Working Paper: Unfair pricing and standard essential patents

The working paper by EUI research fellow Marco Botta argues that a competition agency should rely on the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on Art. 102(a) TFEU to analyse a case of unfair royalty rate. In particular, United Brands cost/price test is not suitable for assessing an unfair royalty rate requested by the SEP holder, since it is de facto impossible to determine the ‘costs of production’ of individual SEPs. On the other hand, in accordance with the CJEU case law, the competition agency might rely on a number of benchmark methods with which to assess the alleged unfairness of the rate. In particular, the agency should verify its findings under multiple benchmark tests, in order to minimize the risk of false-negative errors. Finally, the SEP holder could argue that the requested royalty rate is justified by its past R&D investments.

In terms of remedies, the paper argues that a competition agency could require the SEP holder to license its ‘essential’ patent; such behavioural remedy is well established in the practice of the European Commission. In light of the recent Broadcom interim decision, if the competition authority was confident about its preliminary findings of unfair pricing, the agency might require the SEP holder to license its ‘essential’ patents via an interim decision; the scope, duration and exact obligations of such a duty would later be refined in the final commitment decision.

Read the working paper here.