Last week, Magistrate Judge Grewal in N.D. Cal. denied Apple’s motion for summary judgment that patent owner Golden Bridge Technology was precluded from seeking pre-suit damages due to its alleged failure to comply with the marking statute. Apple’s summary judgment argument was premised on Golden Bridge’s failure to mark the alleged SEP’s patent number on
The sprawling patent infringement action in the Northern District of Illinois involving Innovatio IP Ventures is often in the headlines not because it involves standard-essential patents, but because it involves (in part) patent infringement claims brought by a non-practicing entity (Innovatio) against “end users” (coffee shops, hotels, restaurants, etc.). But last Friday, Judge James F. Holderman issued a ruling that may be the first of its kind for a district court — a ruling addressing the “essentiality” of patent claims, separate and apart from the issue of infringement. If you’re not familiar with this case (and even if you are), bear with us — we’ll try to explain just why this ruling is so “essential” (sorry).
Warning — this is going to be a long post.
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.
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.
An issue that often comes up in standard-essential patent litigation is “essentiality” — whether the asserted claims are actually necessary to practice the technological standard that forms the basis of the infringement allegations. This is important for at least two reasons: first, because if the claim is not actually necessary to practice the standard, an implementer could (at least theoretically) design around the patent to create a non-infringing implementation of the standard; and second, because the RAND obligations set forth in the patent policies of many SSOs are often limited only to truly “essential” patent claims.
This issue of essentiality has come to the forefront in the ongoing multidistrict litigation between non-practicing entity Innovatio and several WiFi suppliers (Cisco, Motorola Solutions, and Netgear). You may recall that Innovatio, in winning (in part) a motion to dismiss some unfair competition and RICO claims, had argued that many of the asserted claims are not actually “Essential Patent Claims” as defined by the IEEE — and therefore cannot be subject to any existing RAND obligation. Earlier this month, the court ordered the parties to meet and confer and submit a joint statement regarding disputes over whether, based on Innovatio’s infringement contentions, the asserted claims of Innovatio’s patents are actually essential to the IEEE 802.11 wireless networking standard. Yesterday, the parties submitted their stipulation regarding the essentiality of Innvatio’s asserted patent claims.…