Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Make Trolls Great Again: Antitrust Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim serves Patent Trolls, not President Trump

As the most vocal Trump supporter among intellectual property bloggers, I want Four More Years for #45, but should "Quid pro quo Joe" win, I would take some comfort in the fact that Antitrust AAG Makan "Macomm" Delrahim would have to return to private practice. His shameless and increasingly distasteful pro-patent-troll lobbying is a disgrace for the entire Donald J. Trump Administration. Instead of supporting America's innovation economy and protecting American consumers (all of which is even more important in the face of the coronavirus crisis), he's advancing an agenda that runs counter to the President's focus on creating jobs. Patent trolls are all about rent-seeking for a few shrewd businessmen--Judge Posner likened them to "highwaymen"--and don't create or sustain jobs; the real economy--with Apple and Intel being two particularly good examples--needs to be protected against patent abuse, but the United States now has an "antitrust chief" who couldn't care less about innovation, competition, jobs, and consumer welfare. He's a lobbyist for patent trolls--not because he's got any connection to trolls, but because his former and presumably future client, Qualcomm, shares many strategic interests with trolls, which is why Qualcomm is a member of pro-troll lobbying groups whose membership consists mostly of trolls.

Last month, probably for the first time in U.S. history, the federal government threw its weight behind a dubious foreign organization against two of America's most innovative companies. The DOJ's antitrust division filed a Statement of Interest (i.e., an amicus curiae brief in the name of "the United States") supporting Fortress and its various patent trolls, such as Uniloc, against Apple and Intel. The Uniloc group (just one part of foreign-owned Fortress's holdings) has brought about 600 (!) lawsuits, and courts have exposed some its lies. Just two examples--the first one is about Uniloc's connection to the Eastern District of Texas, which they made up in part just to keep a lawsuit there:

"Mr. Burdick, Uniloc's only party witness residing within the Eastern District of Texas, does not spend the majority of his time in the Plano office. [...] Mr. Burdick spends equally as much time in Plano, as he does in Boise, Idaho and in southern California. [...] In addition, Mr. Etchegoyen [the CEO of Uniloc Luxembourg] spends about twenty percent of his time in either Newport Beach or Irvine, California and owns a residence in Newport Beach, which he uses when he 'is doing business in Orange County.' [...] Both Mr. Burdick and Mr. Etchegoyen have held around one hundred 'top-level strategy meetings' in southern California, for Uniloc business purposes. [...] Mr. Etchegoyen separately travels to southern California every month to meet with Mr. Turner, Uniloc Luxembourg S.A.'s CFO. [...] All of these facts fly in the face of Uniloc's prior representations: that Uniloc had only one full-time employee, Tanya Kiatkulpiboone, working at its office in Irvine, California as of April 2017 [...]; that Mr. Etchegoyen has lived in Hawaii since well before the filing date of the Complaint and does not maintain a residence in California [...]; and that Mr. Burdick does not work in California [...] ; and that Apple 'attempts to exaggerate Uniloc's ties to California'" (emphasis added)

Source: Memorandum Order and Opinion at 16-17, Uniloc USA, Inc. v. Apple Inc., No. 2:17-cv-00258 (E.D. Tex. Dec. 22, 2017)

A judge also suspected that Uniloc creates shell entities only for the purpose of letting them go bankrupt in case a prevailing defendant obtains an award of legal fees:

"The Court suspects that Uniloc's manipulations in allocating rights to the patents-in-suit to various Uniloc (possibly) shell entities is perhaps designed to insulate Uniloc Luxembourg from any award of sanctions in the event Uniloc loses this litigation (or some substantial part thereof)." (emphasis added)

Source: Uniloc 2017 LLC v. Google LLC, No. 2:18-cv-00553 (E.D. Tex. Jul. 1, 2019), Dkt. 28 Exhibit V

When a company--particularly a foreign organization--engages in such shady practices, "the United States" (federal government) should not intervene--much less at the district court level--to support that kind of party. But "Macomm" Delrahim is out of control, and Attorney General Barr may not even be aware of what's going on (and, especially, going wrong).

Apple and Intel have replied to the DOJ's brief, but not on the basis of the issues I just raised. The purpose of Apple and Intel's submission is to point out some major inconsistencies

  • between positions taken by the DOJ in the past in similar contexts and the pro-foreign-troll anti-American-innovators brief filed last month;

  • between the DOJ's current merger guidelines and the position taken in the pro-foreign-troll anti-American-innovators statement; and

  • even between two sections of that pro-foreign-troll anti-American-innovators submission (which is just absurd and shows that the DOJ's Antitrust Division is now only seeking to support certain types of parties as opposed to defending overarching principles).

On the first part of Apple and Intel's responsive filing, a footnote provides examples of AAG Delrahim's "expanded amicus program through which the Department increasingly files amicus briefs":

  • Motion for Leave to File Statement of Interest, Continental Automotive Systems, Inc. v. Avanci, LLC, No. 3:19-CV-02933-M (N.D. Tex. Feb. 27, 2020);

  • Statement of Interest of the United States; Lenovo (United States) Inc. v. IPCOM GMBH & CO., KG, No. 5:19-CV-01389-EJD (N.D. Cal. Oct. 25, 2019); and

  • Notice of Intent to File a Statement of Interest of the United States of America, U-Blox AG v. Interdigital, Inc., No. 3:19-CV-0001-CAB (BLM) (S.D. Cal. Jan. 11, 2019.

The Apple-Intel brief doesn't even mention the DOJ's interventions on Qualcomm's behalf, but Qualcomm is not a troll. In the three cases listed above, the DOJ supported trolls (Avanci is a pool/platform company, some of whose members are trolls).

Whatever Judge Edward Chen ultimately decides, Apple and Intel's reply may have helped to mitigate the impact of the DOJ's Statement of Interest. But Mr. Delrahim will likely continue to make such disgraceful and distateful filings with courts all across the United States, unless and until he gets replaced.

Finally, here's the Apple-Intel brief:

20-04-13 Apple Intel Respon... by Florian Mueller on Scribd

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