On May 5, 2020, Germany’s highest court, the Federal Court of Justice (GFCJ), made a provisional (tentative) ruling at the hearing in Sisvel’s SEP case against Haier, determining that Sisvel had not abused a dominant market position and Haier – as the implementer – had failed to comply with its FRAND obligations in the way that it handled licensing negotiations with SEP-owner Sisvel.

The GFCJ not not yet issued its final written decision, so we’ve done our best to summarize key points from various accounts of the May 5 hearing.  So consider this post more as issue spotting with proper skepticism and understanding that the final decision may be different from what was said at the hearing.  We encourage readers to keep an eye out for the Court’s final ruling, and we will provide an update once we receive an English version of the final decision (we will give a shout-out to the first person to send us an English version of the final decision).

Following the May 5 ruling, Sisvel on May 15 filed patent infringement suits against Tesla, Dell, Honeywell, HMD Global, TCL, BLU Products, CradlePoint, OnePlus, Tinno Mobile, Sun Cupid Technology, Verifone, and Xirgo in the District of Delaware, asserting patents previously assigned to Nokia, BlackBerry, LG, and Thomson Licensing and declared essential to 3G and 4G/LTE wireless standards. Sisvel had filed cases against BLU, Dell, Honeywell, Tesla and Xirgo last June.
Continue Reading Germany’s highest court tentatively rules that infringer hold-out violated its obligations to negotiate a FRAND license (Sisvel v. Haier)

On April 3, 2020, Judge Selna issued an Order in the TCL v. Ericsson case upon remand from the Federal Circuit, teeing the matter up for a jury trial on all liability and FRAND issues in the case to be heard at the same time
Continue Reading Judge Selna will hold jury trial on all SEP issues on remand (TCL v. Ericsson)

On March 2, 2020, Judge Gilstrap issued an Order granting-in-part Apple’s motion to dismiss a declaratory judgment claim by Optis to the extent the claim related to FRAND commitments for foreign standard essential patents (SEPs).   But he maintained the action as to FRAND commitments for U.S. patents.  This decision may be part of a trend for U.S. courts respecting comity with other countries by limiting disputes over SEPs and FRAND commitments to U.S. patents in the absence of consent by both parties to adjudicate issues concerning foreign SEPs.
Continue Reading Judge Gilstrap dismisses foreign SEP FRAND claims in global SEP feud, but maintains claims on US SEPs (Optic Wireless v. Apple)

Oral Argument in the appeal of Judge Koh’s FTC v. Qualcomm decision is schedule to take place February 13, 2020 before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to consider whether and to what extent competition law should apply to licensing standard essential patents (SEPs). This appears to be the most important and impactful U.S. case so far on the issue and could have far reaching impact on domestic and foreign SEP licensing.

The Court will hear from Qualcomm and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and has also allotted the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) five minutes to present as amicus curiae during the argument. In addition to the parties-at-interest and DOJ, twenty-two amicus briefs have been lodged in the case by other companies, licensors, industry groups, academics, and interested parties. In fact, due to public interest in the case, the Ninth Circuit has created a separate website dedicate to the appeal, “to notify the media and public of procedures and rules for admission to proceedings, as well as access to case information.” The FTC also maintains its own website on the litigation that includes all the FTC’s filings and public statements regarding the proceedings.

In anticipation of the upcoming hearing, we’re provide this summary of the appeal issues and topics raised by the amicus briefs. As usual, we provide links to the filings and encourage you to read through them yourself.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit to Hear Argument Feb. 13 from FTC, DOJ and Qualcomm on Competition Law’s Applicability to SEP Licensing (FTC v.Qualcomm)

Today, the Ninth Circuit issues an Order that stays Judge Koh’s injunction entered in the FTC v. Qualcomm case in order to maintain the status quo so that the Ninth Circuit can decide whether Judge Koh’s “order and injunction represent a trailblazing application of the antitrust laws, or instead an improper excursion beyond the outer limits of the Sherman Act”, which is not decided by this Order but “is a matter for another day.”

We provide a summary of the ruling below and, as always, recommend reading the 7-page Order for yourself (see link in first sentence above).   The Ninth Circuit has not decided the substantive issues–that will be done on “another day”–but did indicate that Qualcomm had raised meritorious arguments that (1) Qualcomm was not required to license its SEPs to rival chip suppliers and (2) Qualcomm could assess royalties on its SEPs on a per-handset basis (rather than based on modem chip component of the handset).

