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Dept. of Justice Blesses IEEE Rules on Injunctions and Reasonability

The Standards Blog - Andy Updegrove - Following almost two years of debate, public posting of five drafts, and consideration of 680 comments, IEEE-SA preliminarily approved amendments to its Patent Policy to address these and other questions. IEEE-SA is the developer of the Wi-Fi standards (and thousands of other specifications). It is one of the major standards development venues in the information and communications technology industry, and thus a venue within which the question bears great weight. However, final approval of the amendments was made contingent upon receiving a favorable “Business Review” letter from the U.S. Department of Justice.

In a business review letter, the regulator responds to a detailed explanation and rationale for a proposed action, and indicates whether it would, or would not, be likely to challenge that action if implemented. In this case the DoJ expressed its belief that the proposed actions would be procompetitive rather than restricting competition, and that it would therefore not be inclined to challenge the final approval and implementation of the policy changes. That approval will occur later this month when the proposed policy updates are approved by the IEEE-SA Board of Directors.

The most significant change relates to what would need to occur before the owner of an essential claim could seek an injunction or similar relief that would effectively bar the product vendor from selling its product in the marketplace. Such an action is rightly considered to be a “nuclear option,” for two reasons.