In a recent post on the University of Houston Law Center Faculty Blog (another LexBlog site), Ray Nimmer asks whether the Supreme Court’s recent eBay v. MercExchange permanent injunction decision will lead to compulsory licensing. Nimmer discusses two alternatives when a permanent injunction is not granted after a patent infringement finding:
One response is simply to assess damages as to past infringement, leaving any future use of the patent for a voluntary agreement of the parties (a license) or a subsequent infringement suit for the subsequent infringements. That is clearly the preferable option, although it does raise limited issues of judicial economy.
A second alternative is to permit subsequent use by the defendant subject to the payment of a reasonable royalty imposed by the court. This is a form of compulsory licensing that rewards the wrongdoer, unless the remedy has been requested by the patent owner. Nevertheless, a panel of the Federal Circuit indicated that such a remedy may be appropriate. One wonders why.
Nimmer concludes that courts should not impose compulsory licensing for future infringement absent substantial public policy reasons:
The preconditions should be both an opportunity to negotiate a license and, failing a bargain, a request by both parties for the court to impose a royalty as part of the remedy for infringement. A patent creates a right to exclude and, where the patent owner prefers to exercise that right, it should not be forced into a licensing arrangement resulting from a case in which it prevailed on the infringement claim. There may be some cases in which vital public policy interests justify this result, but those cannot be grounded simply in the fact that the court denied a permanent injunction or the parties have not agreed to license terms. A remedy should not penalize the person to whom the remedy is awarded.