usbIt’s no surprise that most of the attention being paid to standard-essential patent issues is focused on the companies involved in the “smartphone wars” — Motorola, Microsoft, Apple. Samsung, etc.  But while these consumer product companies are of course affected by issues involving standard-essential patents, so too are their component suppliers.  A lawsuit filed this past fall in the Southern District of New York by Lotes Co. against Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. and Foxconn over SEP issues relating to the Universal Serial Bus (USB) 3.0 standard is a great example of this.  Here, we attempt to provide a brief overview of the issues in the Lotes-Hon Hai case.
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gavelWe’ve previously discussed the wide-ranging assertion activities of Innovatio IP Ventures LLC, a non-practicing entity that has targeted thousands of companies across the country over patents related to the IEEE 802.11 wireless networking (Wi-Fi) standard.  And due to an amended complaint filed in October 2012 by Motorola Solutions, Cisco, and Netgear in the Northern District of Illinois, Innovatio has been facing a litany of charges relating to this licensing and litigation campaign.  These charges include breach of contractual RAND obligations, state law unfair competition, civil conspiracy, and even violation of the federal civil RICO statute.  In November, Innovatio moved to dismiss these claims.  This week, Chief Judge James F. Holderman granted much of Innovatio’s motion, dismissing all of the claims except for the RAND-based breach of contract and promissory estoppel claims.  This ruling is indicative of the substantial hurdles that potential licensees of standard-essential patents face in attempting to show when patent holders’ assertion of rights and licensing demands may cross legal boundaries — and it may also further muddy the already murky waters surrounding the scope of RAND obligations.
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