Injunctions and Hold-up under Weak Patent Protection

Sim, Kyoung Bo

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This paper analyzes how injunctions relate to patent hold-up problems. To this end, we present a simple model of licensing negotiations between a patent holder and a downstream firm in the shadow of litigation. More specifically, we consider the situation in which an injunction is granted as a matter of course if a patent is found valid and infringed upon in litigation, but the patent holder may be under-compensated due to aspects of the patent remedy system other than injunctions. We show that if the downstream user is unaware of the patent before any investment in initially designing its product, the patent hold-up problems created by injunction threats are worrisome when (i) the redesign process is costly, (ii) the degree of patent protection (by aspects of the patent remedy system other than injunctions) is sufficiently strong and (iii) the injunction is requested not to practice the patented technology exclusively but to collect excessive patent royalties. Even if the downstream user is aware of the patent before the initial investment, the patent hold-up problems do not disappear. The findings here imply that a discretionary approach is required towards denying injunctions against patent infringement. If the degree of patent protection is not sufficiently strong, denying injunctions can exacerbate the undercompensation problem. However, once patent protection improves enough (not necessarily perfectly), we may see a surge of patent holdup problems, and it would be better to apply alternative patent remedies in place of injunctions when necessary. Lastly, we discuss several possible alternatives to injunctions and their pros and cons.

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Korea Development Institute
Journal Title
KDI Journal of Economic Polilcy
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