- Professor Irina Manta, Hofstra Law
In Kimble v. Marvel Enterprises, citing stare decisis, the Court held that a patent holder cannot charge royalties for the use of his invention after its patent term has expired. In so holding, the Court affirmed a 60 year-old case along the same lines. But in yesterday’s decision, three justices dissented, stating that “[t] he Court employs stare decisis, normally a tool of restraint, to reaffirm a clear case of judicial overreach.” Should the Court have reversed course?
The communications and technology sectors have seen an explosion of growth and innovation over the last decade, and yet the primary body of law governing these areas, The Communications Act, has not been updated since the days of dial-up internet. In 2013, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (Mich.) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (Oreg.) announced that they would commence efforts to “update the law to better meet the dynamic needs of the 21st century.” In January, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (S. Dak.) announced similar plans.
Our panel will discuss recent efforts to update the Communications Act for the modern internet age. What should a new framework look like? With the convergence of technologies, should the current platform-specific regulation be replaced with a more flexible, service-based regulatory scheme? Should special considerations still apply in certain services? How could such regulations impact developing business models and evolving technologies? Should the scope of the FCC’s jurisdiction remain the same? These and other issues will be explored.
This panel was presented on June 18, 2015, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC during the Third Annual Executive Branch Review Conference.
The Telecommunications Act: Can it Rein in the FCC?
9:40 – 11:10 a.m.
June 18, 2015
Property rights in patented inventions are being struck down at an unprecedented rate in a new administrative forum. This new post-grant review procedure (PGR), instituted in late 2012, takes place not in a court, but rather in an administrative forum known as the Patent Trials and Appeals Board. The Board has invalidated the vast majority of the patent claims it has reviewed, around 80% by some measures.
The US Patent and Trademark Office appears to have erected a vast and expensive system for granting rights with one hand and taking them away with the other. The former Chief Judge of the nation's patent appeals court, Randall Rader, has called the Board a "death squad" for patents. Many businesses and their attorneys have commented that investors and corporate decisionmakers are re-evaluating their investments in R&D whose value is secured by patents.
Are these criticisms confirmed by the actions of opportunistic hedge funds and law firms? PGR challenges have no standing requirement -- they can be instituted by anyone. Hedge fund manager Kyle Bass has filed a PGR challenge against Jazz Pharmaceuticals after shorting the company's stock. PGRs are viewed as so deadly by investors that they reacted just as Bass hoped -- the stock's value plummeted. Similarly, law firms have been contacting innovative companies and demanding payments not to file PGR challenges against their patents.
This Teleform discussed the expansion of the administrative powers of the Patent Office in establishing the Board, and whether this is another example of overreach by the executive branch that should be reined in via reform measures currently under consideration in Congress.
The America Invents Act, the first substantial legislative changes to patent law, took effect two years ago. Late last year, attempts to reform patent law stalled when late opposition to the proposed act was voiced. This year, a number of legislative proposals are under consideration in both houses of Congress. Some proponents of patent reform cite increasing patent litigation as a key indicator that reform is necessary, while opponents argue that the empirical evidence used to support those claims is faulty. Our experts debated new and old empirical evidence, and the underlying need for further patent reform. Professor Kesan referred to a PowerPoint prseentation available for download on this page.