Global Antitrust Enforcement Symposium

Last week Georgetown University Law School in Washington, D.C., hosted its annual Global Antitrust Enforcement Symposium.  Despite its name, this is largely a trans-Atlantic event, bringing together lawyers and key government officials from North America and Europe.

The conference opened with remarks by Bill Baer, the U.S. Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division, who directs antitrust matters for the U.S. Department of Justice.  Mr. Baer was followed by Joaquín Almunia, Vice President of the European Commission and its Commissioner for Competition – he directs antitrust/competition matters in Europe.  You can find Commissioner Almunia’s complete remarks here (http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-14-588_en.htm), but I wanted to share a passage which is of primary interest for readers of this blog:

Finally, we have also seen in recent years an increasing interaction between competition and intellectual property rights, especially in the context of standards and, more specifically, in the so-called “smartphone wars”. Last April, the Commission adopted two decisions involving the smartphone manufacturers Samsung and Motorola. The decisions establish that a company can always use injunctions to fight back patent infringements. However, such injunctions may be abusive when the holder of a standard-essential patent has given a commitment to licence it on FRAND terms and when licensees are willing to respect them. These principles strike a good balance between the interests of patent holders and those of the companies that need those patents to produce their devices. The former should be fairly remunerated for the use of their intellectual property. The latter should get access to standard-essential technology without the threat of anti-competitive injunctions. I hope our decisions will bring clarity to the market and help avoid the protracted patent disputes we have seen in the smartphone industry.

Edith Ramirez, the Chairwoman of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, gave the luncheon address, which focused on licensing standard essential patents and antitrust enforcement.  You can find Chairwoman Ramirez’ address here (http://www.ftc.gov/public-statements/2014/09/standard-essential-patents-licensing-antitrust-enforcement-perspective-0), and they are worth a read, not least for Commissioner Ramirez’ take on enforcement policy concerns with China.

The final highlight of the conference was a panel on “IP, High-Tech and Antitrust” that included Renata Hesse, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Criminal and Civil Operations at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, and Josh Wright, the newest Commissioner of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.  The panel focused on patent/antitrust issues and was notable for the evident disagreement between Ms. Hesse and Commissioner Wright on the basis of governmental patent policy. Commissioner Wright emphasized his view that patent policy debates had an “intolerably high ratio of theory to evidence” while Ms. Hesse held the view that the DOJ policy was appropriately grounded.

You can find the conference agenda, participant biographies, and materials here (http://www.law.georgetown.edu/continuing-legal-education/programs/cle/antitrust/Course-Materials.cfm), including several documents related to the patent/antitrust panel.

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