在欧洲联盟法院华为诉中兴通信案判决后所做成的判例
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Updated 23 一月 2018

LG Mannheim

曼海姆地区法院
4 三月 2016 - Case No. 7 O 24/14

A. Facts

Case No. 7 O 24/14 [1] related to the infringement of patent EP 0.734.181.B1, which covered technology for decoding video signals in the DVD standard (‘subtitle data encoding/decoding and recording medium for the same’). [2] The defendant was a German subsidiary of a Taiwanese electronics company. It sold computers that used such DVD-software. The claimant, a Japanese electronics company, commercialised the patent in question through a patent pool. In early 2013, the patent pool approached the defendant’s parent company about the use of their patents in general.

On 30 May 2014, the defendant offered to enter into a license agreement for the respective German patent. The defendant indicated that it was willing to enter into negotiations for a portfolio license (but for Germany only). It was also willing to have the claimant determine the royalties owed under section 315 of the German Civil Code. On 25 July 2014, the claimant suggested to change the license offer to a worldwide portfolio license. The defendant rejected and informed the claimant on 22 August 2014 as to the number of respective computers they put into circulation between July 2013 and June 2014 in Germany.

On 13 March 2015, the claimant made an offer for a worldwide portfolio license. On 5 May 2015, the defendant requested the relevant claim charts and further details as to how the license fees had been calculated. On 25 June 2015, the claimant sent the claim charts but refused to elaborate on the calculation method. The claimant suggested a meeting in which it would answer further questions. The defendant responded on 13 July 2015 that most of the claim charts lacked necessary details. In a meeting between the claimant and the defendant’s parent company on 3 September 2015, the parties were unable to reach an agreement. On 30 September 2015, the claimant sent a PowerPoint presentation containing explanations regarding the patent and the calculation of the license fees.

The District Court of Mannheim granted an injunction order on 4 March 2016. [3] It also held that the defendant was liable for compensation and ordered it to render full and detailed accounts of its sales to determine the amount of compensation owed. Further, the District Court ordered a recall and removal of all infringing products from the relevant distribution channels.

B. Court’s Reasoning

1. Notice of Infringement

According to the Huawei/ZTE ruling, the claimant is required to notify the defendant of the alleged patent infringement. According to the District Court, this notice is supposed to provide the defendant an opportunity to assess the patent situation. [4] Thus, it is insufficient to notify the defendant that its products contain the respective standard and it is therefore infringing the SEP. Instead, the claimant is required to specify the infringed patent, the standard in question, and that the patent has been declared essential. The level of detail required depends on the respective situation. [5] However, the description does not need to be as thorough as a statement of claim in patent litigation. In the eyes of the court, the customary claim charts (which show the relevant patent claims and the corresponding passages of the standard) will typically be sufficient. By sending the charts to the defendant, the claimant had met its obligations under the Huawei/ZTE ruling. [6]

The Huawei/ZTE principles require the SEP holder to give notice of infringement before commencing patent infringement proceedings. Otherwise, the SEP holder would abuse its market power, which would mean that the patent infringement court would not be able to grant an injunction order. However, according to the District Court, in such a situation the SEP holder would not lose its patent rights, but would be prevented from exercising those rights in court. [7] Proceedings that had been commenced prior to the Huawei/ZTE ruling present a special case. In that situation, the SEP holder could not have been aware of the obligations that the CJEU subsequently imposed on claimants. Thus, it must be possible for an SEP holder to go through the Huawei/ZTE process subsequently without losing the pending lawsuit. [8] On this basis, the District Could held that the claimant had taken all necessary steps after commencing proceedings, which met the Huawei/ZTE requirements. [9]

2. The SEP Owner’s Licensing Offer

The District Court expressed its view that the CJEU had wanted to establish a procedure that keeps the infringement proceedings free of complicated deliberations about the conditions of the offer, similarly to the German Federal Court of Justice decision Orange Book Standard. [10] If the alleged infringer argues that the conditions of the offer are not FRAND – and, according to the court, alleged infringers typically do so – it is not the role of the infringement court to examine the conditions of the offer and decide whether they are FRAND or not. [5] Thus, the District Court took the view that an infringement court only assesses in a summary review whether the conditions were not evidently non-FRAND. An offer is only non-FRAND if it is under the relevant circumstances abusive. For example, this would be the case if the conditions offered to the alleged infringer were significantly worse than those offered to third parties. [11] The District Court held that in the case in issue the royalties were not evidently non-FRAND because the royalty rates were generally accepted in the market. [12]

The offer needs to include the calculation method in respect of the royalties. [11] However, the CJEU did not elaborate on the level of detail required. [13] The District Court took the view that the SEP holder needs to enable the alleged infringer to understand why the offer is FRAND. In the case in issue, the claimant had included the calculation method. It had also provided further explanations regarding the calculation, which met the Huawei/ZTE requirements. [14]

3. The standard implementer’s reaction

The alleged infringer is required to respond to the SEP proprietor’s license offer, even if the infringer is of the opinion that the offer does not meet the FRAND criteria. [13] The only possible exception is an offer that, by means of summary examination, is clearly not FRAND, which would constitute an abuse of market power. A counter-offer would need to be made as soon as possible, taking into account recognized commercial practices in the field and good faith. The District Court held that the defendant had not made an adequate counter-offer. It is common business practice to enter into license agreements in respect of worldwide portfolio licenses. [15] The defendant’s counter-offer only included the respective German license, which was deemed by the District Court as insufficient. [15] Further, the defendant had not made an adequate deposit into the court as required under the Huawei/ZTE principles. [16]

C. Other Important Issues

The court held that the procedures prescribed by the Huawei/ZTE ruling apply to applications for injunctions and recall orders, but not to rendering accounts and compensation. Regarding rendering accounts and compensation, SEP holders could pursue their rights in court without additional requirements. [13]

Further, the District Court was of the opinion that an alleged breach of Art. 101 TFEU could not be raised as a defence in patent infringement proceedings. Even if the claimant’s conduct was anti-competitive pursuant to Art. 101 TFEU, the standardisation agreement would be void. [17] This has no implications for patent infringement proceedings.

The court also held that there was no general rule that the SEP holder could only bring proceedings against the manufacturer of the infringing product. [18] In the eyes of the District Court, the Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe decision 6 U 44/15 (23 April 2015) did not establish such a principle. In that case, the defendant was a company that acted merely as a distributor of infringing products (which means it was reselling the products without making any alterations). In contrast, the defendant in the present case had installed the infringing software onto laptops and then sold them under its own brand name. Thus, the two cases were not comparable. [18]

  • [1] See also OLG Karlsruhe, 8 September 2016, 6 U 58/16 (application to stay execution of LG Mannheim, 7 O 24/14).
  • [2]  LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, pp. 4-6.
  • [3] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, pp. 2-3.
  • [4] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 22.
  • [5] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 23.
  • [6] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 34/35.
  • [7] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 26.
  • [8] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, pp. 27-30.
  • [9] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 33.
  • [10] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 21.
  • [11] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 24.
  • [12] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 37.
  • [13] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 25.
  • [14] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 35/36.
  • [15] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 38.
  • [16] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, pp. 38-40.
  • [17] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 43.
  • [18] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 44.

Updated 10 四月 2019

华为诉中兴通信

欧洲联盟法院判决
16 七月 2015 - Case No. C-170/13

A. 事实

原告华为技术有限公司持有由欧洲电信标准协会(ETSI)所发展的对实施LTE无线通信技术标准必不可少的专利(标准必要专利或SEP) [19] 。 原告于2009年3月向ETSI承诺愿依照公平、合理和无歧视(FRAND)的条款与条件向实施人提供该专利 [20]

被告中兴通讯股份有限公司以及中兴通讯德国分公司本身也拥有几项与LTE标准相关的标准必要专利 [21] ,同时其也在德国等市场销售符合LTE标准的产品 [22]

在2010年11月至2011年3月之间,双方就原告所持有的标准必要专利组合的许可事宜进行了讨论 [22] 。原告提出了其所认为合理的许可费率,而另一方面,被告则试图达成交叉许可协议 [23] 。于是,此项许可协议的要约未能达成最终协议 [23]

原告其后于2011年4月在德国杜塞尔多夫地区地方法院(Landgericht)向被告提起诉讼,寻求针对被告的禁令救济,要求被告就其过去的使用行为开立担保帐户的账目,召回其产品,并针对其专利侵权行为请求损害赔偿 [24]

杜塞尔多夫地区地方法院暂时停止了诉讼程序,并根据《欧洲联盟运作条约》(TFEU)第267条的规定,向欧洲联盟法院(CJEU)提出了进行先行裁决的请求。简而言之,杜塞尔多夫地区地方法院指出,德国联邦法院(Bundesgerichtshof)和欧洲联盟委员会在有关于何种情况下,标准必要专利持有人对标准必要专利实施人提出的禁令诉讼将构成对市场支配地位的滥用而违反了《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条此一问题上,似乎采取了相互矛盾的立场 [25] 。德国联邦法院在其橙皮书案裁决中裁定,在涉及标准必要专利的侵权诉讼中,被告只有在其以达成许可协议为目的向专利持有人发出不含附带条件、公平的许可要约,并且对其过去以及其后可能发生的使用行为所衍生的许可费的支付提交保证金的情况下,才有权根据《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102 条提出抗辩(并且因此可避免禁令的核发) [26] 。然而,欧洲联盟委员会在有关三星于多个欧盟成员国内针对苹果公司采取的执法行动的几个诉讼中却认为,在被告已经表明愿意根据专利持有人的FRAND承诺,以FRAND条款进行许可谈判的情况下,针对标准必要专利采取禁令救济的行为原则上违反了《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条 [27]

根据本判决,欧洲联盟法院确立了有关标准必要专利持有人在何种情况下可以对专利实施人主张禁令救济而不违反《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条的条件。欧洲联盟法院特别针对当已就其所持有的标准必要专利做出以FRAND条款进行许可的不可撤销承诺的标准必要专利持有人,在提起相应的诉讼前已经履行下列行为时,其寻求禁令救济和/或要求召回侵权产品的行为并不会构成对市场支配地位的滥用作出裁决:

  • 首先,标准必要专利持有人必须透过“明确指出其遭受侵权的为何项专利,并指明被指控的侵权人以何种方式侵权”的方式,对专利实施人进行侵权通知,并且
  • 第二,如果被指控的侵权人表示愿意按照FRAND条款达成许可协议,则标准必要专利持有人必须“向该被指控的侵权人提出符合此种条款的具体书面许可要约,特别是必须指明许可费及其所使用的计算方式 [28]

相对地,标准必要专利实施人只有在没有任何延迟地回应标准必要专利持有人所发出的许可要约的情况下,才可以主张标准必要专利持有人寻求禁令救济和/或召回侵权产品的行为具备滥用市场支配地位的性质 [29] 。如果标准必要专利实施人拒绝接受该许可要约,则必须:

  • 立即以书面提出向标准必要专利持有人提出符合FRAND条款的特定反许可要约 [30] ,并且
  • 如果其所提出的反许可要约遭到拒绝,则必须就其对该专利的使用行为提供适当的担保,例如提供银行担保或将所需金额存入保证金帐户 [31]

欧洲联盟法院明确指出,上述框架不适用于标准必要专利持有人对实施人过去的使用行为所造成的损害提出损害赔偿和/或开设担保帐户的主张;与这些主张相关的诉讼不会构成对《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条的违反,因为它们对符合该项标准的产品是否可以出现或保留在市场上没有影响 [32]

B. 法院的论理

欧洲联盟法院强调对衡平的需求,一方面需要对标准必要专利持有人的核心基本知识产权进行有效司法保护,另一方面也需要维持自由且不失真的市场竞争的公共利益 [33]

由于当事各方并未就原告在市场上的支配地位提出异议,法院的分析着重于是否存在《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条所称的“滥用行为” [34] 。欧洲联盟法院认为,行使知识产权权利的行为本身并不会构成“滥用行为”,即便此一行使权利者是在市场中占有支配地位的企业 [35] 。此外,仅在“特殊情况”下,行使知识产权权利的行为才可能构成滥用市场支配地位的行为 [36]

涉及标准必要专利的案件与其他与知识产权相关的案件存在本质上的不同,其原因在于:首先,一项专利已取得标准必要专利地位这一事实意味着该专利的持有人可以透过“阻止竞争对手制造的产品出现或保留在市场上,从而将涉案产品的制造权保留专属于自己” [37] 。除此之外,对实施标准的第三方而言,专利持有人通过做出FRAND承诺创造出一种第三方可以按FRAND条款取得标准必要专利的“合法期待” [37] 。考虑到标准必要专利持有人创造了此一“合法期待”,原则上,当标准必要专利持有人拒绝授予其FRAND许可时,在侵权诉讼中被起诉的专利实施人可以通过援用《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条为自己进行抗辩 [38]

尽管标准必要专利持有人诉诸法律程序来保护其知识产权的权利不能被剥夺,欧洲联盟法院仍然认为,标准必要专利持有人做出FRAND承诺正当化了其在寻求禁令救济时应该遵守某些特定要求的义务 [39] 。特别是为了避免违反《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条,标准必要专利持有人应满足以下条件:(a)在提起禁令救济诉讼之前,标准必要专利持有人必须透过“明确指出其遭受侵权的为何项专利,并指明被指控的侵权人以何种方式侵权”的方式,对专利实施人进行侵权通知 [40] ,并且(b)如果被指控的侵权人表示愿意按照FRAND条款达成许可协议,则标准必要专利持有人必须“向该被指控的侵权人提出符合此种条款的具体书面许可要约,特别是必须指明许可费及其所使用的计算方式 [41] 。在这种情况下,欧洲联盟法院认为,可以合理期待标准必要专利持有人有能力提出这样的要约,因为一般来说并不存在公开的标准必要专利许可协议,并且标准必要专利持有人与第三方间签订的现有协议条款也不会被公开,因此,标准必要专利人“比起被指控的侵权人更有能力检查其要约是否符合不歧视的条件” [42]

另一方面,(被指控的)侵权人也必须“本于善意并依据该领域公认的既存商业惯例”对标准必要专利持有人的要约认真地做出回应 [29] 。(被指控的)侵权人是否符合此要求则必须基于“客观因素”来判定,这尤其意味着(被指控的)侵权人没有使用“延迟策略” [29]

如果(被指控的)侵权人认为标准必要专利持有人所提出的条款不符合其FRAND承诺,并选择拒绝标准必要专利持有人所提出的许可要约,则(被指控的)侵权人就必须向标准必要专利持有人提交一份符合FRAND条款的具体书面反要约 [30] 。如果其所提出的反要约遭到标准必要专利持有人的拒绝,并且(被指控的)侵权人已经在没有许可的情况下使用了涉案的标准必要专利,则(被指控的)侵权人有义务根据该领域公认的既存商业惯例就其使用行为提供“适当的担保”,例如提供银行担保或将所需金额存入保证金帐户 [31] 。针对该担保的计算除了必须包含“ 对标准必要专利过去的使用行为的数额”外,(被指控的)侵权人还必须能够就这些使用行为开立担保帐户 [31]

当(被指控的)侵权人提出反要约后双方仍然不能达成协议时,欧洲联盟法院指出,当事方可以选择以“共同协议”的方式,没有拖延地请求“由独立的第三方即刻对许可费数额进行决定” [43]

最后,欧洲联盟法院明确指出,(被指控的)侵权人有权在许可谈判进行的同时,对标准必要专利持有人所持有的专利的有效性和/或标准必要性和/或实际使用进行挑战,或保留未来这样做的权利 [44]

 

  • [19] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 6 July 2015, 段 22。
  • [20] 同上注, 段 22。
  • [21] 同上注, 段 40。
  • [22] 同上注, 段 24。
  • [23] 同上注, 段 25。
  • [24] 同上注, 段 27。
  • [25] 同上注, 段 29 及以下。
  • [26] 同上注, 段 30 及以下。
  • [27] 同上注, 段 34 及以下。
  • [28] 同上注, 段 77。
  • [29] 同上注, 段 65。
  • [30] 同上注, 段 66。
  • [31] 同上注, 段 67。
  • [32] 同上注, 段 72及以下。
  • [33] 同上注, 段 42。
  • [34] 同上注, 段 43。
  • [35] 同上注, 段 46。
  • [36]  同上注, 段 47。
  • [37] 同上注, 段 53。
  • [38] 同上注, 段 53及以下。
  • [39] 同上注, 段 58 及以下。
  • [40] 同上注, 段 61。
  • [41] 同上注, 段 63。
  • [42] 同上注, 段 64。
  • [43] 同上注, 段 68。
  • [44] 同上注, 段 69。

