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The Great Escape: Efficient Infringers Increasingly Seek to Abuse Antitrust Law

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Last week the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued an important decision that might be easy to overlook. In Intellectual Ventures I LLC v. Capital One Financial Corporation, the Federal Circuit dodged the antitrust question presented by finding that a prior ruling had collateral estoppel effect. Still, the arguments raised by Capital One against Intellectual Ventures are part of a disturbing trend. Unwilling licensees who engage in a scheme of efficient infringement to avoid paying for patent licenses are increasingly looking to creative antitrust theories to escape liability for their actions. Efficient infringement is a cold-hearted business calculation whereby businesses decide it will be cheaper to use patented technology without paying than to license it and pay a fair royalty to the patent owner. This calculus is made on the part of large entities who realize there are a certain number of patent owners that are just simply not going to assert their patents for one reason or another, frequently because they don’t have the money to do so. Then there is another group of those that will assert their patents but will not win. The calculation progresses to realize that there is a small group of those who are likely to both assert patents and prevail, thanks to all the hurdles put in place (i.e., patent eligibility challenges, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, etc.). The calculation further recognizes that even if a patent owner prevails, a permanent injunction is virtually impossible to obtain as

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