In Ritz Camera & Image v. SanDisk Corp., No. 2012-1183 (Fed. Cir. Nov. 20, 2012), the Federal Circuit held that direct purchasers have antitrust standing to bring Walker Process claims.
In a typical Walker Process claim, an alleged patent infringer claims that the patentee fraudulently obtained a patent or patents from the Patent and Trademark Office. Usually the claim is brought as a type of monopolization claim.
In Ritz Camera, a direct purchaser of SanDisk products (not an alleged patent infringer) brought a Walker Process claim, alleging that by fraudulently obtaining patents, SanDisk was able to raise prices above competitive levels. The Federal Circuit found that the plaintiff had antitrust standing. “Ritz’s status as a direct purchaser gives it standing to pursue its Walker Process claim even if it could not have sought a declaratory judgment of patent invalidity or unenforceability.”
The ruling increases patentees’ potential exposure to antitrust claims arising out of patent prosecution and enforcement.