Apple and Intel--two American high-tech icons--are suing Softbank-owned Fortress Investment on antitrust grounds in the Northern District of California. Their complaint admittedly raises legal questions of first impression. Fortress brought a motion to dismiss the complaint just on the basis of the legal theories it is based upon. Apple and Intel obviously oppose that motion.
Over the last couple of days, various parties filed amicus curiae briefs with the court. Apple and Intel are notably supported by
the Fair Standards Alliance (whose members include many major information & communications technology as well as automotive companies); and
the R Street Institute, the Center for Democracy & Technology, Public Knowledge, Engine Advocacy, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (while that brief is formally filed in support of neither party, it does side with Apple and Intel on the only subissue it addresses, which is the market power that even weak patents--due to the difficulties in getting them invalidated--confer upon their owners).
But Fortress has an ally that you wouldn't expect to back a foreign-owned patent troll group trying to extract money from some of America's greatest tech companies (having filed dozens of lawsuits against the likes of Apple, Google, and by extension, Intel): the United States Department of Justice, claiming to speak on behalf of the United States (i.e., the federal government).
Makan "Macomm" Delrahim, a former Qualcomm lawyer and now the Assistant Attorney General heading the DOJ's Antitrust Division, stops at nothing in his tireless efforts to help patent holders maximize their returns at the expense of the wider economy and actual innovation (this post continues below the document):
Mr. Delrahim and his subordinates' submission supports Fortress with respect to the claims brought by Apple and Intel under federal antitrust law. The fact that Fortress is Japanese-owned doesn't mean that the DOJ couldn't have good reasons for supporting them: it's about fundamental legal questions that also affect American patent holders. The real issue here is that even if Fortress were American-owned, it would simply be irreconcilable with the America First philosophy to back hyperagressive patent trolls (who sometimes bring dozens of lawsuits against just one defendant such as Apple or Google).
It's shocking, and I wanted to share the news. In a future post I may go into detail on the motion to dismiss (possibly after Fortress's reply brief). The case is still on my watchlist.
The ongoing coronavirus crisis--in which Fortress was about to prevent essential research, but then backtracked under public pressure, while Apple offered a major contribution--is not going to go away anytime soon. Short of a vaccine or effective and reliable cure, many restrictions will remain in force for some time, and many people's lives won't return to normal. The damage that virus is causing to the global economy is beyond belief. Governments around the world will soon face an ecomomic policy challenge of unprecedented proportions. For a swift recovery, it's advisable to support product-making and service-providing companies (like Apple, Intel, and Google) against patent trolls like Fortress and its numerous shell companies who just siphon off money from those who create many jobs. The real economy needs to highlight that simple fact to President Trump and his closest advisers. Enough is enough.
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