The Justice Department and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a joint statement on Tuesday saying that companies that own a standard essential patent, like those that makes mobiles and other gadgets work together, should be allowed to win sales bans as a form of punishment for infringement cases only for very specific and rare cases.
The two government agencies, which enforces the country’s antitrust law, also said that companies that infringed standard essential patents should be hit with monetary damages, not sales bans, except for very specific cases.
Infringement cases between big smartphone companies revolve around standard essential patents since 2010, as Apple strikes at Google’s Android-powered phones.
The fight between the two giants has also involved other companies like HTC Corp, Samsung Electronics, and others who are also using the Android technology.
There is an unwritten rule between corporations that standard essential patents should be licensed to anyone for a reasonable price.
The statement of the Justice Department and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was seen as an appeal to the U.S. International Trade Commission to prioritize public interest in trying to decide whether or not to order a ban on an imported good that uses an essential patent.
“The USITC, may conclude, after applying its public interest factors, that exclusion orders (sales injunctions) are inappropriate,” the agencies said.
The said statement is an apparent view of the Obama administration and may influence judges, though it is not binding.
The current trend shows that it is now becoming more and more difficult for companies to win injunctions for infringement cases filed in U.S. courts.
In December, the Federal Trade Commission argued that Google’s Motorola division is not entitled to seek court’s permission to ask sales bans of Apple’s iPads and iPhones that Motorola claims infringe on its patents essential to wireless technology.
Last June 2012, a Chicago district court judge, Richard Posner, rejected the cases filed by both Apple and Motorola against one another by claiming patent infringement. Both companies appealed the ruling.
Posner’s refusal to hear the case stopped Motorola’s request to ban sales of Apple’s iPhones because the patent involved was considered standard essential patent.
Meanwhile, the ITC is looking into a possibility that Apple may have indeed violated Samsung’s patent in making the iPod Touch, iPad, and iPhone. Standard essential patents are also included in the case.
An administrative law judge at the International Trade Commission previously ruled in September that Apple had innocently violated Samsung’s patents. A final decision is set to be announced within the month.
The essential patents involved have something to do with the format of data packets used in high-speed transmission as well as to 3G wireless technology.
A month previously, Apple won a massive $1.05 billion award in damages when a U.S. jury declared that Samsung copied key features of the iPhone. The ruling is also being appealed.