Justice Department against most sales bans for infringing key patents

Tue Jan 8, 2013 6:21pm EST
 

By Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Companies that own a key patent, such as those that ensure mobile and other electronic devices work together, should be allowed to win sales bans as a punishment for infringement only in rare, very specific cases, the Justice Department and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office said in a joint policy statement on Tuesday.

The Federal Trade Commission, which with the Justice Department enforces U.S. antitrust law, has also argued that infringement of "standard essential patents" should be punished with monetary damages, not bans, except in a handful of specific cases.

Standard essential patents have been a central element in the patent wars that smartphone companies have waged around the globe since 2010, as Apple has sought to fend off a challenge by Google's Android phones.

The fight has also embroiled Samsung Electronics, HTC Corp and others who use Android technology.

The usual expectation among corporations has been that standard essential patents will be inexpensively licensed to anyone.

Tuesday's statement appealed to the U.S. International Trade Commission to make the public interest paramount in deciding whether to order an injunction against an imported good that uses an essential patent.

"The USITC, may conclude, after applying its public interest factors, that exclusion orders (sales injunctions) are inappropriate," the Justice Department and patent department said.

Their statement is an expression of the administration's view and may carry weight with judges but is not binding.   Continued...

 
A Google trademark is reflected in Apple logo in this photo illustration taken in Berlin, August 31, 2012. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski