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U.S. DoJ: Limit Sales Bans For The Good of Consumers

The Justice Department and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has urged the U.S. government to limit sales injunctions against products found to infringe on patents for the good of consumers.

"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 F/RAND terms that money damages, rather than injunctive or exclusionary relief, is the appropriate remedy for infringement," the statement said.

"The USITC, may conclude, after applying its public interest factors, that exclusion orders (sales injunctions) are inappropriate."

The departments' joint policy statement follows the Federal Trade Commission ruling that Google must stop blocking the use of standard essential patents by competitors. The FTC stressed last year that bans on imports could cause "substantial harm" to consumers, competition and innovation.

The U.S. International Trade Commission, a federal agency that has the power to enforce bans on products shipping to the U.S., is currently considering a Samsung request to ban imports of Apple products.

The Justice Department and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office urged the ITC to consider if an import ban for products found to infringe on industry standard patents was in the public interest.

They said the ITC's approach "will be important to the continued vitality of the voluntary consensus standards-setting process and thus to competitive conditions and consumers in the United States."

During 2011, the smartphone industry alone spent $20 billion on patents to help protect products. For the first time in their history, spending by both Apple and Google on patents exceeded their spending on research and development of new products.

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