Essential Patent Claim

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)

As many of you are aware, a non-practicing entity named Innovatio IP Ventures has been engaged in a widespread licensing and litigation campaign over WiFi-related patents that were formerly owned by Broadcom.  As a result, Innovatio has become embroiled in litigation with several suppliers of WiFi-compliant devices (Cisco, Motorola Solutions, Netgear) in the Northern District of Illinois.  A few weeks ago, we noted that a debate had arisen in that case over the “essentiality” of certain asserted patents.  The presiding judge ordered briefing on the issue, and Innovatio filed its “Essentiality Brief” a couple weeks ago — asserting that not all of its asserted claims were essential or covered by IEEE RAND obligations.  This past Friday, the WiFi Suppliers filed their response to Innovatio’s Essentiality Brief.  The WiFi Suppliers accuse Innovatio of misconstruing both the IEEE Patent Policy and the relevant RAND licensing Letters of Assurance in an attempt to avoid its RAND obligations.

[2013.05.10 Defendants’ Brief re Essentiality of Patent Claims]

We alluded in our last post on this matter that issues of patent “essentiality” — and therefore, the scope of corresponding RAND obligations — are likely to become a more common issue in standard-essential patent litigation.  The WiFi Suppliers’ responsive brief demonstrates why.

Continue Reading Scope of IEEE RAND obligations a hotly-contested issue in Innovatio IP Ventures WiFi patent litigation