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FTC comments on Apple v. Motorola, calls sales bans in FRAND patent cases 'inappropriate'

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As patent battles rage across the technology landscape, companies are constantly asking courts to keep allegedly-infringing products off the market — but the FTC thinks granting those requests in some cases would be going too far. In an amicus brief filed today the FTC said it would be "inappropriate" for a court to take a product off the market when standards patents are the point of contention.

Holders of patents that have been incorporated into industry-wide standards, such as Wi-Fi or 3G technology, often agree to license said patents under fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. It's meant to encourage interoperability by allowing all manner of companies to incorporate broadly-adopted technology. The threat of injunction, the brief states, could allow patent holders to intimidate other companies to pay higher-than-reasonable royalty rates — essentially defeating the purpose of FRAND in the first place.

It's not the first time the FTC has sounded the alarm

The brief was filed in connection with a case between Apple and Motorola that was itself dismissed back in June; Motorola had accused Apple of infringing one of its standards essential patents. However, it's not the first time the FTC has made noise about problems with FRAND lawsuits — or Google-owned Motorola. In June it issued a statement to the International Trade Commission in connection with two Motorola cases, stating that import bans based upon FRAND patents could cause "substantial harm" to competition in the United States. With a US judge denying Motorola's request for an injunction against Microsoft products just last month, there certainly seems to be a trend here — not that it's stopping companies from pursuing new standards patent litigation in the meantime.