As a leading advocate for and supporter of free market innovation, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has taken particular interest in patent infringement cases that keep important technical and conceptual advancements out of the hands of those who stand to benefit from their existence. As a result, officials recently released a joint statement with the U.S. Department of Justice recommending that the U.S. International Trade Commission consider the public's best interests before validating any sales bans stemming from patent suits.
USPTO and DOJ officials first spoke to the important role of standards setting in the patent community and acknowledged the vast societal advantages of interoperable innovations. However, there is growing fear that standards-essential patent owners are starting to seek unfair advantage in certain scenarios through unreasonable patent licensing terms - which can shift expenses to the consumer - or outright injunction.
"In an era where competition and consumer welfare thrive on interconnected, interoperable network platforms, the DOJ and USPTO urge the USITC to consider whether a patent holder has acknowledged voluntarily through a commitment to license its patents on [fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory] terms that money damages, rather than injunctive or exclusionary relief, is the appropriate remedy for infringement," officials stated.
The statement comes just a few days after Google agreed to an FTC settlement that will see the company avoid sales bans and pursue more amicable patent litigation resolutions in the future. The implications of this new stance could go well beyond consumer gadgets, however, as the USPTO and DOJ noted several potential positive effects on public health and safety as a consequence of open innovation.