When the Federal Circuit handed down its decision in Fujitsu Ltd. v. Netgear Inc., many executives in the Silicon Valley breathed a sigh of relief. They weren't parties in the suit, but like the defendant, Netgear, they made WiFi-compatible products. And the court found that making such products didn't necessarily infringe patents in the WiFi standard.
Although many high-tech firms dodged a bullet this time, the court ruling may be bad news for them in the long run. That's because the decision provides patent owners with a fast and easy way to prove infringement when industry standards are involved.
The Federal Circuit, on appeal, largely upheld that ruling. The three-judge panel found no infringement for two of the three patent owners, and the panel greatly limited the infringement claims of the remaining plaintiff, Philips.
"If the case was a mountain before, it is now a molehill," Liebman says.