Thursday, October 16, 2014

Graham & Van Zeebroeck - Comparing Patent Litigation Across Europe: A First Look

Tonight, I recommend Stuart Graham & Nicolas Van Zeebroeck's article Comparing Patent Litigation Across Europe: A First Look published in the Stanford Technology Law Review in September 2014.

Recently, some of the hotly contested high tech patent enforcement occurred in Europe. Thus, to increase the chance of success, it is important to understand what is actually happening in Europe based on data rather than war stories.

Here's the authors' abstract of the article: "Although patent litigation has become increasingly global, with litigants earning billion-dollar verdicts and seeking judgments in many different jurisdictions around the world, scholarship has been almost completely silent on how such litigation develops outside the United States. This void in understanding is particularly glaring in Europe, where U.S. and other litigants are increasingly drawn, and to which policy makers interested in harmonizing the U.S. patent system look in vain for answers. Courts, litigants, commentators, and policy makers speculate about how litigation and judicial outcomes differ, but have no factual basis for comparing or understanding what actually transpires.

With a view to settling this uncertainty and allowing for the emergence of a more robust body of scholarship, this Article sets forth the results of an empirical study of a database including nearly 9,000 patent suits from seven of the largest and most judicially active countries in the European Union during 2000-2010. In the process, it shows that the incidence of litigation and the bases of judicial outcomes diverge radically across the different countries and types of patented technologies in Europe. Accordingly, the Article, for the first time, provides an empirically grounded, factual basis for examining stubborn questions relevant to those needing clarity about the legal environment in Europe, and to comparatively study the United States’ system."

The results unveiled in this Article are profound, bringing clarity to a legal environment that has been heretofore shrouded in shadow. The results show that the frequency of patents reaching a judgment in litigation varies widely across European countries in ways that belie the simple differences associated with the quantity of domestic stocks of enforceable patents. By demonstrating that disputes are much more frequent in some countries (e.g., the Netherlands and France) as compared with others, the Article uncovers that practitioners’ estimates—the sole previous baseline source—are not accurate.

By showing how litigation varies widely across technologies, this Article provides critical insights into the likelihood of different kinds of patents reaching a judgment in the diverse European courts. It also offers surprising evidence regarding how litigants’ raising of patent validity and infringement claims differs from one European court to another, and how outcomes too are starkly different.

The main policy implications of the Article follow from the reported patent litigation patterns across technologies and countries. The findings highlight both the fragmentation and variation within the European patent system, and the fundamentally different dynamics that will continue to shape patent enforcement across technology sectors and industries. The patterns also underscore the variation in predictability, and differences in legal certainty, that innovators, patent holders, and their technology competitors experience in the fragmented European system. These cross-country differences highlight institutional variation among the jurisdictions, which in turn drives the costs and incentives to use the courts, helping to provide critical comparative data as Europe moves to a continent-wide Unitary Patent and Unitary Patent Court in 2015.

Moreover, since several of the changes proposed in Congress closely resemble rules already in place in the several European jurisdictions, the Article’s findings are relevant to current U.S. policy debates on potential patent reform. The Article’s important and unprecedented empirical analysis enable comparative patent system policy debate in a way which previously was impossible."

Copyright © 2014 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.