As far as next steps, the parties and interested amicus on all sides of the issue are preparing briefing on an expedited schedule in preparation for a hearing at the Ninth Circuit in January 2020.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Stays Judge Koh’s Injuncton in the FTC v. DOJ Competition Brawl (FTC v. Qualcomm)

Last week, Judge Gilstrap ruled that Ericsson’s end-product-based “offers to HTC–$2.50 or 1% with a $1 floor and a $4 cap per 4G device–were fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory.”  Judge Gilstrap found that the comparable licenses presented by Ericsson to be “the best market-based evidence” of the value of Ericsson’s standard essential patents (SEPs) and that “the market evidence, in the form of comparable licenses, has failed to embrace HTC’s preferred SSPPU [smallest salable patent-practicing unit] methodology.”    He noted that there was no evidence that industry licenses are negotiated based on the cost of a baseband chip (the alleged smallest saleable patent practicing unit or SSPPU) and evidence showed that the value of SEPs can exceed the value of the chip, which price does not include the cost if that intellectual property.  This SEP cases is one of the closest to capturing what actually happens in the licensing market with FRAND-committed SEPS, rather than generating new litigation-based theories on valuing SEPs (e.g., top-down analysis).  This decision also is at odds in many respects with the decision by Judge Selna in the TCL v. Ericsson case that currently is on appeal at the Federal Circuit (see our Jan. 3, 2018 post summarizing that decision).
Continue Reading Judge Gilstrap rules Ericsson’s licensing offers were FRAND-compliant (HTC v. Ericsson)

Yesterday, Judge Koh of the U.S. District Court Northern District of California entered a Judgment following the January 2019 trial based on her Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law that Qualcomm violated the Federal Trade Commission Act.  This is a lengthy, 233 page decision and we will provide a summary soon, but provide now

Today the Federal Circuit (Renya, Bryson and Hughes) ruled that implied waiver may apply where the prior owner of a U.S. patent had a duty to disclose a related foreign patent application to ETSI even though ETSI had rejected that prior patent owner’s proposed contribution to the standard.  This decision provides insight into several areas, including:

  • Applying the equitable doctrine of implied waiver to the duty to disclose intellectual property rights (IPR) to standard setting bodies.  Among other things, the decision indicates that there may not be a requirement to show reliance on the implied waiver.
  • The importance of looking to the specific standard setting body’s IPR Policy at issue and providing evidence for interpreting that policy.
  • The difference between disclosing patents that “may be” essential to the standard and a FRAND commitment that arises because the patent “actually is” essential to the standard.
  • Failure to disclose is not a “gotcha’” defense; rather, you must show that the patent owner obtained some unfair advantage by its misconduct in not disclosing the patent.

As with many decisions, this case is fairly case-specific as far as interpretation of the ETSI IPR Policy.  Only the  patent challenger (Apple) provided testimony on interpretation of the ETSI Policy without any rebuttal evidence beyond the language of the IPR Policy itself.  The Federal Circuit indicated that its decision was based on the specific record evidence–and lack of evidence–before it.
Continue Reading Federal Circuit provides guidance on implied waiver defense applied to failure to disclose foreign patent application to SDO (Core Wireless v. Apple)

Magistrate Judge K. Nicole Mitchell of the Eastern District of Texas recently denied patent owner Cellular Communications Equipment LLC (“Cellular” or “CCE”) motion for summary judgment that its asserted patents were not essential to a cellular standard, ruling that there was a factual dispute based on statements made by patent owner Cellular during the litigation.  This case illustrates problems in loosely referring to standard essential patents generically as patents relevant to a standard or erroneously stating that a patent was “declared essential.”  Declarations that patent owners submit to standard setting bodies typically do not declare that patents are essential to the standard, but identify patents that may be essential to the standard and what licensing terms, if any, they would offer if the patent actually is essential.  A patent is not actually a “standard essential patent” or “SEP” unless it is “essential” to the standard under the standard setting body’s intellectual property rights (IPR) policy.

Further, this case illustrates that,  just because a patent is infringed by one way of implementing the standard does not mean that the patent covers every way to implement the standard and, thus, may be “essential” and subject to a standard-setting licensing commitment.

