By Steve Rodgers, senior vice president and general counsel of Intel
For nearly fifty years, Intel has been privileged to play a central role in the most important technological transformation in human history, the emergence and democratization of information technology. We’ve witnessed first-hand the ability of this technology to connect and empower people and businesses around the world, and to promote growth and opportunity. This phenomenal story—the story of our age—has depended upon a few critical factors: legal systems that enabled companies to reap the benefits of R&D; respect for the Rule of Law; level playing fields for trade; growing diversity that enabled new generations of talent; and people’s willingness to entrust ever more of their lives to technology, among others.
Having seen first-hand the benefits of these factors, we feel a responsibility to share our experience with lawmakers and judges to ensure that the story continues. To do this, we sometimes file amicus briefs, also known as “friend of the court” briefs, on legal cases that impact these or other important issues. Amicus briefs are filed in appellate court cases, right on up to the Supreme Court, by parties that are not directly involved in a case, but that have expertise in the issues at hand. The briefs provide additional information or arguments that courts may want to consider in rendering a decision.
Because issues like patent law, trade, diversity and privacy are so important, we want to share our amicus briefs and the reasoning behind them broadly.
In fact, last week, Intel filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the patent exhaustion doctrine in Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc. The doctrine holds that an authorized sale of a patented good exhausts all of the patent holder’s patent rights in that good. The lower court’s recent decision in this case, however, announced, we believe, unwarranted exceptions to this rule that are without legal basis and threaten to cause disruption to the patent system, particularly with respect to the high technology sector. Not only are many high tech products covered by thousands of patents, but they contain components that are designed in one country, manufactured in another, assembled in another, and then shipped as finished products around the world. Under the lower court’s decision, a patent owner could sell its technology for use in such a component, and then turn around and sue for infringement when the ultimate finished product hits the United States. Intel’s amicus brief requests that the Supreme Court review the case and reverse the lower court’s decision to eliminate these unwarranted exceptions to the patent exhaustion doctrine.
Also, in the past year, we have filed other briefs in cases that we think are particularly important, ranging across issues such as information security, patents and marriage equality:
- Google v. Pulaski: Earlier this month, Intel filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in the Google v. Pulaski class action case. Because of its size, Intel is a frequent target in class-action litigation. Class certification can transform an ordinary lawsuit into “bet-the-company” litigation, even for a company of Intel’s size. Few companies can afford to place that bet—no matter how small the chances of an adverse judgment—so class certification alone can drive a company to settle, long before the merits of a case are ever tested. As such, it is important that class certification standards be applied consistently by courts and in a manner that does not create overly broad classes that include individuals who may not have suffered any damages.
- Apple and the FBI: In March, Intel filed a brief in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Eastern Division, in response to the U.S. Department of Justice’s attempt to compel Apple to create security-disabling software for an iPhone involved in an investigation. Chris Young, General Manager of Intel Security Group, wrote a blog post explaining why we filed in support of Apple in this case.
- Halo v. Pulse: In January, Intel filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court along with Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Medtronic regarding enhanced damages in patent infringement actions. In the brief, we defend the current legal standard and explain how it has worked well as a practical matter for the vast majority of cases. We also address the problems that would arise if—as petitioners propose—the Court were to adopt a more flexible standard. The frequency of enhanced damage awards would inevitably increase; “demand letters” and litigation from patentees generally (including non-practicing entities) would also increase; and companies, fearful of the prospect of enhanced damages, would be forced to divert their research and development funds toward less productive litigation and licensing costs.
- Cuozzo v. Lee: Also in March, Intel joined more than 40 other companies and industry associations to file a brief that defends the U.S. Patent Office’s procedure for reviewing issued patents and, where appropriate, canceling poor-quality patents. Specifically, the brief defends the Patent Office’s use of a particular standard when reviewing issued patents—the “broadest reasonable interpretation” claim construction standard for inter partes reviews (“IPRs”)—and argues this standard is legally appropriate and fair. The brief also explains the IPR process is operating as Congress intended and has resulted in the Patent Office cancelling an appropriate number of poor-quality patents to help improve the overall quality of U.S. patents.
- Obergefell v. Hodges: Just over a year ago, Intel joined 378 other employers and employer associations in filing a brief regarding the Supreme Court’s then planned review of the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans. The brief argued that the existing patchwork of laws created complexity for employers like Intel and required them to uphold and affirm discriminatory practices. As our CEO recently tweeted, Intel opposes discrimination in all forms, and the court ultimately made the right decision.
There are many important cases underway that touch upon important issues. We’re excited to share more with you as we file future briefs.