Princo Corp. v. International Trade Commission (ITC) (Fed. Cir. 2009)
The long-running Princo cases involve questions of when bundled licensing of patent rights may be seen as patent misuse (and thus rendering the patents unenforceable). The underlying pools of patents cover compact discs that are recordable (CD-R) and re-writeable (CD-RW).
In its most recent panel decision, the Federal Circuit (Judges BRYSON, GAJARSA, and DYK) rejected several theories of patent misuse, but remanded to consider whether the patentees has improperly sequestered alternative technologies. Judge Bryson did not agree with the novel misuse theory and dissented-in-part. Princo, US Philips, and the ITC each requested rehearing en banc.
The Federal Circuit has now granted the requests from US Philips and the ITC to hear the case en banc. (The court rejected Princo's request for rehearing its questions en banc).
US Philips presented two questions:
- Whether a supposed agreement, between developers of new technology and a new product standard, to license one of the resulting patents only for use under that standard, thus foreclosing the possibility that it might be used to create a competing standard, could be held anticompetitive without (i) defining a relevant market in which the standards compete and (ii) proving that the agreement injured or was likely to injure competition in that market.
- Whether such an agreement, even if deemed anticompetitive, would be a proper basis for invoking the doctrine of patent misuse to refuse enforcement of different patents used to practice the joint standard.
The ITC did not explicitly list its en banc question, but basically argues that the remand is improper because (1) neither party raised the misuse theory that the court relied upon in its decision and (2) the ITC needs the Federal Circuit to define the "relevant market" before it can properly determine the market harm.
Briefs: US Philips en banc brief will be due at the end of November, and briefs from the ITC and Princo will be due thirty days from the date of service of US Philips. "Briefs of amici curiae will be entertained, and any such amicus briefs may be filed without leave of court but must otherwise comply with Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 29 and Federal Circuit Rule 29."
US Philips is represented by Douglas Melamed at WilmerHale; Princo is represented by Eric Wesenberg at Orrick; the ITC's lead attorney is Clara Kuehn. Portions of the Melamed and Calebresi 1972 article on property rights is found in almost every property law casebook.