Updated 26 一月 2017

Unwired Planet v Samsung

LG Düsseldorf
19 一月 2016 - Case No. 4b O 120/14

  1. Facts
    Since 7 March 2014 Claimant, a non-practicing entity, is the proprietor of European patent EP D, allegedly covering a feature of the GSM standard, originally granted to the Intervener, and subsequently transferred to company “I”. Defendants, belonging to the K-group, produce and market GSM- and UMTS-based devices.
    In an agreement as of 26 October 2011, the Intervener granted a worldwide non-exclusive license to Qualcomm Inc., being, in turn, allowed to grant sub-licenses to its customers. Furthermore, by agreement as of 1 February 2014 one of the Defendants was granted a worldwide, non-exclusive license to patents owned by the Intervener.
    On 10 January 2013, the Intervener concluded a so-called “Master Sales Agreement” (MSA), concerning the exploitation of a portfolio of more than two thousand patents, with “E”, “F” and its subsidiaries. Claimant became a party to the MSA later on. After its accession to the MSA, “I”, by assuming the existing FRAND obligation of the Intervener in accordance with the MSA, made a separate FRAND commitment towards ETSI on 14 June 2013 and declared, in an agreement as of 13 February 2013, to ensure that subsequent acquirers equally assume this obligation. Accordingly, after the transfer of patent EP D to Claimant the latter made, on 6 March 2014, a separate commitment towards ETSI declaring to be willing to grant licenses on FRAND terms with regard to, inter alia, patent EP D.
    In order to implement the MSA the parties concluded three transfer agreements. Claimant argues that the Intervener validly transferred a part of its patent portfolio, including patent EP D, by agreement as of 11 February 2013 to undertaking “B”. On 13 February 2013, “B”, in turn, transferred the patent portfolio, including patent EP D, to “I”. After successfully requesting, on 3 September 2013, an amendment of the patent register, being performed on 24 October 2013, “I” transferred, on 27 February 2014, the patent portfolio, including patent EP D, to Claimant. Claimant successfully requested, on 7 March 2014, an amendment of the patent register which was performed on 3 July 2014.
    As a reaction to Claimant’s public license proposal including a royalty of USD 0.75 per mobile device Defendants allegedly submitted a counter-offer but no licensing agreement was concluded.
  2. Court’s reasoning
    1. Market power
      The court stressed that an application of Article 102 TFEU does not automatically result from SEP ownership but that it requires proof of a dominant position on the relevant market being conveyed by the SEP in question. Due to the fact that products not implementing the patent-in-suit could not effectively compete on the relevant market because of GSM being a key feature for such products market power of Claimant was affirmed. [45]
    2. Applicability of the Huawei rules to damages and the rendering of accounts
      While the Huawei rules of conduct apply to actions for injunction, recall and destruction of products they are, in principle, not directly applicable to claims for damages and the rendering of accounts. [46] Nor is it necessarily abusive for a SEP proprietor to bring an action for damages and the rendering of accounts without having notified the standard implementer of an infringement and without having offered a FRAND license beforehand. The Huawei obligations do, however, have an indirect impact on the extent to which damages and the rendering of accounts are due: Where the SEP proprietor fails to grant a FRAND license although he has made a FRAND commitment and the standard implementer has expressed its readiness to take a license, damages are limited to the FRAND royalty level but only for the period after the SEP proprietor’s abusive refusal to license. [47] Claims for information and the rendering of accounts must, in this event, be limited to what is necessary for determining FRAND-based damages. [48]
    3. Cap on damages/rendering of accounts in casu
      In casu Defendant could not show that he had complied with its Huawei obligation to sufficiently express its willingness to take a FRAND license. In consequence, no cap on Claimant’s claim for damages was deemed appropriate. [48]
  3. Other important issues
    Whether a SEP proprietor is free to enforce its patent in court or whether the proprietor is obliged to grant a FRAND license has to be determined under Art. 102 TFEU, not Art. 101 TFEU. [49] A FRAND declaration is not an unconditional offer made by the patent proprietor to enter into a licensing agreement with anyone willing to take a license, it merely expresses that the proprietor is, in principle, ready to grant a FRAND license if the patent in question conveys market dominance. As such, the FRAND commitment merely specifies a duty to license which competition law would impose anyway but it has an impact on the patent owner’s obligations under Art. 102 TFEU. [50]
    As regards the transfer of a SEP from the original patent proprietor to a non-practicing entity, registration in the patent register in accordance with § 30 (3) PatG establishes—also with regard to claims for damages and the rendering of accounts—presumption of ownership, allowing the proprietor to enforce all rights derived from the SEP as long as the presumption has not been successfully rebutted by Defendants. The non-registration of “B” as an interim owner was considered irrelevant under the circumstances of the present case (but not generally). Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. I, 1-2
    The MSA and the subsequent transfer agreements neither violate the German provisions on merger control (§§ 35-43 GWB) since, in any case, merger control thresholds are not reached.
    Nor was a violation of the European provisions on anticompetitive agreements (Article 101 TFEU) or on the abuse of a dominant position (Article 102 TFEU) found. Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. I, 4, a-c In particular, the transactions did not aim at enforcing non-FRAND royalties or at discriminating between licensees and the agreements framing the transactions ensured that the acquirers of the relevant patents were bound by (the initial) FRAND commitments. [51] The acquirer of a SEP is neither obliged to continue the transferor’s licensing practice in an unmodified manner nor to implement exactly the same conditions in all licensing agreements, provided the conditions are FRAND and no unjustified discrimination takes place. It is not abusive in itself for a (former) SEP proprietor to split its portfolio and to transfer the parts to several acquirers, thereby trying to arrive at higher overall royalties being paid for the portfolio. Nor is a resulting increase in the number of licenses a standard implementer has to take per se inacceptable. However, licensing conditions are FRAND only if the cumulative royalty level resulting from the licensing of all pertinent SEPs is not excessive. Putting it differently, where the royalty level for the entire portfolio was below or at the lower end of the FRAND range, it is not abusive to arrive, by way of splitting the portfolio and licensing its parts separately, at a higher overall royalty level within the FRAND range. Furthermore, the transaction agreements did not amount to price fixing. [52]
  • [45] Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. VII, 6, a
  • [46] Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. VII, 6, b, aa, bb
  • [47] Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. VII, 6, b, dd
  • [48] Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. VII, 6, b, ee
  • [49] Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. VII, 4
  • [50] Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. VII, 5
  • [51] Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. I, 4, b, aa
  • [52] Cf. for details LG Düsseldorf, 19 January 2016 - Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. I, 4, b, bb

Updated 24 七月 2020

西斯维尔诉海尔

德国联邦法院
5 五月 2020 - Case No. KZR 36/17

A. 事实

原告西斯维尔(Sisvel)持有被声明为对实施某些无线通信标准而言(潜在)必不可少的专利(以下稱“标准必要专利”或“SEP”)。

被告是总部位于中国的海尔集团(Haier Group)的德国及法国子公司。海尔集团生产和销售符合GPRS标准的电子设备以及其他产品。

西斯维尔于2012年12月20日通知了海尔集团的中国母公司有关海尔集团对其所持有的标准必要专利的侵权使用行为。

西斯维尔提供了一项其所持有的专利组合中包含大约450项专利的清单,并表示西斯维尔愿意为这些标准必要专利向海尔提供许可。

西斯维尔于2013年4月10日向欧洲电信标准协会(ETSI)作出了承诺,表示愿意将其所持有的标准必要专利依照公平、合理且无歧视(FRAND)的条款和条件对标准实施人提供。

西斯维尔其后分别于2013年的8月和11月,向中国海尔进一步发送了更多包含与其许可计划相关信息等信息在内的信函。中国海尔仅在2013年12月时对西斯维尔回复,表示希望与西斯维尔进行“正式谈判”,并要求西斯维尔提供于此前沟通中其曾经提到过的有关折扣可能性的信息。

2014年8月,西斯维尔向海尔提出了许可要约,然而却在2014年9月遭到海尔拒绝。不久之后,西斯维尔于杜塞尔多夫地区法院(以下称“地区法院”)就其所持有的一项涵盖符合GPRS标准数据传输技术的专利(以下称“涉案专利”)向海尔提起了侵权诉讼。作为对此一行动的回应,海尔于2015年3月向德国联邦专利法院提起了确认涉案专利无效的诉讼。

地区法院于2015年11月3日对海尔发出了禁令 [53] ,同时判令召回并销毁涉案侵权产品。地区法院更进一步的确认了海尔于本案中的损害赔偿责任,并命令海尔就其侵权产品的销售向西斯维尔提供完整和详细的资料并开立担保帐户。

海尔对该判决提起上诉,并且要求杜塞尔多夫地区高级法院(以下称“上诉法院”)判决中止对地区法院所核发的前述禁令的执行。上诉法院于2016年1月做出了相应的判决 [54]

在上诉程序进行过程中,海尔所提出的各项主张之一,即是其认为,由于该判决在西斯维尔向海尔提起侵权诉讼之后才作成,地区法院于判决之时未能就欧洲联盟法院于2015年7月在华为诉中兴案判决中(以下称“华为判决”)对标准必要专利持有人所施加的行为要求进行充分考虑 [55] 。并且在上诉法院诉讼进行的过程中,海尔于2016年1月16日进一步表示,其愿意在德国法院最终确认了涉案专利的有效性以及对涉案专利的侵权行为存在的前提下,向西斯维尔取得FRAND许可。 2016年3月23日,海尔向西斯维尔发送了另一封信函称其立场维持不变。此外,海尔还向西斯维尔提出获取有关西斯维尔所持有的所有专利的权利要求对照表以及与许可费率计算相关的更多信息的要求。 西斯维尔于2016年12月再度向海尔提出了进一步的许可要约,然而仍然遭到海尔拒绝。

在2017年3月30日的判决中,上诉法院支持了海尔于本案上诉中的部分主张 [56] ,确认了海尔于本案中的损害赔偿责任及开立担保帐户的义务。然而,上诉法院认为,海尔并没有召回并销毁侵权产品的义务,因为西斯维尔并没有遵守华为判决中所要求的义务,特别是未能向海尔提出FRAND许可要约。由于涉案专利权利已于2016年9月到期失效,当事各方同意就禁令救济部分主张达成和解,因此上诉法院不需要再就此部分主张作出裁定。西斯维尔其后又对上诉法院的本案裁决提起上诉。

2017年10月,联邦专利法院在限缩了涉案专利的部分权利要求的情况下确认了其专利有效性 [57]

于2020年3月,德国联邦法院(以下称“联邦法院”或“法院”)在二审中基本上支持了联邦专利法院的此一判决决定 [58]

联邦法院于2020年5月5日做出的当前判决 [59] 中推翻了上诉法院的判决。联邦法院维持了地区法院于一审时对西斯维尔所提出的损害赔偿请求以及关于提供相关信息和开立担保帐户的各项请求所作出的裁决。有关西斯维尔召回并销毁侵权产品的请求,则仅限于海尔有权支配或其于2016年9月涉案专利到期失效前所生产或交付的产品。西斯维尔有关禁令救济的请求则因为该请求于此前上诉法院的诉讼过程中涉案专利已经到期失效而被撤回,故不受法院裁判决定。


B. 法院的论理

法院认为,涉案专利对于GPRS标准的实施而言具备标准必要性,并且遭受侵权 [60]

此外,法院认为,西斯维尔对海尔提起侵权诉讼的行为,并未构成对《欧洲联盟运作条约》(TFEU)第102条滥用市场支配地位的违反 [61] 。 在法院看来,西斯维尔已经履行了华为判决所要求的义务,在提起侵权诉讼之前将针对其所持有的标准必要专利的侵权使用行为向海尔进行通知。另一方面,海尔则未能履行其于华为框架下充分表达与西斯维尔达成许可协议意愿的义务。尽管此一事实对于本案而言已不再具有决定性,法院仍然表示其认为西斯维尔已经按照依照华为框架的相应要求向海尔提出了FRAND许可要约。

市场支配地位

法院裁定认为,西斯维尔具备《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条涵义下的市场支配地位 [62]

联邦法院解释到,市场支配地位并不单纯因为享有专利所授与的独占权而形成 [63] ,因此,需要将许多因素共同纳入考量 [64] 。其中一个关键因素是相关市场。当一项专利对符合标准发展组织发展出的标准(或事实上的标准)而言具备技术上的必要性,并且在下游市场提供的产品中并没有可以替代该标准的技术时,与市场支配力评估相关的就会是能够提供该涉案专利许可的(独特的)市场 [65]

在此基础上,法院认定西斯维尔处于市场支配地位:涉案专利对于GPRS标准的实施而言具备标准必要性,并且不配备GPRS功能的手机无法在(下游)市场中竞争,因为不管是此前或者其后的各代标准都无法使其具备与之相同的功能 [66]

于此脉络下,联邦法院并没有采纳西斯维尔关于标准实施人相较于市场中商品和服务的购买者而言,通常处于较强势的谈判地位,因此标准必要专利持有者的市场支配地位事实上受到了限制的这一观点 [67] 。法院同意,与商品和服务的购买者不同,标准实施人即便在没有与专利持有人达成协议的情况下,依然能够取得生产符合标准的产品所需的受保护技术而处于有利的地位 [68] 。然而,法院认为,此一事实并不足以排除市场支配地位。标准必要专利持有人在许可谈判中对个别实施人的还价能力的程度与此问题并不相关 [69] 。专利持有人的结构性优势市场支配力授与其市场支配地位,而此一结构性优势市场支配力则来自于专利持有人具备通过执行排他性权利而将任何实施者从市场中排除的法律上能力 [70]

同样地,法院指出,华为判决对行使标准必要专利专利权时所施加的限制同样不会削弱市场支配地位 [71] 。法院认为,这些限制极大程度地弱化了标准必要专利持有人的谈判地位,因其并不能全面性地运用其在平等基础上进行谈判时所需的必要手段 [71] 。然而,这并不足以构成对专利持有人市场支配地位的挑战,即便是在实施人透过拖延谈判的进行直至该专利到期失效而可能涉及“反向专利挟持“的情况下 [71]

尽管如此,法院指出,西斯维尔的市场支配地位在涉案专利到期失效时便已经终止 [72] 。一旦标准必要专利人不再具有排除侵权产品进入(下游)市场的合法权力,则其将不再具备市场支配地位 [72]

滥用市场支配地位

与上诉法院相反的是,联邦法院在检视了当事各方的行为后,认为西斯维尔并没有滥用其市场支配地位 [73]

法院明确指出,标准必要专利持有人并非原则上被禁止行使其因持有专利而产生的排他性权利 [74] 。一项专利具备标准必要性此一事实,并不意味着专利持有人有义务容忍他人对其所持有的专利技术的使用,除非是因为其具有市场支配地位而允许或有义务允许他人对该专利技术的使用 [74] 。联邦法院认为,如果实施人不愿意按照FRAND条款取得许可,则不存在所谓允许使用标准必要专利的义务。专利持有人——即便是具有市场支配地位专利持有人——并没有“强迫“任何标准实施人取得许可的义务,尤其是因为其并没有主张签署许可协议的法律上权利 [75]

在这种背景下,法院指出了两个案例,在这两个案例中,标准必要专利持有人主张其排他性权利(要求禁令救济和/或召回并销毁侵权产品)的行为可能构成滥用市场支配地位:

  1. 实施人已经提出了专利持有人在不滥用其支配地位或不违反其无歧视义务的情况下便无法拒绝该条款的无条件许可要约(于此范围内,法院重申了其先前在“橙皮书标准案”中的裁决;判决日期: 2009年5月6日 – 案件号:KZR 39/06) [76]
  2. 实施人原则上有取得许可的意愿,然而标准必要专利持有人却未能遵守其支配地位所带来的“特殊责任”而做出充分的努力以促进协议的签署 [77]

侵权通知

是以,法院采纳了标准必要专利持有人有义务在提起侵权诉讼之前就针对涉案专利的侵权使用行为向实施人进行通知的观点 [78] 。联邦法院似乎认为,此项义务仅在实施人尚未意识到其构成侵权行为的情况下才会产生同上注, 段 73。 法院认为,如果专利实施人对于实施该标准即是一种未经许可而使用涉案专利说明书的行为“此一事实并不知情“,则专利持有人就必须针对专利侵权情况对其通知。

法院解释到,技术实施人原则上有义务在开展产品的制造或销售之前确保没有任何第三方的权利遭受侵害 [80] 。然而,此项工作通常具有很大的挑战性,特别是在信息和通信技术(ICT)领域中,一项产品可能会受到众多错综复杂的专利权影响 [80] 。因此,身为会定期对侵权状况进行检查的专利持有人,便有义务在发动诉讼程序之前,向实施人告知其对专利的使用情况,使实施人得以对是否需要按照FRAND条款获得许可进行评估,从而避免禁令的核发 [81]

在法院看来,通常情况下,对集团公司中的母公司发出各别的侵权通知便已经足够 [82] 。就内容而言,通知内必须指明遭到侵权的专利,并描述特定的侵权使用行为以及遭受侵害的实施例 [83] 。专利持有人不必要对侵权行为作出详细的技术与法律上分析,仅需要让实施人处于一个在专家和/或法律意见的协助下最终有能力对其被指控的侵权行为进行评估的地位即可 [83] 。一般来说,专利持有人依照实务上通常做法提出权利要求对照表就已经足够了(但不是强制性的) [83] 。 此外,联邦法院同时提到,在提供了有关被侵权的专利以及受到影响的标准等相关信息后,专利持有人可以合理期待实施人将于短时间内表明其所收到的信息并不足以对侵权行为进行评估 [84] 。这也适用于涉及多项专利和标准的情况 [84]

在考量过上述情况后,法院认为西斯维尔已经对海尔发出了适当的侵权通知。 该通知信函已于2012年12月20日发出,并且符合相关要求 [85]

取得许可的意愿

另一方面,考虑到海尔的行为,法院认为海尔并没有表现出其为愿意向西斯维尔取得FRAND许可的被许可人 [86] 。在这方面,联邦法院不同意前面上诉法院所做出的分析,并且得出了与上诉法院相反的结论。