In sum, for convenience, speakers, writers and parties may loosely talk about a patent or patent portfolio as being SEP(s) as a short-hand for patents that were declared potentially an SEP.  But, when making statements on which a court, agency or other decisions may rely, it may be helpful to be more precise or provide a caveat that the term SEP is being used as a short-hand and does not mean that a patent actually is essential to the standard.
Continue Reading Judge Mitchell rules there are factual issues whether patent is “essential” to a standard (Cellular Eqpt v. ZTE)

Last week, Judge Orrick of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued an Order that enjoins Huawei from enforcing an injunction on Chinese standard essential patents (SEPs) entered by the Chinese People’s Court of Shenzhen (the Shenzhen Court).  The Chinese Shenzhen Court entered that injunction after considering Samsung’s arguments that the SEPs were subject to Huawei’s commitment to license them on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.  This case provides incremental insight into asking a U.S. court to bar enforcement of a foreign injunction based on foreign SEPs so that the U.S. court may consider FRAND contractual rights as to those foreign SEPs.

As with most cases, this decision is fairly fact specific.  Some of the key points from this decision include the following:

  • Filing Date of U.S. and Foreign Actions.  The patent owner (Huawei) filed this U.S. action and the Chinese action at the same time.  Technically, perhaps because of the time zone difference, the U.S. action was filed one day before the Chinese action.  The simultaneous filing indicated that the patent owner was not  filing the Chinese action as a run-around a much earlier filed U.S. action (as was the case in the Microsoft v. Motorola case where an antisuit injunction was entered).
  • First-To-File Race?  This case has a first-to-file flavor similar to what we see in selecting a forum for U.S. court actions–e.g., courts defer to litigating a case in the first U.S. district court where the matter is raised, rather than in another U.S. district court with a later-filed case on the same matter.  That first-to-file deference leads to a race to the court where the patent owner tries to  file a U.S. case in its preferred U.S. court before an accused infringer files a related declaratory action in another U.S. court, and vice versa.  The fact that Huawei technically filed this U.S. case one day before Huawei filed the Chinese case was a factor that Judge Orrick found to favor entering an antisuit injunction that gives preference to the first filed U.S. action over the later filed Chinese action.  Huawei essentially outraced itself in the first-to-file competition (i.e., filed its U.S. action before filing its Chinese action)
  • Scope of U.S. and Foreign Actions.  Although not totally clear from the record, the Chinese court apparently considered only whether the accused infringer (Samsung) was a willing licensee in its negotiations with the patent owner (Huawei) for a license under the Chinese SEPs.  In this U.S. case, however, the court would consider a much broader issue of whether Huawei breached its FRAND commitment and determine FRAND contract terms.  In other words, the U.S. court was not going to simply retry and decide the same issues already decided by the Chinese court and his decision would control whether the patent owner would be entitled to the injunctive relief granted by the Chinese court.
  • The Antisuit Injunction is Limited In Scope and Duration.  The U.S. court was entering an injunction of limited duration and scope.  The Chinese injunction that the patent owner (Huawei) was enjoined from enforcing concerned only 2 Chinese patents and was subject to an appeal in China that would not be decided for a few more months.  This U.S. case is scheduled for trial in December, after which the U.S. court would decide the contract issues and dissolve the antisuit injunction.  Accordingly, the antisuit injunction would preclude enforcement of the Chinese injunction for only a few months and impact only 2 Chinese patents.
  • Judicial Estoppel From Entering the Antisuit Injunction.  The accused infringer (Samsung) successfully argued against bifurcating the U.S. case that would have decided the FRAND contract issues first; rather, it argued that the U.S. court must first determine whether the patent owner’s (Huawei’s) patents were valid, enforceable, infringed and essential to the standard before the court could then decide the contractual FRAND issues.  The U.S. court agreed to proceed with the entire case–both the FRAND contract and U.S. SEP infringement claims–at the same time with a single two-week jury trial.  The accused infringer’s later request for an antisuit injunction “tempted” the court to hold that the accused infringer was judicially estopped from now arguing that an antisuit injunction was warranted so that the the contractual issues would be decided first (contrary to the accused infringer’s successful bifurcation argument).  But, rather than that, the court ruled that the infringer would be granted the antisuit injunction but could not argue that the FRAND contract issues could not be decided without evidence of whether the foreign patents were valid, enforceable, infringed or essential (if such determinations were outside the scope of the U.S. court’s jurisdiction).

Below is a more detailed discussion of the decision.
Continue Reading Judge Orrick enjoins Huawei from enforcing injunction for infringing SEPs issued by China’s Shenzhen court (Huawei v. Samsung)