How to Determine a FRAND Rate for Standard Essential Patents? – Episode 2


December 13, 2021

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  • Jon Putnam, Competition Dynamics

Jon Putnam founded Competition Dynamics as a platform for economic research and testimony at the intersection of intellectual property, competition, and international trade law. From 2001 to 2005, Dr. Putnam held a professorship in the Law and Economics of Intellectual Property at the Centre for Innovation Law and Policy, University of Toronto. Dr. Putnam has also held academic appointments at the Boston University Graduate School of Management, Columbia University Schools of Law and Business, Vassar College, and Yale College. Dr. Putnam has been retained in more than 100 consulting engagements and has testified more than 40 times in patent, antitrust, copyright, trade secret, contract and tax actions in federal, state and bankruptcy courts; before the US Federal Trade Commission, International Trade Commission, and Tax Court; in US and international arbitrations; and in regulatory proceedings in Canada and India.

“We had access to all SEP license contracts since the year 2000 (FTC v Qualcomm subpoena) to compare the royalty rates. It turned out the rates per patent are the same across, 2G, 3G and 4G.”

In the interview Jon revealed some of the SEP related litigation cases he worked on. In one case, the Qualcomm ITC litigation, all US based SEP cross licensing agreements were subpoenaed. That why Jon and his team was able to create a database how much royalties per paid for 2G, 3G and 4G per SEPs. The results confirm that the price per patent did not increase in standard generation advances. Which in his opinion makes sense as the same R&D efforts and spending per patent was conducted by the companies.

In another litigation case, Jon and his team looked at in total 8 SEP determination studies for 2G, 3G and 4G. The argument is that expert witness reports that e.g. use a sample of declared patent to extrapolate this to the overall number of SEPs per standard are biased and the sample as well as the claim charting method is not straight forward and different experts arrive at different results. In light of these disagreements and findings of unreliability, Jon and his team developed a comprehensive method to estimate the likelihood of essentiality for each major contributor’s patent portfolio. Here they took into account systematic differences in essentiality probabilities across the studies, contributors and standards. This method aggregated all available information across the studies, and thus forms the single best estimate of essentiality for any given contributor’s portfolio. Jon argues that “best estimate” is therefore the single best observable proxy for the unobservable beliefs held by each party to portfolio licensing negotiations. Jon and his team also relied on this method as part of computing the relative strengths of industry patent portfolios to predict the payments observed in SEP licenses, in the recent Apple v Qualcomm litigation. The results show that expectations of each portfolio’s essentiality rate are an important component of the portfolio’s relative strength.

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