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Case Studies

We developed three original case studies that are referenced in the Course Modules section of this website, but we highlight them here.

Standard Essential Patents

This case study addresses standard essential patents (SEPs) and is based on the litigation in Microsoft v. Motorola, litigation which resulted in a decision in 2015 over a dispute related to the licensing of technology for the well-known Xbox video game system. This case study raises key contractual issues surrounding standard-setting organizations (SSOs) and about the implications of “fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory” (FRAND) terms for standard-essential patents. The case study introduces students to the world of SSOs and walks them in a concise, accessible fashion through the complex issues presented to the district court and resolved in its voluminous opinions. The case study distills a 207-page decision and still longer court record down into a manageable case (including attachments and exhibits), making it possible for students to learn about standard essential patents in a typical 80-minute class through engagement with the issues raised by this litigation. For guidance on how to use this case study in the classroom, visit the course module page for Standard Essential Patents.

Federal Preemption of State & Local Green Building Codes

Two case studies address jurisdictional conflicts and preemption challenges between state and local building codes and federal energy efficiency regulations of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning appliances. They draw on litigation challenging green building codes adopted by the City of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and by the state of Washington. Construction industry groups went to court to argue that U.S. Department of Energy efficiency regulations preempted these state and local efforts. In the Albuquerque case, the federal judge found that the city’s code was preempted. In the Washington case, the federal judge granted a summary judgment that the state code was not preempted—a ruling later upheld by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. These cases provide promising opportunities for students not only to understand and debate preemption, but also to consider what levels of government are best suited for addressing different kinds of public policy problems and effective strategies for addressing the problem of climate change.

The federal preemption module contains these two case studies—one addressing the Albuquerque case, one addressing the Washington case—to give instructors flexibility for developing their lesson plans.

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