SEPs related to standards that are enforced by Government/law (like encryption Techniques, security features in automobile or medical devices etc.).

  1. Miscellaneous

Further question arises about scope of claim and rights protected for possibly changed claim in different countries.  As IP rights are territorial in nature, complete family of a patent can’t be essential. For example, a patent granted in US may be SEP, while the same patent granted in India may not be, as its scope of protection may have varied during prosecution, and again onus lies on the SSOs to compile the SEPs for different jurisdiction.

Special care should be taken by Government agency before issuing any ruling on a standard to be followed, keeping in view the potential IP licensing issues related to SEPs.

Disclaimer

Opinion and suggestion provided in this submission are personal to the author and not indicative of the organization that they belong to.

[1]http://www.bios.net/daisy/patentlens/2528.html

[2]STANDARD AND PATENTS DOCUMENT SCP/13/2   www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/scp/en/scp_13/scp_13_3.pdf

About the Author: Gyanveer Singh, Senior Patent Associate at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys and can be reached at:gyanveer@khuranaandkhurana.com and Harsh, Junior Patent Associate at IIPRD and can be reached at: harsh@iiprd.com.

Xiaomi Injunction: Yet another injunction given too soon?

In CS(OS)  3775/2014, as we understand from multiple sources, Xiaomi has been injuncted from manufacturing its line of smart phones for it has been prima-facie found to be infringing on certain standard essential patents of Ericsson. Although the order is not uploaded as yet, we understand that the patents used against Xiaomi, by Ericsson, are the same essential patents on which Ericsson had also earlier filed an infringement suit against Micromax, not too long back ago. The question being examined is if it was actually necessary to issue the order ex-parte or whether a short date could have been given to Xiaomi to be served the plaint and summoned for the hearing. Also, we surely would expect Xiaomi to file an appeal to vacate the order quite soon.

                We also understand from sources (such as Spicy IP) that the ex-parte order injuncts Xiaomi from selling, advertising, manufacturing or importing devices that infringe the SEPs in question. The judge also directed the Customs officials to stop the imports under the IPR Rules, 2007. Moreover, local commissioners have been appointed to visit Xiaomi officers to ensure the implementation of these orders. There are presumed to be around eight valid Ericsson declared standard patents in context, based on which interim injunction/Custom enforcement/IPR enforcement rules were also issued against Micromax. During the appeal in the Micromax case as well, it was argued by the counsel appearing for the appellant that there is no presumption in favour of a patent holder on the strength of a patent being registered, and had also urged that normally the rule of law is not to grant injunction when issues pertaining to violation of patents arises for consideration before the Courts for the reason damages would be a good measure. We earnestly believe the same to a very strong argument keeping in context that damages/accounting of profits can always be retrospectively granted/ordered to be paid for, and moreover to a company as huge as Ericsson, how can the loss be irreparable, as the same can always be regained even if the defendant is given an opportunity to present its arguments. Furthermore, even in the Micromax case (CS(OS) 442/2013)), if just within a span of around 10 days, an initial licensing arrangement could be agreed to between the parties (Ericsson and Micromax) through an initial royalty rate of 1.25% of sale price for GSM phones, 1.75% of sale price for GPRS + GSM phones, 2% of sale price for EDGE + GPRS + GSM phones, and 2% for WCDMA/HSPA, couldn’t the same have been taken as a precedent and Xiaomi been ordered to start paying the same royalty instead of simply granting a blanket injunction against the company, which makes it even harder to impose on the existing set of products/devices out there in the market, and making it a hazy picture even for the current distributors/vendors/suppliers. In fact, in the same case (CS(OS) 442/2013)), a recent order on 12’th Nov 2014 further revised/lowered the royalty rates, which would be applicable retrospectively from the date of the suit, wherein the rates have now come down to .8% for GSM and GPRS and GSM devices, and around 1% for other devices. Furthermore, in the same very case, in the order of 14’th Oct 2014, the plaintiff (Ericsson) agreed to produce six agreements with different operators  containing the terms and conditions, in a sealed cover, which according to them are somewhat similarly placed as the current Defendant company. The question in context that comes in mind is then why couldn’t a similar arrangement been asked for, having already had such a strong precedent, wherein the same plaintiff (Ericsson) could have been asked to submit agreements/arrangements with few other similar Indian parties, and then an initial royalty rate could have been imposed on Xiaomi till the next hearing.

                Having seen a growing number of ex-parte interim injunctions being issued by the High Courts, it gives visibility to a disturbed atmosphere where no opportunity whatsoever is being given to the Defendant to make an argument and try to arrive at a settlement, and instead a strong push back is created against the Defendant that makes it much harder for them to file an appeal, get the interim vacated, and in the meanwhile, although for a short period, comply with the harsh interim orders, which may have a long term impact on its hard-built reputation/sales, all especially in cases where the only injury to the plaintiff is monetary in nature and not actual products/services/customers being disturbed. We earnestly hope that the Micromax case could have been taken as a strong precedent and anticipating an appeal, a higher royalty rate could have been imposed.

About the Author: Mr Paras Khurana, Patent Associate at Khurana and Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys and can be reached at: paras@khuranaandkhurana.com