法院认为,中国海尔对西斯维尔所发出的通知的首次回覆是迟延的,因为海尔花费了将近一年的时间(2012年12月至2013年12月)才做出回应 [87] 。一个花费数月时间才对侵权通知做出回应的实施人,其所发出的信号通常表明其对取得许可没有兴趣 [87] 。西斯维尔在2012年12月首次向海尔发出通知后才就涉案专利对欧洲电信标准协会作出FRAND承诺此一事实,并不会对评估及时性造成任何影响:在2012年12月20日所发出的信函中,西斯维尔已经表明其准备好要向海尔提供FRAND许可 [87] 。然而,有关虽然有所迟延但仍在侵权诉讼开始作出的回覆(如同本案中海尔于2013年12月所作出的答复)于评估各方是否遵守华为判决要求时是否应该被纳入考量范围中(如同本案上诉法院所推定的那样)此一问题,联邦法院并未做出决定 [88] 。在本案中,此问题并不相关,因为就海尔所做出的回覆内容而言,没有任何一项能够被视为已经充分表明其取得许可的意愿 [89]

在法院的眼中,实施人必须“清楚”且“明确”地表明其愿意依照“任何实际上符合FRAND的条款”与标准必要专利持有人达成许可协议(引用英格兰和威尔士高等法院2017年4月5日在无线星球诉华为案中所做出的判决[2017] EWHC 711(Pat)-Unwired Planet v Huawei) [90] 。实施人随后就有义务以“达成协议”为目标积极参与许可谈判 [90] 。相反地,仅仅是对侵权通知作出“表达愿意考虑签署许可协议“或”就是否以及在什么条件下取得许可提出质疑或进行谈判“的回覆是不够的 [90]

于此基础上,法院认为,海尔在2013年12月的回覆中仅表达了其希望进行“正式谈判“,并不足以表达其取得许可的意愿——该声明在上述标准下既不“清楚”也不“明确” [91]

同样地,联邦法院认为,海尔在2016年1月16日所发出的信函中也没有充分地表达其取得许可的意愿,因为海尔声明只在德国法院确认了涉案专利的有效性和侵权性的前提下才愿意签署许可协议 [92] 。尽管实施人原则上被允许在达成许可协议后保留对被许可专利的有效性进行挑战的权利,法院仍然认为,表达取得许可意愿的声明不能在带有附带条件的情况下作出 [92]

此外,联邦法院也认为,海尔于2016年3月23日发出的信函中同样没有充分地表达其取得许可的意愿。除了海尔并没有撤销上述不能被接受的条件外,法院还认为,海尔在收到侵权通知近三年以后才要求西斯维尔提供所有专利的权利要求对照表,这表明了海尔所感兴趣的只在不断拖延谈判的进行,直到涉案专利到期失效为止 [93]

由于本案中并不存在海尔明确表达其取得许可意愿的适当声明,法院并没有回答关于实施人于侵权诉讼已经被提起后是否有尚可能履行此项义务的问题 [94]

 

  • [53] Sisvel v Haier, District Court of Duesseldorf, judgment dated 3 November 2015, Case No. 4a O 93/14。
  • [54] Sisvel v Haier, Higher District Court of Duesseldorf, judgment dated 13 January 2016, Case No. I-15 U 66/15。
  • [55] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13。
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  • [57] Federal Patent Court, judgment dated 6 October 2017, Case No. 6 Ni 10/15 (EP)。
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  • [59] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 5 May 2020, Case No. KZR 36/17。(引自:https://juris.bundesgerichtshof.de/cgi-bin/rechtsprechung/document.py? Gericht=bgh&Art=en&sid=3abd1ba29fc1a5b129c0360985553448&nr=107755&pos=0&anz=1)。
  • [60] 同上注, 段 9以下及段59。
  • [61] 同上注, 段 52。
  • [62] 同上注, 段 54。
  • [63] 同上注, 段 56。
  • [64] 同上注, 段 57 及以下。
  • [65] 同上注, 段 58。
  • [66] 同上注, 段 59 及以下。
  • [67] 同上注, 段 61。
  • [68] 同上注, 段 63。
  • [69] 同上注, 段 62。
  • [70] 同上注, 段 61 及以下。联邦法院认为,进入市场的障碍已经因为法律上相应的阻碍使任何公司在没有获得许可的情况下进入市场都是不合理的此项事实而形成,请参见段 63。
  • [71] 同上注, 段 64。
  • [72] 同上注, 段 65。
  • [73] 同上注, 段 67 及以下。
  • [74] 同上注, 段 69。
  • [75] 同上注, 段 70。
  • [76] 同上注, 段 71。
  • [77] 同上注, 段 72。
  • [78] 同上注, 段 73 及以下。
  • [79] 同上注, 段 73。 法院认为,如果专利实施人对于实施该标准即是一种未经许可而使用涉案专利说明书的行为“此一事实并不知情“,则专利持有人就必须针对专利侵权情况对其通知。
  • [80] 同上注, 段 74。
  • [81] 同上注, 段 74 及段 85。
  • [82] 同上注, 段 89。
  • [83] 同上注, 段 85。
  • [84] 同上注, 段 87。
  • [85] 同上注, 段 86 及以下。
  • [86] 同上注, 段 91 及以下。
  • [87] 同上注, 段 92。
  • [88] 同上注, 段 93及以下。
  • [89] 同上注, 段 94。
  • [90] 同上注, 段 83。
  • [91] 同上注, 段 95。
  • [92] 同上注, 段 96。
  • [93] 同上注, 段 98。
  • [94] 同上注, 段 97。

Updated 16 六月 2021

慕尼黑一区地区法院康文森诉戴姆勒案

慕尼黑地区法院
30 十月 2020 - Case No. 21 O 11384/19

A. 事实

原告康文森(Conversant)持有被声明为对实施多项无线通信标准而言(潜在)必要的专利(以下称“标准必要专利”或“SEPs”)。

康文森向欧洲电信标准协会(ETSI)作出了承诺,表示愿意将其所持有的标准必要专利依照公平、合理且无歧视(FRAND)的条款和条件向标准实施人提供。

被告戴姆勒是一家总部位于德国的跨国汽车制造公司。戴姆勒在德国生产并销售具有实施欧洲电信标准协会所发展出的LTE标准的连网功能的汽车。

康文森于2018年10月加入了Avanci许可平台,该平台提供专为联网汽车量身定制的专利许可计划。

康文森于2018年12月18日向戴姆勒提出了全球范围内的双边许可要约,同时也向戴姆勒提供了与其所持有的标准必要专利组合相关的各项信息,其中也包括了该专利组合中所涵盖的若干专利的权利要求对照表。 在康文森于2019年2月27日对其发出了相应的提醒通知后,戴姆勒回复表示愿意签署FRAND许可协议的同时,也特别强调了对供应商进行知识产权许可在汽车行业中是一种很常见的做法。戴姆勒还要求康文森提供有关其所持有的专利组合现有被许可人的相关信息,并且就哪些专利在哪些对应的组件上实现,以及其所提供的条款为什么是符合FRAND的条款进行解释。随后,戴姆勒就专利持许可问题与Avanci开始进行谈判。

由于康文森接获了Avanci的通知表示其与戴姆勒间的许可谈判未获成功,康文森遂于2019年7月5日向戴姆勒发送了一封电子邮件,提出双方在2019年7月15日亲自会面的要求。 康文森同时也指出了参与 Avanci计划的汽车制造商在其所持有的标准必要专利组合下取得许可,并且通过引用相关判例(主要是英国高等法院于2017年4月5日所作成的无线星球诉华为案判决)在内的各种方式解释了构成其所提出的双边许可要约基础的许可费计算。康文森起先还打算向戴姆勒提供其所持有的专利组合中所包含的各项专利的完整清单,然而,相应的文件却因过失而未被添加到发送给戴姆勒电子邮件的附件之中。

戴姆勒于2019年7月29日作出回应,并表示其正与

Avanci进行许可谈判。戴姆勒重申了其认为在供应商层级进行许可更为高效此一观点,并且反驳认为,由于康文森尚未提供所有必要的信息,双方面对面的会议应该在稍后的时间点进行。

康文森于是于2019年8月13日在慕尼黑一区地区法院(以下称“法院”)对戴姆勒提起了侵权诉讼,而其中并未包含禁令救济主张。2019年8月24日,康文森将其在慕尼黑提起的诉讼告知戴姆勒,并指出其认为戴姆勒实际上并没有兴趣取得FRAND 许可。康文森并强调,在计算许可费时,应将(其专利)于终端产品阶段所产生的价值纳入考量。

2019年9月18日,戴姆勒重申了其取得许可的意愿,并且首次指出康文森在2019 年7月5日所发送的电子邮件中并未包含康文森所提及的专利组合的完整清单。这份清单其后于2019年9月20日被提交给戴姆勒。同时,康文森提议双方在2019年10月初召开会议面对面进行协商。戴姆勒于2019年10月8日回应称,由于所需的信息仍然缺失,该会议只能在十月底举行。

双方于2019年12月4日在戴姆勒总部会面。2020年1月15日,康文森将在本次会议进行过程中所演示的文稿发送给戴姆勒,并表示愿意为戴姆勒的一级供应商设定许可计划,同时为此也准备与戴姆及戴姆勒所有的一级供应商召开会议进行讨论。除此之外,康文森还提出了向中立的第三方寻求协助,例如采用仲裁程序来判定许可的价值。戴姆勒于2020年1月24日表示其已经与供应商进行了讨论,并且愿意组织一次会议。 2020年1月29日,康文森在其正于慕尼黑进行中的未决诉讼里对戴姆勒追加提出了禁令救济以及召回并销毁侵权产品的诉讼主张。

双方于2020年2月及3月就与戴姆勒的一级供应商会面的问题进行了讨论。然而,戴姆勒并未组织其所有供应商共同参加会议。

2020年4月8日,戴姆勒向康文森提出了许可反要约,该许可反要约是以在车辆上实现LTE连接功能的车载信息控制单元 (TCU) 这一元件的价值为基础来进行计算的。

康文森于2020年6月30日再度向戴姆勒提出了进一步的许可要约,但未获接受。 2020年8月10日,戴姆勒向康文森提供了有关其过去车辆销售的相关信息,并为其过去的使用提交了保证金。

法院在当前判决 [95] 中做出了包含对戴姆勒出发禁令在内的多项有利于康文森的裁决。
 

B. 法院的论理

法院认为,本案涉案专利为实施4G / LTE标准时所必要,并且该专利遭受了侵权行为 [96] ,康文森所提出的索赔主张因此而被法院准许。

康文森就关于禁令救济以及召回并销毁侵权产品的诉讼主张也应该被准许。康文森对戴姆提起侵权诉讼的行为既不会构成《欧洲联盟运作条约》(TFEU)第102条所规定对市场支配地位的滥用行为(以下称“竞争法上抗辩”,参见下段第 1 项),也没有违反其因欧洲电信标准协会专利政策所应承担的合同义务(以下称“合同法上抗辩”,参见下段第 2 项) [97]
 

1. 竞争法上抗辩
市场支配地位

法院认为,康文森具备《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条涵义下的市场支配地位 [98]

享有专利所授与的独占权本身并不会造成市场支配地位的形成 [99] 。当一项专利对符合标准发展组织所发展出的标准(或事实上的标准)而言具备技术上的必要性,并且在(下游)市场提供的产品中并没有可以替代该标准的技术时 [100] ,市场支配地位才会形成。在法院看来,此一原则适用于本案涉案专利 [101]

在本案中,可以排除康文森市场支配地位的特殊情况并不存在。法院认为,单就康文森向欧洲电信标准协会做出FRAND承诺,从而确立其必须依照FRAND条款与条件授予许可的义务这一事实本身,并不会排除康文森的市场支配地位,并且,此一问题决定性的关键在于标准必要专利持有人是否真正履行了这一义务 [102] 。此外,潜在实施人也可以选择从Avanci平台获得本案涉案专利许可的这一替代途径也并不会对康文森的市场支配地位造成限制 [103]
 

未构成对市场支配地位的滥用

尽管如此,法院认为,康文森向戴姆勒提起禁令救济以及召回并销毁侵权产品的诉讼这一行为并不会构成其对市场支配地位的滥用。

在实施人已经使用了受(专利)保护的标准化技术的情况下,对标准必要专利持有人行为的评估则需要采取更全面的综合分析,一方面需要考虑知识产权所享有的是宪法所赋予的强大保障,另一方面也需要将实施人可以实施标准的利益纳入考量,二者之间必须相互平衡 [104] 。在这种情况下,不仅只是私人利益,也应该将公共利益纳入考量范围之中 [105] 。法院强调,公共利益不应仅仅被视为“单纯的使用标准化技术各私人利益的总和”,而同时也应该包含对公众利益实质性的保护以保障知识产权的完整性并确保有效的执行力 [105]

考虑到标准必要专利在“本质上所具备的特殊性”,尤其是在通信领域,法院采取了与欧洲联盟法院(CJEU)华为诉中兴案判决(以下称“华为案判决”) [106] 一致的观点,认为对标准必要专利持有人施加某些特定的行为义务是合理且正当的。其原因基本上在于,与其他“普通”专利不同,标准必要专利是在专利持有人无需采取任何进一步行动的情况下,因该专利被纳入某一标准中而在市场上被确立 [107] 。因此,对于标准必要专利而言,通过授予专利技术的发明人在特定期间内的独占性的排他性权利来确保专利技术的发明人在市场上的竞争优势的需求,相较于非标准必要专利而言也就并不那么强烈 [108]

尽管如此,法院仍然明确表示,华为案判决对标准必要专利持有人所施加的行为义务仅存在于“严肃看待而不仅仅是口头上表示”愿意签署许可协议的实施人身上 [109] 。因此,一项基于对滥用市场支配地位的指控的抗辩只有在想要使用或者已经在未经授权的情况下使用专利的实施人愿意取得FRAND许可,并且在其与标准必要专利持有人进行许可谈判的整个过程中没有使用拖延战术的情况下,才有可能成立 [110] 。法院阐明到,华为案判决的关键概念在于谈判双方才是最有资格在公平、平衡且即时的许可谈判中确定 FRAND者,而是否能达成协议则将取决于谈判双方受为达成协议的实际“真诚动机”驱使的积极性参与 [111]
 

侵权通知

在对双方的行为进行审视后,法院认为,通过发送了日期为2018年12月18日的信函,康文森已经履行了就其标准必要专利遭受侵权情事对戴姆勒进行通知的义务,此信函的内容包含了与其专利组合相关的足够信息,其中也包括了数个各别专利所对应的权利要求对照表 [112] 。至于康文森是否充分解释了本信函中所附带的许可要约背后的许可费究竟是如何计算的则无关紧要,因为在此一阶段,康文森甚至还没有向戴姆勒提出许可要约的义务 [113]
 

取得许可的意愿

另一方面,法院认定戴姆勒不具备从康文森处取得许可的意愿。相反地,法院发现了一个“特别明显不具备取得许可意愿的案例” [114]

在内容方面,实施人必须“清楚”且“明确”地表明其愿意依照“任何实际上符合FRAND的条款”与标准必要专利持有人达成许可协议,并且随后以一种“目的性导向”且“积极”的态度来进行许可谈判 [115] 。相反地,在对(第一次)侵权通知做出回应时,仅仅是对侵权通知作出表达愿意考虑签署许可协议或就是否以及在什么条件下才考虑取得许可进行谈判是不够的 [115]

法院阐明,关于实施人是否具备取得许可的意愿的评估,需要通过对截至侵权诉讼程序中口头听证程序结束为止的所有案例事实进行全面性的分析来确定 [116] 。实施人是否表达出取得许可的意愿这一问题,并不能通过对实施人行为的“形式性的简略印象”来回答;更重要的是,实施人不能持续保持被动状态,直到在实施人眼中看来标准必要专利持有人已经履行了其义务时 [116]

此外,法院强调,谈判进行中的时机是在评估实施人是否具备取得许可的意愿时必须纳入考量范围的一项因素 [117] 。否则,实施人将会缺乏及时且积极地参与谈判的动力 [118] 。关于即时的概念法院认为严格的期限无法被设定,仍需要视个案具体情况逐一评估 [119] 。然而,已被告知侵权的实施人有义务通过与标准必要专利持有人签署 FRAND 许可而尽快使对该专利的非法使用合法化 [119]

此外,法院认为,实施人是否以及在何时向标准必要专利持有人提出许可反要约也可以作为实施人是否具备取得许可意愿的“重要指标” [117] 30。在侵权诉讼程序开始后才提出的许可反要约在通常情况下是不被认可的 [120] 。法院认为,实施人仅仅为了“做表面功夫”而进行谈判,然后透过提出许可反要约来对在侵权诉讼中可能被定罪的劣势进行“紧急刹车”,这种行为是不应该被允许的 [118] 。仅有在实施人自谈判开始时就愿意,并且始终积极地参与与专利持有人间的讨论这种特殊的情况下,在诉讼审判期间提出的许可反要约才可以被纳入对判断是否具备取得许可意愿的考量范围中 [121]

承上所述,法院认为,一般而言,实施人最初采用的拖延战术是无法在稍后的某一个时间点不费吹灰之力而被“消除”的 [122] 。尽管如此,对取得许可的意愿迟来的表述并不会“自动”排除实施人在侵权诉讼程序中提出“FRAND抗辩”的权利:无论是否出现这种情况,都还是应该根据具体个案在历史谈判过程中的各别情况逐一进行判断 [123]

在此背景下,考虑到戴姆勒的整体行为,法院得出了结论——尽管对戴姆勒而言,以符合FRAND要求的原则行事实际上有可能并且是合理的 [124] ,而戴姆勒仍然选择了采用拖延战术 [125]

法院认为,戴姆勒将康文森导引至其供应商的行为,并未表达出其愿意依照“任何实际上符合FRAND 的条款”来取得许可的意愿,反而是明确地展现出其本身并不准备从康文森处取得许可的态度 [126] 。戴姆勒与其供应商之间可能存在的关于第三方知识产权的赔偿条款在此处并不能发挥任何作用,因为戴姆勒的行为独立地造成了对康文森所持有的专利的侵权行为,因此必须为此承担相应的责任 [126]

另一个显示出戴姆勒并不具备取得许可的意愿的征兆是,戴姆勒花了超过两个月的时间才通知康文森其并未收到那一份本应该被附加于康文森在2020年7月5日发送的电子邮件中但因过失而未被添加的专利组合清单 [127] 。法院同样批评了戴姆勒此前从未针对康文森所提供的权利要求对照表向康文森提出任何问题,反而却是在侵权诉讼审判过程中才对相关专利的质量提出质疑此一事实 [128]

法院在戴姆勒於2020年7月27日所作出的回覆中,還發現了另一个“重大性指標”顯示出戴姆勒並不具備取得許可的意愿,在此回覆中,戴姆勒明确表示其签署许可協議的意愿僅限于尚未被许可或者由不愿自行向康文森取得许可的供应商處所購買的產品 [129] 。法院對於戴姆勒将其供应商的“不具備取得許可的意愿”設定為其己身与康文森签署许可協議的条件這一選擇特別反感 [130]

此外,戴姆勒没有针对康文森在2019年12月4日举行的当事方会议上所提出的使用替代性争议解决机制,特别是以仲裁程序来确定FRAND许可费的提议做出回应,这一事实也被法院认为是戴姆勒方并不具备取得许可意愿的表现 [131]

法院指出,另一个“明显”展现出戴姆勒不具备取得许可意愿且采用拖延战术的迹象在于,于2019年12月4日双方间的讨论结束以后,尽管戴姆勒曾暗示其已与其供应商讨论过有关由供应商直接向康文森取得许可此一潜在选项,然而实际上戴姆勒并未组织其所有一级供应商就此议题召开会议讨论 [132]
 

许可反要约

随后,法院指出,戴姆勒于2020年4月8日所提出的许可反要约并无法弥补戴姆勒在此之前表现出的取得许可意愿缺失 [133] 。更有甚者,这更像是一种“不在场证明” [124]

在法院看来,由于此一许可反要约是在康文森对戴姆勒提出许可要约后的一年零四个月以后才提出的,此一许可反要约的发出是迟延的 [133] 。更重要的是,此一许可反要约是戴姆勒在侵权诉讼程序进行的过程中才提出的,如前所述,此一行为是不被认可的,因为在此之前戴姆勒很显然是不愿意取得许可的 [134] 。法院近一步阐明,戴姆勒以康文森未提供相关的必要信息为借口来正当化其延迟回覆的行为是站不住脚的,因为该许可反要约仅基于公开且可供公众使用的数据撰写,而并未进行任何进一步的详细分析;因此,该许可反要约本来可以在戴姆勒收到康文森初次许可要约后不久的一个更早的时间点发出 [135]

除此之外,法院也认为,戴姆勒所提出的许可反要约在内容上“显然并不符合FRAND” [136] 。根据概括性的分析,戴姆勒所提出的许可费被认为明显是过低的 [137]

法院指出,FRAND费率是一个数值范围,并且有多种可以用于计算 FRAND许可费的方法 [137] 。法院采用了所谓的“自上而下法”(此一方法康文森与戴姆勒双方都曾经使用过) [138] 。在检视过戴姆勒提出的按照“自上而下法”而进行的计算后,法院认为,将所有向欧洲电信标准协会作出声明其为标准必要专利的专利总数作为确定康文森所持有的与LTE相关的标准必要专利所占份额的基础这种做法并不符合FRAND [139] 。考虑到并非所有被声明为标准必要专利的专利实际上都确实属于标准必要专利(这种现象被称为“过度声明”),使用被声明的专利总数作为计算基础将有利于戴姆勒:如果采用的是真正属于LTE标准必要专利的(较低)专利数量做为计算的基础,则康文森所持有的标准专利数量就其本身而言将会变得更高 [139]

此外,法院也指出,采用车载信息控制单元的平均采购价格作为计算基础并不是在FRAND下适当的许可费计算基础 [140] 。标准必要专利的价值是通过许可费而体现的,而该许可费与所提供服务的价值应符合比例原则 [140] 。法院认为,在本案中,通过在戴姆勒汽车上提供支持LTE技术的相关功能以及戴姆勒汽车的消费者对这些功能的使用而创造了经济价值 [140] 。因此,在此处真正相关的是戴姆勒的消费者对因为LTE技术而得以在车辆上实现的各项功能所赋予的价值 [140] 。戴姆勒向供应商支付的车载信息控制单元的采购价格并不能反映该项价值 [140]
 

供应商提出的FRAND抗辩 / 许可层级

法院进一步阐明,戴姆勒不能援引其供应商(据称的)具备直接从康文森处取得许可的意愿做为其FRAND抗辩 [141]

如果一个实施人在声明了自己具备取得许可意愿的同时,也表示了希望该许可的授与可以在其供应商层级进行,则其有义务以书面形式全面地披露其产品中包含了哪些符合标准的元件,以及哪些供应商向其提供了哪些对应的元件 [142] 。如果此一信息披露义务并没有被履行,正如同本案的情况一样,则实施人要求在其供应商层级别进行许可的请求与实施人表示愿意与自己与标准必要专利持有人签署许可协议的声明彼此矛盾,因此,属于恶意行为(见德国民法典第242条) [143] 。在这种情况下,法院明确表示,实施人仍然有义务以一种及时且有目的性的态度积极地与标准必要专利持有人进行双边谈判,即便在实施人已经向标准必要专利持有人提供上述信息后,仍应该同时积极参与促进在供应商层级相关许可机制的建立 [144] 。并且,在与标准必要专利持有人的双边谈判过程中,实施人可以要求在许可协议中包含一项排除对供应商已取得许可的组件双重支付许可费的条款 [144]

承上所述,法院認為,康文森要求由戴姆勒來取得許可的做法並没有構成滥用或歧视性行為 [145]

法院认为,關於在供应链中對标准必要专利的许可应遵循所谓的“所有人均有權要求取得许可”或者是“所有人均有權使用许可”的作法这一基礎性问题,在此无需被回答 [146] 。在标准必要专利持有人与终端设备制造商之间的法律纠纷中,从竞争法的角度而言,只要标准必要专利持有人在诉讼中所追求達成的目标並不会将供应商完全排除在市场之外便已足夠;当供应商通过由终端设备制造商签署的许可協議建立的“委託製造”权而被授予对标准化技术的使用权时,情况正是如此,正如同此處康文森所提供的那样 [146] 。供应商是否有權要求單獨取得许可則是一个不同的问题,而這個問題可能可以在标准必要专利持有人与供应商之间的另外的訴訟程序中被提出 [147]

法院补充到,标准必要专利持有人有权自由决定对供应链中的哪个侵权者向法院提起诉讼 [148] 。该自由选择权源自于宪法对财产权的保障,以及专利作为一种排他性权利的本质 [149] 。 法院认为,尽管在汽车行业的普遍做法是当零部件被出售给汽车制造商时不受第三方权利的限制,然而这并会不因此使康文森要求戴姆勒取得许可的行为成为竞争法上的滥用行为 [150] 。终端设备制造商与其供应商间的各别协议仅具有双边(合同)效力而不能损害第三方的法律地位 [150] 。特别是,此类条款并不能限制标准必要专利持有人选择向供应链中哪个层级的实施人主张其专利权的权利 [151] 。法院指出,鉴于附加技术的整合符合戴姆勒进入新市场与吸引消费者群的经济利益,从竞争法上的角度而言,汽车行业是否有必要放弃其现有的做法并不重要 [151]

在此背景下,法院同时阐明,只要是侵权诉讼仅针对终端设备制造商发动,标准必要专利持有人对供应商并没有履行华为案判决所确定的义务 [152] 。因此,参与此类诉讼的供应商不能以例如略过单独向供应商发送侵权通知等理由而主张标准必要专利持有人滥用其市场支配地位 [153] 。法院否定了标准必要专利持有人应承担这种全面性的通知义务,因为尝试在多层次的复杂供应链中找出所有可能牵涉到的供应商既不可行也不合理 [154]

法院认为,关于标准必要专利持有人拒绝直接对供应商授与许可是否会构成对其市场支配地位的滥用这一问题,应视竞争法上的一般性原则而定 [155] 。在本案中,法院并没有发现充足的理由可以支撑这种滥用行为的成立 [155] 。法院不认为若是供应商没有取得一份专属于自己的双边许可协议,那么其就无法享有权利或将面临法律上的不确定性 [156] 。然而,取得一份专属于自己的双边许可协议将赋予供应商相较于通过“委托制造权”所取得者更广泛的经营自由,从而更能契合其商业利益的这一事实,在供应商对标准充分的使用权仍然可以通过“委托制造权”而被保障的情况下,此问题便与标准必要专利持有人及终端设备制造商间的诉讼程序没有任何相关性了 [157] 。于此范围内,法院同时指出,以“委托制造权”为基础的供应链内部合作在现实中广泛存在且十分普遍,并且也得到了欧盟相关法律的支持(见欧洲联盟委员会12 月 18 日关于与欧洲联盟条约第 85 (1) 条有关分包协议的评估的通知,OJ C 1,1979 年 1 月 3 日) [157]

最后,法院驳回了戴姆勒方关于康文森与Avanci平台的其他成员勾结,通过排除实施人对相关标准的使用而对实施人为具体歧视行为的指控 [158] 。法院并没有发现任何迹象表明此种情况确实存在,相反地,法院强调了专利池通常被认为具有促进竞争的效果,尤其是在欧盟法律体系之下(详见关于欧洲联盟运作条约第 101 条应用于技术转让协议的指南第245段;2014/C 89/03) [158]
 

2. 合同法上抗辩

法院进一步指出,戴姆勒无法因其被授与FRAND许可而引用合同法上的抗辩以对抗康文森的禁令救济主张,因为此种主张并不存在 [159] 。戴姆勒曾经主张,根据康文森对欧洲电信标准协会所作出的FRAND承诺,康文森不被允许向法院提出禁令救济主张。

法院认为,欧洲电信标准协会的FRAND承诺并未创造出与欧盟竞争法(特别是《欧洲联盟运作条约》第 102 条)规定下所应遵守或享有者不同的义务或权利,而在本案中,康文森已经满足了这些要求 [160] 。在法律上,欧洲电信标准协会的FRAND承诺是根据法国法律所规定的为第三方利益所签订的合同(’stipulation pour l’autrui’),其中包含了标准必要专利持有人必须在稍后时间点授予 FRAND 许可这项具有约束力的承诺 [161] 。然而,关于许可协商的进行以及相对应的义务的内容及范围应按华为案判决所创立的规则来解释,这些规则包括了依据《欧洲联盟运作条约》第 102 条所制定的行为准则 [161] 。事实上,欧洲电信标准协会的FRAND承诺实现了在《欧洲联盟运作条约》第 102 条的规定下提供对标准的使用权的要求,同时也支持采用统一的行为标准 [161] 。在法院看来,法国法律不能创设其他进一步的行为义务,因为法国法律也必须按照欧盟法律的精神来进行解释 [161]
 

C. 其他重要问题

最后,基于比例原则的考量,法院采取了没有理由限制康文森禁令救济主张的观点 [162] 。根据德国法律,比例原则是一项具备宪法位阶的一般性法律原则,如果被告在审判中根据此项原则提出了相应的反对意见,则在审查是否核准禁令救济时也应将此原则纳入考量范围之中 [162] 。德国联邦法院(Bundesgerichtshof)也认可在实施人将遭受的损害因为专利持有人行使其排他性权利时违反诚信原则而无法被合理化的情况下,禁令将可能无法立即被执行(详见2016 年 5 月 10 日’Wärmetauscher’案裁决,案件编号 X ZR 114/13) [162] 。然而,在法院看来,戴姆勒在本次诉讼中并未就任何相关事实进行抗辩 [162]
 

  • [95] Conversant v Daimler, District Court of Munich I, 30 October 2020, Case-No. 21 O 11384/19 (cited by juris)。
  • [96] 同上注,段122-265。
  • [97] 同上注,段285。
  • [98] 同上注,段286。
  • [99] 同上注,段288。
  • [100] 同上注,段287及以下。
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  • [102] 同上注,段295。
  • [103] 同上注,段296。
  • [104] 同上注,段299。
  • [105] 同上注,段300。
  • [106] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13。
  • [107] Conversant v Daimler, District Court of Munich I, 30 October 2020, Case-No. 21 O 11384/19, 段301。
  • [108] 同上注,段301。
  • [109] 同上注,段307。
  • [110] 同上注,段308。
  • [111] 同上注,段302及308。
  • [112] 同上注,段323及以下。
  • [113] 同上注,段324。然而,法院对于康文森仅提及英国高等法院在无限星球诉华为案中使用的计算方法是否足以解释其向戴姆勒所提供的费率表示怀疑。
  • [114] 同上注,段309。
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  • [135] 同上注,段355及以下。
  • [136] 同上注,段341及354。
  • [137] 同上注,段341。
  • [138] 同上注,段341及348。
  • [139] 同上注,段352。
  • [140] 同上注,段353。
  • [141] 同上注,段360。
  • [142] 同上注,段362。
  • [143] 同上注,段362及364。
  • [144] 同上注,段363。
  • [145] 同上注,段365。
  • [146] 同上注,段366。
  • [147] 同上注,段367。
  • [148] 同上注,段368及382。
  • [149] 同上注,段368。
  • [150] 同上注,段370。
  • [151] 同上注,段372。
  • [152] 同上注,段373及376-378。
  • [153] 同上注,段373。
  • [154] 同上注,段373及382。
  • [155] 同上注,段373及379。
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  • [158] 同上注,段380。
  • [159] 同上注,段384。
  • [160] 同上注,段384及以下。
  • [161] 同上注,段385。
  • [162] 同上注,段269。

Updated 6 五月 2021

Sisvel v Haier

德国联邦法院
24 十一月 2020 - Case No. KZR 35/17

A. Facts

The claimant, Sisvel, holds patents declared as (potentially) essential to the practice of several wireless telecommunications standards (standard essential patents, or SEPs). Sisvel has made a commitment towards the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to make SEPs accessible to users on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions.

The defendants are two European subsidiaries of the Haier group (Haier), which has its headquarters in China. The Haier group produces and markets -among other things- mobile phones and tablets complying with various standards, including the GPRS and UMTS standards developed by ETSI.

On 20 December 2012, Sisvel informed the parent company of the Haier group (Haier China) that it offers licences for its SEPs and shared a list of approx. 235 patents included in its portfolio. In August and November 2013, Sisvel sent further letters with information about its licensing program to Haier China.

Haier China replied to Sisvel only in December 2013. It expressed 'hope' to have 'a formal negotiation' with Sisvel and asked for information regarding potential discounts mentioned in previous communi­cations.

In August 2014, Sisvel made an offer for a global portfolio licence to Haier, which was rejected.

Shortly after that, Sisvel filed infringement actions against Haier before the District Court of Duesseldorf (District Court). One of the actions was based on a SEP reading on the UMTS standard (patent in suit). The other action involved a patent reading on the GPRS standard. Haier filed nullity actions against both patents asserted before the German Federal Patent Court.

During the infringement proceedings, Haier made certain counteroffers to Sisvel. These offers had a limited scope, since they covered only the patents (patent families) asserted against Haier in court.

On 3 November 2015, the District Court decided in favour of Sisvel in both cases [163] . It granted injunctions against Haier and ordered the recall and destruction of infringing products. The District Court further recognised Haier's liability for damages on the merits and ordered Haier to render full and detailed account of the sales of infringing products to Sisvel. Haier appealed both decisions.

In the subsequent proceedings before the Higher District Court of Duesseldorf (Appeal Court), Haier argued –among other things– that the District Court had not adequately taken into account the conduct requirements imposed on SEP holders by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) in the Huawei v ZTE ruling [164] (Huawei judgment) rendered after Sisvel had filed the infringement actions.

On 16 January 2016, during the course of the proceedings before the Appeal Court, Haier declared that it was willing to take a FRAND licence from Sisvel, however, only in case that the German courts would finally confirm the validity and infringement of the patent in suit. Haier also requested claim charts with respect to all patents included in Sisvel's portfolio.

In December 2016, Sisvel made a further licensing offer to Haier, which was also rejected.

On 20 January 2017, that is a few weeks prior to the end of the oral arguments in the appeal proceedings, Haier made a further counteroffer to Sisvel. The licence offered would cover only the two subsidiaries of the Haier group sued in Germany. An agreement was not reached.

By two judgments dated 30 March 2017, the Appeal Court partially granted Haier's appeals in both parallel proceedings [165] . The claims for injunctive relief as well as the recall and destruction of infringing products were dismissed on the grounds that Sisvel had not complied with its obligations under the Huawei judgment, especially by failing to make a FRAND licensing offer to Haier.

Sisvel appealed the decisions of the Appeal Court.

In April 2020, the Federal Court of Justice (FCJ or Court) finally dismissed the invalidity action filed by Haier against the patent in suitFederal Court of Justice, judgment dated 28 April 2020, Case No. X ZR 35/18..

On 5 May 2020, FCJ rendered a judgment in the parallel proceedings pending between the parties concerning the patent reading on the GPRS standard [167] . The Court decided in favour of Sisvel and reversed the judgment of the Appeal Court. With the present judgmentSisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17 (cited by )., the Court reversed the decision of the Appeal Court also in the case involving the patent in suit.
 

B. Court's reasoning

The Court found that the patent in suit was essential to the UMTS standard and infringedIbid, paras. 10-43..

Contrary to the view previously taken by the Appeal Court, FCJ found that by initiating infringement proceedings against Haier, Sisvel had not abused a dominant market position in violation of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) [170] .
 

Dominant market position

The Court held that Sisvel had a dominant market position within the meaning of Article 102 TFEUIbid, paras. 48 et seqq..

FCJ explained that a dominant market position is given, when a patent is technically essential for comply­ing with a standard developed by a standardisation body (or a de facto standard) and technical alterna­tives to the standard are not available for products brought on a downstream marketIbid, para. 49.. Even when alternative (technical) options exist, market domi­nance can arise as long as products not using the teaching of the patent cannot compete in a (downstream) market.Ibid, para. 49. According to the FCJ, this applied with respect to the patent in suit.
 

Abuse of market dominance

The Court found, however, that Sisvel had not abused its dominant market position by filing infringement actions against HaierIbid, para. 52.. An abuse of market dominance can occur, when the SEP holder
 

  • refuses to grant a FRAND licence to an implementer willing to take such licence and brings a court action against the latter, asserting claims for injunctive relief (and/or the recall and destruction of infringing products), or
  • has not made 'sufficient efforts' in line with the 'particular responsibility' attached to its dominant position to facilitate the signing of a licence agreement with an implementer, who is, basically, willing to take a licenceIbid, para. 53..

In the eyes of the Court, in both above scenarios, the filing of an action against a 'willing' implementer amounts to an abuse, only because the latter has a claim to be contractually allowed by the SEP holder to use the teachings of the patent under FRAND conditionsIbid, para. 54.. On the other hand, an abuse is regularly not per se established by an offer made by the patent holder at the beginning of negotiations, even when the terms offered would unreasonably impede or discriminate the implementer, if contractually agreed.Ibid, para. 54. An abuse would be given, if the SEP holder insisted on such conditions also at the end of licensing negotiations with the imple­menter.Ibid, para. 54.
 

Notification of infringement

The Court explained that the 'particular responsibility' of a market dominant patent holder materializes in an obligation to notify the implementer about the infringement of the patent in suit prior to filing an action, in case that the implementer is (potentially) not aware that by complying with the standard said patent is usedIbid, para. 55..

In the present case, the Court found that by the letter dated 20 December 2012 and the following correspondence Sisvel had given proper notification of infringement to HaierIbid, para. 84..
 

Willingness

On the other hand, the Court found that Haier did not act as a licensee willing to obtain a FRAND licence from SisvelIbid, paras. 86 et seqq.. In this respect, FCJ disagreed with the Appeal Court, which had taken the opposite view.

In the Court's eyes, the implementer must 'clearly' and 'unambiguously' declare willingness to conclude a licence agreement with the SEP holder on FRAND terms and, subsequently, engage in negotiations in a 'target-oriented' manner [179] . By contrast, it is not sufficient, in response to a notification of infringement, to just demonstrate willingness to consider signing a licensing agreement or to enter into negotiations about whether and under which conditions taking a licence comes into question [179] .

The Court reasoned that the willingness of the implementer to legitimise the unauthorized use of the patent for the future by creating a respective contractual base is a prerequisite for placing the burden on the SEP holder to negotiate a FRAND licence with the implementer. [180] What is more, willingness (on both sides) is essential, because an adequate solution balancing the opposing interests of the parties results, as a rule, from an interest-based negotiation. [181] The fact that a party fails to contribute in negotiations towards a FRAND agreement will regularly be considered to its detriment. [182] An implementer, who has not shown interest in a FRAND-licence over a longer period after receipt of an infringement notification will have to undertake 'additional efforts' to make sure, that despite the delay caused a licence can be signed as soon as possible. [183]

The Court highlighted particularly that implementers should not engage in 'patent hold-out' by exploiting the 'structural disadvantage', which SEP holders face due to the limitation of their right to assert patents in court. [184] Otherwise, competition could be distorted, because the infringer would gain unfair advantages over implementers that have taken a licence in a timely manner. [184]

FCJ took the view that the above interpretation of the requirements related to the implementers' obligation to demonstrate willingness to obtain a FRAND-licence is in line with the Huawei judgment; a new referral of the respective questions to the CJEU, as requested by Haier, was not needed.Ibid, para. 63. The Huawei judgment created a 'safe harbour' against antitrust liability in the sense that compliance with the obligations established will regularly suffice to exclude an abuse of market dominance.Ibid, para. 65. Under special circumstances, however, stricter or less strict conduct duties of the parties could be justified.Ibid, para. 65.

The Court observed that the Huawei judgment supports the notion that the implementer should remain willing to obtain a licence throughout the course of negotiations.Ibid, para. 65. The 'continuous' willingness is an 'indispensable condition' for successful negotiations or, in case negotiations fail, for a finding of abuse of market dominance on the side of the SEP holder.Ibid, para. 68. The refusal of SEP holder to grant a FRAND licence would, indeed, have no relevance in antitrust terms, when the implementer is not objectively willing and able to obtain such licence. [188]

Accordingly, FCJ explained that willingness shall (still) be in place, also when the SEP holder makes a licensing offer.Ibid, para. 69. In this regard, the Court disagreed with the District Court of Duesseldorf, which had expressed the opposite view in the recent referral of certain FRAND-related questions to the CJEU in the matter Nokia v Daimler.Ibid, para. 69. See Nokia v Daimler, District Court of Duesseldorf, order dated 26 November 2020, Case No. 4c O 17/19. According to FCJ, the offer of the SEP holder is just the 'starting point' of negotiations; since FRAND is a range, it is the goal of negotiations to reach a fair and reasonable result considering the interests of both sides.Ibid, paras. 70 and 71. The implementer has, therefore, a duty to examine the FRAND-conformity of the terms of the SEP holder's offer.Ibid, para. 71. If the offer is 'obviously' not FRAND, it will be sufficient that the implementer explains the reasons why this is the case.Ibid, para. 71.

In this context, the Court made clear that the implementer's duty to examine SEP-holder's licensing offer exists, irrespective of whether the offer is, in terms of content, FRAND-compliant in every respect.Ibid, para. 72. If one would require from the SEP holder to make a 'perfect' FRAND offer right away, licensing negotiations would be obsolete.Ibid, para. 73. It is also not possible to assess the FRAND-conformity of the offer in the abstract, without reference to the aspects which each side considers relevant.Ibid, para. 74. The Court reiterated that an non-FRAND licensing offer does not per se amount to an abuse of market dominance.Ibid, para. 76.

Having said that, FCJ noted that for the assessment of the willingness of the implementer its entire conduct (including its reaction to the SEP holder's licensing offer) must be taken into account.Ibid, para. 77. Consequently, willingness can change in the course of time: a court action filed by the SEP holder could become abusive at a later point in time, if the implementer adequately raises a request for a FRAND-licence.Ibid, paras. 79 et seqq. However, the longer the implementer waits with asserting such request, the higher the threshold for considering it as a willing licensee will be. [199] The Court again noted that the above inter­pretation is in line with the Huawei judgment, so that no additional referral to the CJEU is needed, as Haier had requested.Ibid, para. 77.

Against this background, the Court observed that the first response of Haier China to Sisvel's notification almost one year after receipt of the infringement notification was belated [200] . An implementer taking several months to respond to a notification of infringement, typically, sends a signal that there is no interest in taking a licence [200] . Besides that, FCJ found that Haier's response in December 2013, in which only the 'hope' to have a 'formal negotiation' was expressed, was not a sufficient declaration of willing­ness, in terms of content [201] . Since it had reacted belatedly to the notification of infringement, Haier should have undertaken 'additional efforts' to demonstrate willingness, which had been, however, not the case. [202]

Similarly, Haier's letter dated 16 January 2016 did not contain a sufficient declaration of willingness, since Haier had made the signing of a licence subject to the prior confirmation of the validity and infringement of the patent in suit by German courts [203] . Although the implementer is, in principle, allowed to preserve the right to contest the validity of a licensed patent after conclusion of an agreement, the Court held that a declaration of willingness cannot be placed under a respective conditionIbid, para. 95.. Besides that, requesting the production of claim charts for all patents of Sisvel's portfolio almost three years after the receipt of the notification of infringement was, according to the Court, an indication that Haier was only interested in delaying the negotiations until the expiration of the patent in suit [205] .

Furthermore, FCJ found that Haier's willingness to enter into a FRAND licence could also not be extracted from the counteroffers made during the infringement proceedings.Ibid, paras. 102 et seqq. The fact that these counteroffers were, in terms of scope, limited only to the patents asserted by Sisvel in court indicated that Haier had not seriously addressed Sisvel's request for a worldwide portfolio licence. [207] Given that it had more than sufficient time to examine Sisvel's portfolio, one could expect from Haier to provide substantive grounds for such 'selective licensing'. [207]

What is more, the Court held that the counteroffer dated 20 January 2017, which Haier had made shortly before the end of the appeal proceedings, was no sufficient demonstration of willingness either.Ibid, paras. 108 et seqq. The Court focused particularly on the fact that the licence would cover only the two affiliates of the Haier group sued in Germany.Ibid, para. 116. According to FCJ, Haier had no 'legitimate interest' on such 'selective licensing'; on the contrary, a limited licence would offer no sufficient protection against infringement by other companies of the Haier group and force Sisvel to a cost-intensive assertion of its SEPs 'patent to patent and country-by-country'.Ibid, para. 118.

In addition, the Court also criticised the proposed royalty regime.Ibid, paras. 124 et seqq. Haier based the royalty calculation only on a small portion (four patent families) of the SEPs that should be included in the licence, which, in its eyes, were 'probably' essential.Ibid, para. 124. The Court reasoned that the scope of the licence must be clarified in negotiations, whereas in the ICT-sector, due to the large number of relevant patents, it is common to rely on estimations regarding both essentiality and validity, which, on the one hand, allow to take 'necessary remaining uncertainties' adequately into account and, on the other hand, help to avoid disproportionate high transaction costs.Ibid, para. 125.

Apart from that, the fact that the counteroffer was made only in the 'last minute' of the appeal proceedings allowed the conclusion that Haier was not actually aiming at signing a FRAND licence, but was rather motivated by tactical considerations with respect to the pending proceedings.Ibid, para. 126.
 

SEP holder's licensing offer

Having found that Haier had not sufficiently demonstrated willingness to obtain a FRAND licence, the Court did not examine the FRAND-conformity of Sisvel's licensing offers to Haier in the present case [215] . According to FCJ, this question is not relevant, when the implementer has not adequately expressed willingness to sign a FRAND licence.Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17, para. 107.

The Court highlighted that -apart from the obligation to notify the implementer about the infringement- duties of the SEP holder (including the duty to make a FRAND licensing offer) arise only if the implementer has demonstrated willingness to obtain a licence on FRAND terms.Ibid, para. 56. The FRAND-undertaking of the patent holder towards the relevant standardisation body does not change the fact that the user of a patent is, in principle, obliged to seek a licence from the right holder.Ibid, para. 56.
 

C. Other important issues

Patent ambush

The Court dismissed Haier's defence based on the 'patent ambush' argument.Ibid, paras. 127 et seqq. Haier argued that the patent in suit was unenforceable, because the initial patent holder, from whom Sisvel had acquired said patent, had failed to disclose the patent towards ETSI in due course during the development of the UMTS standard.

The Court did not examine whether a 'patent ambush' in the above sense indeed occurred in the present case.Ibid, para. 130. FCJ took the view that an implementer can assert 'patent ambush' only against the patent holder that actually participated in the standard development process; on the contrary, such defence cannot be raised against its successor (here: Sisvel).Ibid, para. 130.

Notwithstanding the above, the Court noted that a 'patent ambush' requires that the decision-making process within the relevant standardisation body was distorted by the withheld information.Ibid, para. 131. Insofar, the implementer must establish at least some indication that the standard would have taken a different form, if the information considering the relevant patent application had been disclosed in time.Ibid, paras. 131 et seq. Haier had, however, failed to do so.Ibid, paras. 131 et seq.
 

Damages

Finally, the Court found that Sisvel's damage claims were given on the merits. Negligence establishing Haier's liability for damages was given: The implementer is, in principle, obliged to make sure that no third party rights are infringed, before starting manufacturing or selling products, which Haier had not done. [222]

What is more, Sisvel's claim for damages was not limited to the amount of a FRAND licensing rate ('licensing analogy'). [223] The SEP holder is entitled to full damages, unless the implementer can assert an own counterclaim, requesting to be placed in the position, in which it would have been, in case that the SEP holder had fulfilled the obligations arising from its dominant market position. [222] An implementer is, however, entitled to such (counter)claim, only when it adequately expressed its willingness to enter into a licence, which had not been the case here.77

  • [163] Sisvel v Haier, District Court of Duesseldorf, judgment dated 3 November 2015, Case No. 4a O 144/14 (UMTS-related patent) and Case No. 4a O 93/14 (GPRS-related patent).
  • [164] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [165] Sisvel v Haier, Higher District Court of Duesseldorf, judgment dated 30 March 2017, Case No. I-15 U 65/15 (UMTS-related patent) and Case No. I-15 U 66/15 (GPRS-related patent).
  • [166] Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 28 April 2020, Case No. X ZR 35/18.
  • [167] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 5 May 2020, Case No. KZR 36/17.
  • [168] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17 (cited by ).
  • [169] Ibid, paras. 10-43.
  • [170] Ibid, para. 44.
  • [171] Ibid, paras. 48 et seqq.
  • [172] Ibid, para. 49.
  • [173] Ibid, para. 52.
  • [174] Ibid, para. 53.
  • [175] Ibid, para. 54.
  • [176] Ibid, para. 55.
  • [177] Ibid, para. 84.
  • [178] Ibid, paras. 86 et seqq.
  • [179] Ibid, para. 57.
  • [180] Ibid, para. 58.
  • [181] Ibid, para. 59.
  • [182] Ibid, para. 60.
  • [183] Ibid, para. 62.
  • [184] Ibid, para. 61.
  • [185] Ibid, para. 63.
  • [186] Ibid, para. 65.
  • [187] Ibid, para. 68.
  • [188] Ibid, paras. 66 and 68.
  • [189] Ibid, para. 69.
  • [190] Ibid, para. 69. See Nokia v Daimler, District Court of Duesseldorf, order dated 26 November 2020, Case No. 4c O 17/19.
  • [191] Ibid, paras. 70 and 71.
  • [192] Ibid, para. 71.
  • [193] Ibid, para. 72.
  • [194] Ibid, para. 73.
  • [195] Ibid, para. 74.
  • [196] Ibid, para. 76.
  • [197] Ibid, para. 77.
  • [198] Ibid, paras. 79 et seqq.
  • [199] Ibid, para. 83.
  • [200] Ibid, para. 87.
  • [201] Ibid, paras. 88 et seqq.
  • [202] Ibid, para. 89.
  • [203] Ibid, paras. 93 et seqq.
  • [204] Ibid, para. 95.
  • [205] Ibid, paras. 96-99.
  • [206] Ibid, paras. 102 et seqq.
  • [207] Ibid, para. 102.
  • [208] Ibid, paras. 108 et seqq.
  • [209] Ibid, para. 116.
  • [210] Ibid, para. 118.
  • [211] Ibid, paras. 124 et seqq.
  • [212] Ibid, para. 124.
  • [213] Ibid, para. 125.
  • [214] Ibid, para. 126.
  • [215] The Court had, however, undertaken such analysis in its earlier decision between the same parties dated May 2020. See Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 5 May 2020, Case No. KZR 36/17, especially paras. 76-81 and 101 et seqq.
  • [216] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17, para. 107.
  • [217] Ibid, para. 56.
  • [218] Ibid, paras. 127 et seqq.
  • [219] Ibid, para. 130.
  • [220] Ibid, para. 131.
  • [221] Ibid, paras. 131 et seq.
  • [222] Ibid, para. 135.
  • [223] Ibid, paras. 134 et seqq.

Updated 3 十二月 2018

IP Bridge v HTC

曼海姆地区法院
28 九月 2018 - Case No. 7 O 165/16

A. Facts

The Claimant, IP Bridge, is a non-practising entity holding a European patent (German part) which was declared essential to the wireless telecommunications standard LTE (Standard Essential Patent or SEP) developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) [224] . The previous holder of the SEP in question had made an undertaking towards ETSI according to Article 6.1 of ETSI IPR Policy to make the patent accessible to users on Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions [225] .

The Defendant is a German subsidiary of HTC, a company which manufactures and sells electronic devices worldwide, including mobile phones complying with the LTE standard [226] . The Defendant filed an action for invalidity against the Claimant’s SEP in Germany [226] .

In December 2014, the Claimant contacted the Defendant’s parent company (parent company) suggesting that the parties entered into negotiations regarding a licence for Claimant’s patent portfolio which also included the aforementioned SEP [226] . Subsequently, several licensing offers and counter-offers were made by the Claimant and the parent company respectively [226] . On 29 February 2016, the Claimant sent a letter to the parent company explaining how the LTE standard made use of the technology covered by its SEP inter alia under reference to an attached claims chart [227] . In response, the parent company confirmed that it is willing to obtain a licence, among others, by letter dated 7 September 2016 [228] . However, no licensing agreement was concluded.

On 27 September 2016, the Claimant brought an infringement action against the Defendant before the District Court of Mannheim (Court) requesting for a declaratory judgment confirming Defendant’s liability for damages arising from the use of its SEP as well as for information and rendering of accounts [229] .

On 16 February 2018, during the course of the pending proceedings against the Defendant, the Claimant made a further licensing offer to the parent company [230] . On 11 April 2018, after the parent company had signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement, the Claimant presented existing licensing agreements with third parties concerning its relevant patent portfolio (comparable agreements) to the parent company and requested the latter to respond to its last licensing offer of 16 February 2018 within one week (that is until 18 April 2018) [230] . This deadline was extended for almost three weeks until 7 May 2018 [230] .

On 15 May 2018, the Claimant extended its claims in the ongoing proceedings; in addition to its already pending claims, it sought for injunctive relief and also requested the recall and the destruction of products infringing its SEP (claims for injunction) [230] .

With the present judgment the Court ruled that the Defendant is liable for damages arising from the infringement of the SEP in suit [231] . The Court also ordered the Defendant to render accounts and to provide relevant information to the Claimant [231] . On the other hand, the Court dismissed the claim for injunctive relief and the recall and destruction of infringing products as being unenforceable for the time being [232] .


B. Court’s reasoning

The Court held that the products sold by the Defendant in Germany infringe Claimant’s SEP [233] . Thus, the Defendant is obliged to compensate the damages suffered by the Claimant and the previous holder of the patent in suit [231] . Since the Claimant has no knowledge of the details required for the quantification of the damages suffered, the Defendant is obliged to provide information on relevant uses (starting from the publication of the patent grant) and render accounts for such uses (starting from one month after the publication of the patent grant) [231] .

In the Court’s view, the Defendant cannot raise a defence based on a so-called “patent ambush” against these claims [234] . A “patent ambush” requires that the patent holder deliberately – in terms of a willful fraudulent misconduct – misled the participants in the standardisation process and intentionally prevented the adoption of an alternative technology into the standard [235] . Insofar, it needs to be established (by the defendant) that the disclosure of the patent during the standardisation process would have led to an alternative structure of the standard, which would have avoided making use of the teaching of the patent in suit; the mere theoretical possibility of an alternative technical solution does not suffice for supporting the allegation of a “patent ambush” [235] . The Court held that the Defendant failed to establish such fact [234] . Accordingly, the Court left the question regarding the legal consequences of a “patent ambush” open (obligation to licence royalty-free or just an obligation to offer FRAND licences?) [234] .

Furthermore, the Court stressed out that the FRAND undertaking given by the previous holder of the SEP in suit has no impact on both the scope and the enforceability of the above claims [236] .

In the Court’s eyes, the Claimant is bound to the FRAND undertaking made by the previous holder of the SEP in suit towards ETSI [237] . The wording of Article 6.1. ETSI IPR Policy establishes a respective assumption [237] . In any case, the assignee of a SEP abuses its market power, if it is aware of the FRAND-undertaking of its predecessor, but, nevertheless, refuses to fulfil the obligations arising from it [227] . The assignee of an SEP cannot draw benefits from the inclusion of its patent into a standard, without being bound to the FRAND commitment of its predecessor, since the latter enabled the inclusion of the SEP in the standard in the first place [227] . Indeed, antitrust law and particularly Article 101 of the Treaty for the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) obliges standard development organisations to make the inclusion of patented technology into a standard subject to a FRAND commitment of the patent holder, in order to secure that essential technology will be accessible to users [238] .

Having said that, the Court made clear that SEP holder’s claims for information and rendering of accounts are not limited by the FRAND undertaking [236] . Even if one would assume that such undertaking limits the SEP holder’s claims for damages to the amount of the FRAND royalty (which the Court left undecided), the patent holder would, nevertheless, be entitled, in principle, to information regarding the use of its SEP [236] .

In addition, the Court explained that a FRAND undertaking has also no influence on the enforceability of the claims for damages (on the merits), information and rendering of accounts asserted by the Claimant [236] . In particular, these claims are not subject to the conduct requirements set forth by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in the matter Huawei v ZTEHuawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgement dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-130/13. (Huawei requirements or framework) with respect to dominant undertakings in terms of Article 102 TFEU [240] .

The opposite is, on the other hand, the case with respect to the claims for injunction asserted by the Claimant. These claims are not enforceable for the time being, since the Claimant failed to fully comply with the Huawei requirements [241] .

Regarding to the SEP in suit, the Court ruled that the Claimant has a dominant market position in terms of Article 102 TFEU: The patent is essential to the LTE standard, which, in turn, cannot be substituted by an alternative standard (from the users’ point of view) [242] .

Looking at the negotiations between the parties involved, the Court did not see any flaws in the parties’ conduct with respect to the first two steps of the framework; the Claimant had effectively notified the Defendant about the infringing use of its SEP and the Defendant (in fact, its parent company) had effectively declared its willingness to obtain a licence covering also the SEP in suit [227] . In this context, the Court pointed out that the SEP holder’s obligation to notify the user of the infringing use of its SEP is also met, when the respective notification is addressed to the parent company of the (alleged) infringer (as is was the case here, especially with the Claimant’s letter to the parent company dated 29 February 2016) [227] .

However, the Court held that the Claimant failed to fulfil its consequent obligation under the Huawei framework, namely to make a FRAND licensing offer to the Defendant (respectively its parent company) [243] .

The Court considered only two offers made by the Claimant to the Defendant’s parent company prior to the extension of its claims in the pending proceedings on 15 May 2018 (since the other offers made were either indisputably not FRAND or were not produced by the Claimant in trial) [228] .

An offer made in February 2016 was found not to be FRAND in terms of content, since it contained a clause, according to which the licensee was obliged to pay the full amount of the royalties agreed, even if only one patent of the licensed portfolio was valid and used by the Defendant [228] .

The Court reached the same conclusion also with respect to the further offer made by the Claimant on 11 April 2018 (that is short before the Claimant extended its claims in the proceedings, adding the claims for injunction) [244] . The Court held that this offer did not comply with the Huawei requirements, since the Defendant was not given sufficient time to assess the offer and eventually make a counter-offer to the Claimant, before the latter asserted the claims for injunction against him in the proceedings [228] .

In the Court’s eyes, a licensing offer complying with the Huawei requirements is only given, when the SEP holder provides the SEP user with all information required from assessing the FRAND conformity of the offer [245] . Only then, the SEP user’s consequent obligation under the Huawei framework to make a FRAND counter-offer to the SEP holder is triggered [245] . In particular, the SEP holder must make the requested royalty amount transparent with reference to a standard licensing programme implemented in the market or to rates actually paid by third parties to a patent pool, covering also patents relevant to the standard [245] . For the assessment of the non-discriminatory character of the offer, information on comparable agreements is needed [245] .

Based on the above considerations, the Court held that the period of 22 workdays between the presentation of the comparable agreements to the parent company (11 April 2018) and the assertion of the injunction claims in the proceedings by the Defendant (15 May 2018) was too short for a competent assessment of the Claimant’s licensing offer [246] . The fact that the Defendant (and/or its parent company) would have had sufficient time to react to the Claimant’s offer until the end of the oral hearings in mid-July 2018 was considered irrelevant by the Court in this respect [246] . The Huawei framework aims at preventing the situation, in which the SEP user agrees to unfavourable licensing conditions under the pressure of pending infringement proceedings (defined by the Court as “patent hold-up”) [246] . In case that the SEP holder has not fulfilled the Huawei requirements prior to the initiation of proceedings (as it was the case here), it has to make sure that the parties can again negotiated without the pressure of an ongoing trial, for instance by asking the court to stay its proceedings pursuant to Article 251 of the German Court of Civil Procedure [247] . Otherwise, the initiation of the infringement proceedings shall be considered as abusive in terms of antitrust law [247] . In the present case, the Claimant chose to not ask for a stay in the proceedings, ignoring the Court’s respective indication [247] .


C. Other issues

The Court explained that the registration in the patent register allows the registered patent holder to assert the patent rights in court [248] . On the other hand, it does not define the ownership of the patent in material legal terms [249] . Nevertheless, the patent registration establishes an assumption of ownership which must be rebutted by the defendant in infringement proceedings based on concrete indications [250] .

Besides that, the Court pointed out that a stay in the infringement proceedings (pursuant to Article 148 of the German Code of Civil Procedure) until the end of parallel invalidation proceedings concerning the patent(s) in suit can be considered only under special circumstances [251] . As a rule, it must be expected with a sufficient degree of probability that the patent(s) in suit will be invalidated [251] . The Defendant failed convince the Court that this was the case with the SEP in suit [251] .

  • [224] District Court of Mannheim, judgment dated 28 September 2018, Case-No. 7 O 165/16, page 2 and 23.
  • [225] Ibid, page 23 et seq.
  • [226] Ibid, page 5.
  • [227] Ibid, page 25.
  • [228] Ibid, page 26.
  • [229] Ibid, pages 5 et seq.
  • [230] Ibid, page 6.
  • [231] Ibid, page 19.
  • [232] Ibid,page 23.
  • [233] Ibid, pages 16 et seqq.
  • [234] Ibid, page 20.
  • [235] Ibid, page 21.
  • [236] Ibid, page 22.
  • [237] Ibid, page 24.
  • [238] Ibid, pages 24 et seq.
  • [239] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgement dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-130/13.
  • [240] District Court of Mannheim, judgment dated 28 September 2018, Case-No. 7 O 165/16, pages 22.
  • [241] Ibid,pages 23 and 25.
  • [242] Ibid, page 23.
  • [243] Ibid, pages 23 and 25 et seq.
  • [244] Ibid, pages 26 et seqq.
  • [245] Ibid, page 27.
  • [246] Ibid, page 28.
  • [247] Ibid, page 29.
  • [248] Ibid, page 10.
  • [249] Ibid, pages 10 et seq.
  • [250] Ibid, page 11.
  • [251] Ibid, page 30.

Updated 9 十一月 2020

诺基亚诉戴姆勒

曼海姆地区法院
18 八月 2020 - Case No. 2 O 34/19

A. 事实

原告是总部位于芬兰的诺基亚集团的一部分(Nokia,以下称“诺基亚”)。诺基亚是一个主要的通信服务提供者,并持有一系列的专利组合,而这些专利组合被宣告为实施欧洲电信标准协会(ETSI)所发展出的数种无线通信标准时(潜在)必要的专利(以下称“标准必要专利”或“SEP”)。

被告戴姆勒(Daimler)是一家遍布全球的德国汽车制造商。戴姆勒在德国生产并销售具有连网功能的汽车,而此一连网功能实施了由欧洲电信标准协会所发展出的标准。

诺基亚就本案涉案专利为实施4G / LTE标准时所必要向欧洲电信标准协会作出宣告。

欧洲电信标准协会要求各专利持有人承诺愿依照公平、合理且无歧视(FRAND)的条款和条件向标准实施人提供实施该标准时必要或可能成为必要的专利。 诺基亚于2016年6月21日通过提供一份列举所有其已向欧洲电信标准协会作出宣告为实施标准时(潜在)必要的专利及专利申请的清单对戴姆勒告知其所持有的标准必要专利组合。戴姆勒回应称其愿意在其产品确实侵害诺基亚专利权的情况下取得许可。

诺基亚在2016年11月9日首次向戴姆勒提出许可要约,并于2016年12月7日向戴姆勒提供了更多与其专利组合相关的信息。戴姆勒于2016年12月14日回覆称对其生产制造戴姆勒汽车中内建的所谓“车载信息控制单元”(TCU)的供应商进行许可将更有效率。自2017年1月起至2019年2月为止,戴姆勒均没有与诺基亚进行进一步的谈判,也没有参与诺基亚与戴姆勒供应商之间的讨论。 诺基亚于2019年2月27日向戴姆勒提出了第二份许可要约,其中更进一步添加了说明其专利与受影响标准的相关部分对应关系的权利要求对照表。戴姆勒于2019年3月19日再度拒绝了此一许可要约,其理由基本上在于,其认为诺基亚所持有的专利组合的许可费应以供应商提供给戴姆勒的组件价格而非按戴姆勒生产的汽车价格为标准计算。

随后,诺基亚在德国慕尼黑、杜塞尔多夫和曼海姆等地的地区法院对戴姆勒提起了数项侵权诉讼。

在侵权诉讼程序开启后不久,戴姆勒于2019年5月9日向诺基亚提出了许可反要约。此许可反要约中针对诺基亚专利组合的许可费的计算标准是依据戴姆勒向其供应商支付的车载信息控制单元的平均售价。诺基亚拒绝了这一许可反要约。

戴姆勒于2020年6月10日向诺基亚提出了第二次反许可要约。此反许可要约中诺基亚将能够单方面决定许可费(根据德国民法典第315条),而戴姆勒将有权就已决定的许可费向法院提出异议。第二次反许可要约也遭到诺基亚拒绝。

德国联邦反垄断办公室(以下称“反垄断办公室“)于2020年6月18日介入了曼海姆地区法院(以下称”法院“)的当前诉讼程序,并建议法院将有关FRAND承诺性质的某些问题提交至欧洲联盟法院进行审查及解释,然而法院并没有遵循反垄断办公室的建议。

法院在当前判决 [252] (引自https://www.juris.de)中对对戴姆勒核发了禁令,并确认戴姆勒应承担实质性损害赔偿的责任。法院还要求戴姆勒必须开立担保帐户并且提供计算诺基亚所受损失必需的相关信息。

 

B. 法院的论理

法院裁定戴姆勒對本案涉案专利構成侵權 [253] 。因此,诺基亚有权获得包含禁令救濟及其它訴訟主張的支持 [254] 。 戴姆勒及其参加诉讼的所屬供应商主張了所谓的“FRAND抗辯”,認為诺基亚提起侵权诉讼的行為構成了對其市場支配地位的滥用,從而违反了《欧洲聯盟運作条约》(TFEU)第102条,因此其禁令救济主张应予否决。特別是,戴姆勒等主張诺基亚未能遵守歐洲聯盟法院(CJEU)在华为诉中兴案中所確立的行為義務(以下稱“华为案判決”或“華為框架”) [255]

法院認為戴姆勒及其供应商所提出的主張無理由,因此驳回了其所提出的FRAND抗辩 [256]

 

华为框架

法院明确指出,标准必要专利持有人并不当然被禁止行使其因持有专利而享有的专属权利 [257] 。其所持有的专利属于标准必要的这一事实,并不意味着专利持有人有义务容忍第三人对其技术的使用,除非是其已经许可了该使用,或者因其处于市场支配地位而有义务必须许可该使用 [257]

当专利持有人已经遵守了其于华为框架下的义务时,则其因为行使专利权而构成对市场支配地位的滥用的情况便不会发生了 [258] 。然而,这些义务是以在未经权利持有人许可的情况下就已经使用了该项受保护技术的实施人愿意按照FRAND条款取得许可为前提条件的 [259] 。法院解释到,专利持有人并不能向法院提出对任一标准实施人“强制施加”许可协议的主张,很大部分的原因在于其并没有主张签署许可协议的法律上权利 [259] 。此外,因处于市场支配地位而衍生的“特殊责任”对标准必要专利持有人的要求在于其付出了“充分的努力”来促进与原则上有意愿取得许可的被许可人间协议的签署 [260]

 

侵权通知

法院认为,这些“努力”包括在提起侵权诉讼之前,就对涉案专利的侵权行为,以及取得许可的可能与需求,向实施人进行通知的义务 [261] 。法院在对本案进行审理后认为,诺基亚已经履行了上述义务 [262] [11]。

就内容而言,侵权通知内必须指明遭受侵权的专利,并描述具体的侵权使用行为与受侵害的实施例 [261] 。对该项侵权行为进行详细的技术上和法律上分析并不是必要的——实施人仅需要被置于一个最终能够在专家和/或法律建议的协助下对其被指控的侵权行为进行评估的地位即可 [261] 。通常情况下,提出权利要求对照表便已经足够(但不是强制性的) [261] 。法院还指出,专利持有人无需向每一个侵害其专利权的终端设备制造商的供应商个别提出单独的侵权通知 [263]

在法院看来,诺基亚于2016年6月21日、2016年11月9日、以及2016年12月7日所发出的电子邮件符合了上述要求 [264] 。诺基亚(至少在最初)没有指出涉案专利具体涉及标准文书中的哪个特定部分这一事实并不被认为是有害的,因为侵权通知的内容并不需要能够促进对侵权行为的最终评估 [265]

此外,法院认为,诺基亚没有必要在其侵权通知中明确指出根据相关标准而产生连网功能的特定组件是哪些(例如:戴姆勒汽车中内建的车载信息控制单元) [266] 。由于戴姆勒购买并在其产品中使用了这些组件,信息不足的情况是不可能发生的 [266]

 

取得许可的意愿

此外,法院认为,戴姆勒并没有充分表达其与诺基亚签订FRAND许可协议的意愿,因此不能主张FRAND抗辩来避免禁令的颁发 [267]

在法院看来,实施人必须“清楚”且“明确”地表明其愿意依照“任何实际上符合FRAND的条款”与标准必要专利持有人达成许可协议,并且随后以一种“目的性导向”的态度来进行许可谈判(引用德国联邦法院2020年5月5日在Sisvel诉Haier案中的判决– Sisvel v Haier, Case No. KZR 36/17以及英格兰和威尔士高等法院2017年4月5日在无线星球诉华为案中所做出的判决[2017] EWHC 711(Pat)-Unwired Planet v Huawei) [268] 。实施人在许可谈判中“目的性导向”的参与具有决定性的重要性,由于实施人通常在许可谈判开始之前就已经使用了该标准化技术专利,拖延许可协议的签署直至该专利到期失效为止对他们而言可能是有利的,然而,这与华为案判决的精神是背道而驰的 [269] 。因此,仅对侵权通知做出表示愿意考虑签署许可协议或就是否以及在何种条件下应该考虑取得许可进行谈判这样的回覆是不足够的 [268]

法院进一步指出,做出附带条件的许可意愿声明是不可接受的 [268] 。并且,拒绝讨论其对专利持有人发出的许可反要约有否存在任何改进的空间也可以被视为实施人一方不具备取得许可意愿的象征 [268]

基于以上所述,法院认为,戴姆勒最初以在其产品确实侵害了诺基亚的专利专利的前提下为签署许可协议的条件,并未能充分表达出其签署FRAND许可协议的意愿 [270] 。法院更表示,戴姆勒所提出的许可反要约同样不能够被认为是取得许可意愿的充分表示,特别是戴姆勒在第二次提出的许可反要约中赋予其对诺基亚单方面设定的许可费率进行挑战的权利,如此一来只会导致当事方间有关许可费率的确定的实质争议再度被拖延至将来的法律诉讼程序 [271]

法院还认为,由于戴姆勒不但没有与诺基亚进行谈判,反而是坚持要求由其供应商直接向诺基亚取得许可,戴姆勒并未扮演出一个“善意”的被许可人的角色 [272] 。此外,戴姆勒坚持以其向供应商购买车载信息控制单元组件的平均销售价格为基准计算诺基亚所持有的标准必要专利组合许可费也再度证明了戴姆勒缺乏取得许可的意愿 [273]

 

FRAND许可费的计算

法院认为,使用车载信息控制单元作为“参考价值”来为诺基亚所持有的标准必要专利组合计算许可费是不恰当的 [274]

一般来说,符合FRAND的条款和条件往往不仅只有一套,通常会存在一系列的许可条款和费用都能符合FRAND [275] 。此外,可以被认为符合FRAND的条款和条件也可能在各个行业之间以及不同的时间下有所差异 [275]

然而,法院指出,专利持有人原则上必须能够在价值链的最后阶段就其技术在可销售终端产品中的经济利益获得一定份额 [276] 。其原因在于,对该项受保护发明的实施“创造“了通过终端产品获取”经济利益“的”机会“ [276] 。法院不认同关于以最终产品的价值作为对专利技术价值的考量将使标准必要专利持有人得以从发生于价值链中其他阶段的创新发明中获益此一观点 [277] 。法院指出,有数种手段可以确保这种情况不会发生 [277]

因此,法院不赞同使用所谓的“最小可销售专利实施单元(SSPPU)“——即某一项产品中所包含的最小技术单元——作为计算FRAND许可费率的基准这一观点 [277] 。专利权穷竭所产生的影响将使得标准必要专利持有人被排除于共享在价值链的最后阶段才创造出的价值的行列之外 [277] 。除此之外,此种做法也将使的对”双重获利“行为的确认与避免变得更加复杂,而这意味着在价值链中的数个不同阶段得以对同一项专利多次进行许可 [277]

尽管如此,法院进一步阐明,上述原则并不全然意味着所有的许可协议都应该仅与终端设备制造商签署 [278] 。法院认为,即使是在供应链的其他阶段,也有多种可能可以就专利技术对可销售终端产品的价值进行评估 [278]

在这种背景下,法院认为,车载信息控制单元的销售价格并不能充分反映诺基亚所持有的标准必要专利对戴姆勒所生产的汽车——即本案中相关终端设备——的价值 [279] 。 车载信息控制单元的销售价格仅仅能够反应出戴姆勒本身的相应成本 [280] 。另一方面,连网功能使戴姆勒得以从为其客户提供其他额外服务中获得收益,节省成本并优化研发费用 [281] 。连网功能确保了创造此一价值的机会 [282] 。此外,法院指出,戴姆勒的几个主要竞争对手均接受了Avanci平台的许可模式(即专门向汽车制造商授予许可)这一事实更进一步展现出着重于受保护技术对终端产品的价值在汽车行业中也是合理的 [283]

 

无歧视

此外,法院认为,诺基亚对戴姆勒所提出的专利权主张并不具有歧视性,是以戴姆勒坚持许可必须由其供应商取得的主张无理由 [284]

法院进一步阐明,专利持有人原则上有权自由选择于供应链中的哪一个阶段主张其权利 [285] 。而这对处于市场支配地位的专利持有人而言亦无不同,因为竞争法本身并不当然限制此种可能性 [285] 。并且,处于市场支配地为的专利持有人也没有义务向所有潜在的被许可人提供一个“标准费率” [285]

《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条所规定的无歧视义务旨在防止对上游或下游市场竞争的妨碍,然而,其并不排除当有充分的理由存在时给予被许可人不同的待遇 [286]

在本案中,法院认为没有迹象表明诺基亚主张使用终端产品作为计算其专利许可费的基础将会对竞争产生影响 [287] 。特别是,尽管在汽车行业中存在通常由供应商取得出售给汽车制造商的零部件的使用许可这一事实,也不意味着诺基亚需要改变其通常惯例,尤其是通过Avanci平台授予戴姆勒竞争对手许可的实例已经表明,该于通信行业盛行的相应惯例已经在汽车行业中获得采纳 [288] 。此外,法院也不认为对终端设备制造商主张标准必要专利权可能会导致对其生产、销售和技术发展层面的限制从而损害消费者权益 [289] 。在这方面,法院引用了所谓的“委托制造权”,根据ETSI知识产权政策,该权利应被包含在FRAND许可协议中,并允许零组件制造商生产、销售和开发其产品 [290]

 

标准必要专利持有人所提出的许可要约 / 信息披露义务

此外,法院认为,戴姆勒无法通过主张诺基亚拒绝提供与其所提出的许可要约相关的充分信息来合理化自身不愿意取得许可的意愿 [291]

法院指出,标准必要专利持有人有义务证明其所提出的许可要约具备FRAND符合性 [292] 。如果专利持有人已经与第三方被许可人签订了非标准条款的许可协议,则专利持有人通常有义务以某种使实施人得以对其是否被提供了不同的商业条款进行评估的方式披露并呈现(至少包含)关键合同条款在内的协议内容 [292] 。关于此项义务所包含的范围与详细程度应依个案具体情况决定 [292]

考虑到这一点,法院认为,通过提交包含一项有关连网汽车价值的研究以及其与另一家主要汽车制造商间签署的许可协议在内的各项信息,诺基亚已经向戴姆勒提供了足够的信息 [293] 。于此脉络下,法院否认了诺基亚有向戴姆勒披露其与智能手机制造商间签署的许可协议的义务。法院拒绝了有关标准必要专利持有人的信息披露义务应延伸至涵盖此前签署的每一个许可协议的全部内容,并且标准必要专利持有人有义务披露所有现存许可协议的观点 [294] 。此外,法院更指出,通信行业中的许可协议对于评估汽车行业中的许可协议是否符合FRAND而言并无关联 [294]

 

供应商提出的FRAND抗辩

除上述几点外,法院还强调,戴姆勒无法从其参加本诉讼程序的供应商所提出的FRAND抗辩中获益 [295]

法院并未就关于被起诉的终端设备制造商原则上是否可以倚仗其供应商之一所提出的FRAND抗辩这一问题作出明确答覆。然而,法院认为,这将取决于该供应商在任何情况下均愿意由专利持有人处取得以终端产品为标准计算涉案专利价值(而非该产品的组件)的许可 [296] 。而在当前诉讼中情况并非如此 [297]

法院并没有忽略供应商可能将其向标准必要专利持有人支付的许可费转嫁在其客户身上这一问题 [298] 。然而,与第三方之间的合同约定(此处为供应商与终端设备制造商之间的协议),在法院看来,不应导致一个不允许标准必要专利持有人共享其专利技术为终端产品创造出的价值的许可协议的结果 [298]
 

C. 其他重要问题

最后,法院做出与反垄断办公室的建议相反的裁定,认为没有必要中止诉讼程序并将围绕着标准必要专利持有人的FRAND承诺是否将赋予价值链中的每一参与者直接对其主张获取双边许可的权利(即“对所有人进行许可”观点),抑或者是只对取得并使用标准化技术有主张的权利(即“所有人皆有权使用”的观点)等一系列问题提交欧洲联盟法院寻求答覆。

法院并未就此问题做出答覆,因为不论是戴姆勒还是其供应商均不愿意以该受保护技术为戴姆勒制造的汽车所创造出的价值为基准向诺基亚取得符合FRAND条款的许可 [299] 。法院还指出,就本案涉案专利将于从现在开始起算的几年后到期失效这一事实而言,也不应该中止本诉讼程序 [300]
 

  • [252] Nokia v Daimler, District Court of Mannheim, judgment dated 18 August 2020, Case-No. 2 O 34/19。
  • [253] 同上注, 段 49-136。
  • [254] 同上注, 段 138。
  • [255] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13。
  • [256] Nokia v Daimler, District Court of Mannheim, judgment dated 18 August 2020, Case-No. 2 O 34/19, 段 144。
  • [257] 同上注, 段 146。
  • [258] 同上注, 段 147。
  • [259] 同上注, 段 148。
  • [260] 同上注, 段 149。
  • [261] 同上注, 段 152。
  • [262] 同上注, 段 151-156。
  • [263] 同上注, 段 248。
  • [264] 同上注, 段 153 及以下。
  • [265] 同上注, 段 154。
  • [266] 同上注, 段 155。
  • [267] 同上注, 段 157-231。
  • [268] 同上注, 段 158。
  • [269] 同上注, 段 159。
  • [270] 同上注, 段 161。
  • [271] 同上注, 段 197-199。
  • [272] 同上注, 段 157, 160 及 162-164。
  • [273] 同上注, 段 160 及 165-168。
  • [274] 同上注, 段 169。
  • [275] 同上注, 段 170。
  • [276] 同上注, 段 171。
  • [277] 同上注, 段 172。
  • [278] 同上注, 段 173。
  • [279] 同上注, 段 174 及以下。
  • [280] 同上注, 段 174。
  • [281] 同上注, 段 177。
  • [282] 同上注, 段 180。
  • [283] 同上注, 段 187 及以下。
  • [284] 同上注, 段 201-212。
  • [285] 同上注, 段 202。
  • [286] 同上注, 段 203。
  • [287] 同上注, 段 205。
  • [288] 同上注, 段 210。
  • [289] 同上注, 段 213。
  • [290] 同上注, 段 215。
  • [291] 同上注, 段 216 及以下。
  • [292] 同上注, 段 217。
  • [293] 同上注, 段 218。
  • [294] 同上注, 段 230。
  • [295] 同上注, 段 232 及以下。
  • [296] 同上注, 段 234, 236 及以下。
  • [297] 同上注, 段 240 及以下。
  • [298] 同上注, 段 239。
  • [299] 同上注, 段 253 及 291。
  • [300] 同上注, 段 291。

Updated 21 六月 2019

Unwired Planet v Huawei

OLG Düsseldorf
22 三月 2019 - Case No. I-2 U 31/16

A. Facts

The Claimant, Unwired Planet International Limited, acquired patents relevant to the 2G (GSM) and 3G (UMTS) wireless telecommunications standards developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).

The previous holder of the patents in question, Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson (Ericsson), had made an undertaking towards ETSI to grant users access to its patents should they become essential to a standard (Standard Essential Patents or SEPs) on Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions.

The Defendants, China-based Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd (Huawei China) and its German affiliate Huawei Technologies Deutschland GmbH, offer for sale and sell devices in Germany complying with the 2G and 3G standards.

In March 2014, the Claimant brought an action against the Defendants before the District Court (Landgericht) of Düsseldorf (District Court) based on one of its SEPs, asking for a declaratory judgement recognising the Defendants’ liability for damages on the merits, as well as information and the rendering of accounts [301] . At the same time, the Claimant also initiated infringement proceedings against the Defendants in the UK (UK proceedings). During the course of the UK proceedings, the parties made certain licensing offers. However, an agreement was not reached.

By judgment dated 19th January 2016, the District Court found that the Defendants infringed the patent in suit, recognised the Defendant’s liability for damages on the merits and ordered the Defendants to render accounts to the Claimant [302] . The Defendants appealed the District Court’s ruling.

With the present judgment, the Higher District Court (Oberlandesgericht) of Düsseldorf (Court), basically, upheld the decision of the District Court. However, following a partial withdrawal of claims by the Claimant, the Court limited the Defendants’ obligation to render accounts by excluding information about production costs (broken down by single cost factors) and realised profits [303] .

The Court allowed for an appeal on points of law before the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof). The parties appealed the present decision.

B. Court’s reasoning

The Court confirmed the District Court’s finding that the Defendants had infringed the patent in suit by offering for sale and selling standard-compliant products in Germany [304] .

The Court also agreed with the District Court’s finding that the Claimant was entitled to assert claims against the Defendants: in its view, the patent in suit had been validly transferred to the Claimant [305] .

Transfer of SEPs

The Defendants had argued that the agreements underlying the transfer of said SEP to the Claimant had several flaws, which the District Court had not evaluated properly. In a lengthy reasoning, the Court dismissed this argument and confirmed the validity of the agreements in question [306] .

Besides that, the Defendants had claimed that the relevant agreements were void from an antitrust perspective, because they violated Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The Court rejected these claims as well.

In the Court’s eyes, the – repeated – transfer of a SEP does not constitute an abuse of market power in violation of Article 102 TFEU [307] , since the FRAND undertaking, which – according to the Court – irrevocably limits the exclusion rights arising from a patent ‘in rem’ (‘dinglich’) [308] , is directly and indispensably binding for the new patent holder (irrespective of any contractual obligation assumed by the latter) [309] . Due to the ‘automatic’ transfer of the FRAND undertaking, there is no reason for prohibiting the transfer of SEPs or imposing limitations regarding to whom the SEP is assigned to; insofar, the patent holder has a free choice [310] .

Furthermore, the Court found that the transfer of the SEP in suit to the Claimant did not violate Article 101 TFEU [311] . Reciprocal agreements, as the agreements underlying the transfer of said patent, per se do not violate Article 101 TFEU, unless they contain side agreements which could impede competition [312] . According to the Court, this was not the case here. In this context, the Court explained that the fact that Ericsson had transferred only a part of its portfolio to the Claimant could not have any anti-competitive effect in terms of Article 101 TFEU [313] . Reason for this is that the FRAND-undertaking, to which both Ericsson and the Claimant are bound, sets the upper limit for the financial or other kind of burden from the licence that can be imposed on any licensee with respect to the entire patent portfolio [313] .

FRAND-undertaking

Having taken the view that the FRAND-undertaking is ‘automatically’ transferred to the new SEP holder, the Court suggested that it is binding for the latter not only ‘on the merits’ (‘dem Grunde nach’), but also in terms of ‘amount and content’ (‘der Höhe und dem Inhalt nach’) [314] . In other words: the new patent holder is not only – generally – obliged to offer access to the SEP on FRAND terms, it is, moreover, bound to the actual licensing practice of the previous patent holder [314] . The Court found that this is needed for ensuring that the SEP holder will not exempt itself of its FRAND commitment – especially the non-discrimination obligation – by transferring the SEP to a third party [315] .

Existing licensing agreements / Confidentiality

Accordingly, the Court held that existing licensing agreements of the previous patent holder (which have not expired yet) need to be considered for the assessment of the non-discriminatory character of licensing offers made by the new SEP holder [316] . Consequently, in the Court’s view, the SEP holder’s FRAND undertaking obliges the latter to provide its successor with information regarding to the content of licensing agreements which it had concluded with third parties [316] .

To be able to establish the non-discriminatory character of its licensing offer, the new SEP holder needs to make sure that it will be able to refer to and present licensing agreements of the prior SEP holder, particularly in court proceedings [317] . An exception could be made only when presenting such agreements would violate contractual confidentiality obligations. For this, the content of relevant confidentiality clauses must be presented in detail in trial, in order to allow an assessment of the extent of the patent holder’s obligations [318] . In addition, the party bound to respective clauses must demonstrate that it cannot release itself from its confidentiality obligations, by showing that all existing licensees have refused – upon request – to waive their rights arising from each clause in question [318] . Notwithstanding this, the Court expressed the view that agreeing to comprehensive confidentiality clauses will, as a rule, bar the SEP holder (and/or its successor) from invoking confidentiality with respect to existing licences in pending court proceedings: in this case, the refusal to present licences cannot be justified, since the patent holder acted culpably by agreeing to confidentiality with other licensees, regardless of its FRAND-obligation to provide information to its successor with respect to the licensing agreements it has signed [318] . Its unjustified refusal to present existing licences will, moreover, also affect the position of the new patent holder in trial (leading potentially to a dismissal of its claims for lack of evidence of the FRAND-conformity of its licensing offer) [318] .

In this context, the Court noted that presenting existing licensing agreements with third parties in trial does not raise antitrust concerns (especially under Article 101 TFEU) [319] . According to the Court, the fact that business secrets will be disclosed to potential competitors of the existing licensees is not harmful from an antitrust perspective, since measures to protect confidentiality in trial are available [319] . In particular, the addressee of confidential information is obliged to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), if the holder of such information (a) concretely explains why this information constitutes a business secret, (b) presents in detail which measures were taken so far for securing confidentiality with respect to the information in question, (c) demonstrates in a substantiated and verifiable manner (for each information separately), which concrete disadvantages would be suffered, if the information would be disclosed and (d) also explains, with which degree of certainty the said disadvantages are expected to occur [319] . If these requirements are met, the opposing party’s refusal to sign an NDA would allow the party holding confidential information to limit its pleadings in trial to ‘general, indicative statements’ [319] . According to the Court, this was, however, not the case here.

Application of the Huawei framework

On the merits of the case, the Court made clear that the conditions established by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in the matter Huawei v ZTE [320] (Huawei framework or obligations) apply only to claims for injunctive relief and the recall of infringing products, not to the patent holders’ claims for information, rendering of accounts and damages [321] . In particular, when deciding about the implementer’s liability for damages on the merits, courts do not have to consider whether the patent holder has met its Huawei obligations or not [322] .

This question is, however, relevant for deciding on the amount of damages owed to the patent holder. The non-compliance of the SEP holder with the Huawei framework can limit the amount of damages that it can claim to the amount of a FRAND royalty (for certain periods of time) [323] . Since the right to request the rendering of accounts serves the calculation of the amount of damages, the Court took the view that the SEP holder is barred from claiming information about production costs and/or realised profits for periods of time, in which it is not entitled to damages going beyond the FRAND royalty, because this information is not required for calculating the latter [324] .

SEP holder’s offer to the implementer

Looking at the present case, the Court held that the Claimant had not fulfilled its Huawei obligation to make a written and specific FRAND licensing offer to the Defendants [325] . In particular, in the offers made the Claimant failed to adequately specify both the calculation and the non-discriminatory nature of the royalties proposed [326] .

For allowing the implementer to assess the non-discriminatory character of the SEP holder’s licensing offer, the Court repeated that the latter is obliged to disclose whether other licensees exist and, if so, to which conditions they have been licensed [327] . This obligation extends also to licensing agreements concluded by the previous patent holder(s) [327] . Only agreements that have expired or have been terminated do not need to be considered in this respect [328] . As a result, the Claimant should have referred to both the licences covering the SEP in suit that it had concluded with third parties after the transfer of the patent, and to all licences, which Ericsson had concluded with licensees prior to the transfer of said patent and were still in force, when the Claimant made the respective licensing offer to the Defendants [329] .

The Court took the view that, prior to granting the very first FRAND licence, the SEP holder ought to select a specific ‘licensing concept’. This ‘concept’ is ‘legally binding’ for the future licensing conduct of the SEP holder and potential successors. In other words: the licensing conditions established by the first FRAND licence granted outline the leeway available to the SEP holder for future licensing negotiations [330] . This is also the case, when the royalties agreed for the first licence lie at the lower end of the FRAND scale available to the patent holder [331] . Accordingly, any deviation from the ‘licensing concept’ is allowed only and to the extent that (existing and new) licensees are not discriminated through less favourable conditions [330] .

The Court allowed SEP holders to select a new ‘licensing concept’ (within the available FRAND range), provided that all licensing agreements subject to the existing ‘concept’ will expire at the same point in time [332] . In the Court’s view, this could be achieved, for instance, by agreeing with all later licensees that their licence will expire at the same time as the first FRAND licence ever granted [328] . The Court recognised that this would require substantial efforts, particularly when considerable patent portfolios are involved; this fact did not, however, speak against binding the successor to the licensing practice of the previous SEP holder [333] .

C. Other important issues

According to the Court, the fact that the UK proceedings were directed towards setting the terms of a worldwide licence between the parties, covering all SEPs held by the Claimant did not require the Court to stay its own proceedings [334] . According to Article 27 of the Brussels I Regulation, the court later seized of the matter has to stay its proceedings until the jurisdiction of the court first seized of the case has been settled. The Court saw, however, no indication that the UK proceedings (had ever) concerned the claims asserted in the proceedings brought before it (claims limited to Germany) [334] .

Besides that, the Court confirmed that German courts have international jurisdiction for the claims brought against Huawei China [335] . If infringing products are offered over the internet, the international jurisdiction of German courts is established, when German patent rights are being affected and the website can be accessed in Germany [335] .

  • [301] Unwired Planet v Huawei, Higher District Court of Düsseldorf, 22 March 2019, para. 32 (cited by www.nrwe.de).
  • [302] Ibid, para. 41. See District Court of Duesseldorf, judgement dated 19 January 2016, Case No. 4b O 49/14.
  • [303] Ibid, paras. 139 et seqq.
  • [304] Ibid, paras. 252-387.
  • [305] Ibid, paras. 161 et seqq.
  • [306] Ibid, paras. 169-199.
  • [307] Ibid, para. 203 et seqq.
  • [308] Ibid, para. 205.
  • [309] Ibid, paras 205 et seqq.
  • [310] Ibid, para 209.
  • [311] Ibid, paras. 235 et seqq.
  • [312] Ibid, para. 236.
  • [313] Ibid, para. 242.
  • [314] Ibid, paras. 212 et seqq.
  • [315] Ibid, para. 214.
  • [316] Ibid, paras. 216 et seq.
  • [317] Ibid, para. 216.
  • [318] Ibid, para. 218.
  • [319] Ibid, para. 220.
  • [320] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [321] Unwired Planet v Huawei, Higher District Court of Düsseldorf, 22 March 2019, para. 159 (cited by www.nrwe.de).
  • [322] Ibid, para. 396.
  • [323] Ibid, para. 402.
  • [324] Ibid, para. 402 et seq. Insofar the Court expressly disagreed with the District Court of Mannheim, which in a previous decision had denied any limitations of the patent holder’s right to demand the rendering of accounts, in case of non-compliance with the Huawei framework; cf. District Court of Mannheim, judgment dated 10 November 2017, Case No. 7 O 28/16, GRUR-RR 2018, 273.
  • [325] Ibid, paras. 406 et seqq.
  • [326] Ibid, para. 411.
  • [327] Ibid, para. 419.
  • [328] Ibid, para. 420.
  • [329] Ibid, para. 423.
  • [330] Ibid, paras. 413 et seq.
  • [331] Ibid, para. 413.
  • [332] Ibid, paras. 414 and 420.
  • [333] Ibid, para. 421.
  • [334] Ibid, para. 144.
  • [335] Ibid, paras. 153 et seqq.

Updated 30 十月 2018

­Vodafone v Intellectual Ventures, High Court of Ireland

爱尔兰法院判决
10 三月 2017 - Case No. 2016 5102P, [2017] IEHC 160

A. Facts

The Claimant, Vodafone GmbH, is a German company offering communication services in Germany, including DSL internet connections based on the standards ADSL2+ and VDSL2 [336] .

The first Defendant, Intellectual Ventures II LLC (IV LLC), is a US company that holds patents declared as essential to the above standards (Standard Essential Patents or SEPs), including German designations of several European patents [337] . The second Defendant, Intellectual Ventures International Licensing (IV Licensing), is an Irish company engaged in patent licensing [337] . IV LLC granted IV Licensing a sub-licence which allows the latter to grant non-exclusive licences in respect to IV LLC’s portfolio [338] .

In January 2016, IV LLC brought infringement actions against the Claimant before the District Court (Landgericht) of Düsseldorf in Germany (Düsseldorf Court) based on the German designation of two of its SEP relating to the ADSL2+ and VDSL2 standards (German proceedings) [339] . In the German proceedings, IV LLC sought for a declaration that the Claimant is liable for damages arising from the infringement of the SEPs in suit as well as the provision of information and the rendering of accounts [339] .

During the course of the German proceedings, IV Licensing made an offer for a licensing agreement to the Claimant comprising the German designations of sixteen European Patents, including the two patents already asserted before the Düsseldorf Court [340] . The Claimant made a counter-offer which was, however, rejected [341] .

Subsequently, the Claimant filed an action for a declaratory judgement against the Defendants before the Dublin High Court (High Court) in Ireland (Irish proceedings). The Claimant requested the High Court inter alia to declare (1) that IV Licensing’s offer was not Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) and, therefore, amounted to an abuse of dominant position contrary to Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) and (2) that Claimant’s counter-offer was FRAND [342] . In case that the High Court held that neither IV Licensing’s offer nor Claimant’s counter-offer were FRAND, the Claimant also sought for a declaration as to which terms and conditions would be FRAND [342] .

The Defendants challenged the jurisdiction of the High Court. They requested the High Court – among other motions – to decline jurisdiction in favour of the Düsseldorf Court, or, in the alternative to stay its proceedings [343] .

With the present judgment the High Court refused to decline jurisdiction over the dispute brought before it [344] . The Court ordered, however, a stay in the proceedings, until the Düsseldorf Court delivered its final judgment in the German proceedings [344] .

B. Court’s reasoning

The High Court held that neither Article 24 nor Article 29 of the Recast Brussels Regulation [345] require the court to decline jurisdiction in favour of the Düsseldorf Court, even though the German proceedings were initiated prior to the Irish proceedings.

Pursuant to Article 24 of the Regulation, the Courts of each EU Member State have exclusive jurisdiction in proceedings concerned with the validity of any European Patent granted for that Member State. Both pending proceedings concern German designations of IV LLC’s European patens. However, this fact did not hinder the High Court to assume jurisdiction over the present case: In the High Court’s eyes, no issue as to the validity the patents which ought to be licensed has been placed in issue in the Irish proceedings; moreover, no part of Claimant’s cause of action concerning the (alleged) abuse of dominance depends in any way on the validity of the SEPs in suit [346] .

Furthermore, the High Court found that Article 29 of the Regulation does not apply to the present case, either. The High Court took the view that the Irish proceedings and the German proceedings do not involve the “same cause of action”, as Article 29 of the Regulation requires [347] . Although there are overlapping issues in both proceedings (for instance, Article 102 TFEU is mentioned in parties’ pleadings in both trials), this fact does not suffice to establish a “same cause of action” in terms of Article 29 of the Regulation [347] . In particular, Article 102 TFEU, to the extent that it features in the German proceedings is not concerned with an (alleged) abuse of dominant position by way of the offer made to the Claimant by IV Licensing [347] . Besides that, the High Court also pointed out, that – at least regarding to IV Licensing – it is not presented with proceedings “between the same parties” (since IV Licensing in not party to the German proceedings) which is, however, a further prerequisite for the application of Article 29 of the Regulation [348] .

Notwithstanding the above, the High Court held that some form of relief under Article 30 of the Regulation ought to be granted to the Defendants [349] . Under this provision, a court is allowed (meaning that the power given to the court is discretionary) to either stay its proceedings (Article 30 para. 1) or decline jurisdiction (Article 30 para. 2), in case that a “related action” is already pending before another court [350] . The objective of Article 30 of the Regulation is “to improve co-ordination of the exercise of judicial functions” within the EU and to avoid “irreconcilable judgments” [351] . In the matter at hand, the High Court found that these ob­jectives are served by an order to stay the proceedings according to Article 30 para. 1 of the Regulation [344] .

Looking at the present case, the High Court explained that a risk of “irreconcilable judgments” exists, since at the heart of both the Irish and the German proceedings lies the question whether the parties have complied with their conduct obligations under the judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU in the matter Huawei v ZTE [352] (Huawei requirements), especially with the obligation to exchange licensing offers on FRAND terms [353] .

In the Irish Proceedings, the claims made by the Claimant expressly address this question. In the German Proceedings, the same question will be of “direct relevance” for the nature and scope of the claim for damages and the accessory claim for the rendering of accounts asserted by IV LLC [354] . Although compliance with the Huawei requirements is – in contrast to claims for injunctive relief – no direct prerequisite for the enforcement of SEP holder’s damage claims (including the auxiliary claims for information and the rendering of accounts) [355] , it has an impact on the scope of such claims: according to the case law of the Düsseldorf Courts, if the patent holder does not meet the Huawei requirements or both the patent holder and the potential licensee comply with the Huawei requirements, the patent holder’s damage claim is limited to the FRAND licence fees and the claim for the rendering of accounts is limited to the information needed in order to calculate the respective damages (using the so-called “licence analogy” method) [356] . Accordingly, the Düsseldorf Court would not be able to decide on the merits of the claims raised by IV LLC before it, without first determining whether the parties fulfilled the Huawei requirements [357] .

In addition, the High Court pointed out that setting the FRAND terms and conditions for the patent portfolio offered to the Claimant, as the latter requested in the Irish proceedings, could also lead to “irreconcilable judgments”, particularly if the Düsseldorf Court would be asked by IV LLC at a later point in time to fix the damages for the two SEPs asserted in the German proceedings (since these SEPs were also part of the portfolio offered) [358] . Insofar, the High Court was not convinced by the Claimant’s argument, that fixing of rates for a patent portfolio usually involves different considerations to the fixing of a rate for individual patents [358] . On the contrary, the High Court recognized that within the “longstanding industry practice” of portfolio licensing, the fixing of rates for a portfolio of patents does, in general, involve the same methodology as the fixing of rates for individual patents. Consequently, rates set by the High Court in the Irish proceedings might conflict with any rates determined by the Düsseldorf Court with respect to the damage claims made in the German proceedings [358] .

  • [336] Vodafone v Intellectual Ventures, High Court of Ireland, 10 March 2017, para. 1.
  • [337] Ibid, para. 2.
  • [338] Ibid, para. 3.
  • [339] Ibid, para. 37.
  • [340] Ibid, paras. 10-12 and 93.
  • [341] Ibid, paras. 13-16.
  • [342] Ibid, para. 5.
  • [343] Ibid, para. 7.
  • [344] Ibid, para. 180.
  • [345] Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12th December 2012 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (recast), OJ L 351/1 of 20th December 2012.
  • [346] Vodafone v Intellectual Ventures, High Court of Ireland, 10 March 2017, para. 122.
  • [347] Ibid, para. 146.
  • [348] Ibid, para. 148.
  • [349] Ibid, para. 166.
  • [350] Ibid, para. 119.
  • [351] Ibid, para. 165.
  • [352] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [353] Vodafone v Intellectual Ventures, High Court of Ireland, 10 March 2017, para. 52.
  • [354] Ibid, paras. 52 and 60.
  • [355] Ibid, paras. 55 et seqq.
  • [356] Ibid, para. 61 et seq.
  • [357] Ibid, para. 62.
  • [358] Ibid, para. 93.

Updated 4 六月 2020

Sisvel v Xiaomi, Court of Appeal of The Hague

荷兰法院判决
17 三月 2020 - Case No. C/09/573969/ KG ZA 19-462

A. Facts

Sisvel International S.A. (Sisvel) is the parent company of the Sisvel group [359] . In 2012, Sisvel acquired EP 1 129 536 B1 (EP 536) [360] . EP 536 relates to the EGPRS technology, which forms part of a GSM telecommunications standard that implements EDGE [361] .

Xiaomi is a manufacturer of mobile phones with headquarters in China [362] .

On 10 April 2013, Sisvel submitted to the European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI) a declaration under which it committed to make a list of patents, including EP 536, accessible to standard users under Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions (FRAND commitment) [363] .

On 15 October 2013, Sisvel notified Xiaomi about its Wireless Patent Portfolio [361] . On 16 July 2014, Sisvel sent a letter to Xiaomi, inviting Xiaomi to contact Sisvel regarding to the conclusion of a licence [361] . Further e-mails were sent to Xiaomi on 3 December 2014, 4 December 2014 and 5 March 2015 [361] .

In an article dated 29 March 2019 published on nu.nl [364] and ad.nl [364] , Xiaomi announced that it would enter the Dutch market with online shops and physical stores [365] .

On 23 April 2019, Sisvel initiated legal proceedings against Xiaomi before the English High Court of Justice in London (English proceedings) [366] . Sisvel requested the court to declare that the terms and conditions of the MCP Pool Licence, under which EP 536 as part of the Wireless Patent Portfolio is licensed [367] , are FRAND or alternatively, to determine FRAND licensing terms and conditions and find three patents (including EP 536) to be valid and infringed [366] .

On 30 August 2019, Xiaomi filed two legal actions against Sisvel in Beijing [368] . Xiaomi asked, in one of the cases, the court to determine FRAND terms and conditions for a licence limited to China and, in the other case, to declare that Sisvel had abused its dominant position [361] .

In the Netherlands, Sisvel requested a preliminary injunction against Xiaomi, until Xiaomi accepts Sisvel’s offer to go to arbitration, as well as the recall and destruction of products, information over profit made and additional documentation with respect to resellers, a penalty fee, and – as a subsidiary motion – the removal of the EGPRS/EDGE extension of the GSM functionality [369] . With judgment dated 1 August 2019, the Court of The Hague rejected Sisvel’s claims in first instance and sentenced Sisvel to the process costs, in view of the balance of interests between the parties and the complexity of the case [370] .

Sisvel appealed the first instance decision on 29 August 2019 [371] . During the course of the appeal proceedings, on 22 January 2020, Xiaomi deposited funds [372] on an escrow account held by Intertrust [373] . With the present judgment, the Court of Appeal of The Hague (Court) rejected Sisvel’s appeal and sentenced Sisvel to higher process costs [374] .

B. Court’s reasoning

The Court focused on the balance of interests between the parties.

Injunction

The Court considered that the harm caused to Sisvel by the infringement of EP 536 was limited, taking into account only infringing uses in the Netherlands, as well as the fact that EP 536 is only one out of many patents held by Sisvel, and almost expired [375] . Considering that Sisvel’s business model is to conclude licences, Sisvel did not have to fear damages caused by free riding on the cellphone market, but only damages resulting from denied profits under a license [376] . Therefore, only financial damages could incur which the Court considers to be relatively simply compensated at a later point in time [377] . Additionally, Xiaomi had provided security [377] . The security addresses the problem raised by Sisvel, i.e. Xiaomi becoming insolvent and unable to pay damages for patent infringement [361] .

With respect to Xiaomi’s interest, the Court noted that an injunction would force Xiaomi to stop sales, close shops in the Netherlands and stop its distribution contracts with customers [378] . The consequences would thus be severe and could hardly be undone, even if Xiaomi could resume sales again after the expiration of EP 536 [361] . The only way for Xiaomi to avoid those consequences would be to take a license, which also brings important consequences. Indeed, the MCP license offered by Sisvel is not only for EP 536 but for more than 1000 patents in all countries worldwide [379] . By accepting a licence Xiaomi would be irrevocably bound to comply with it, including with its rate [380] . The stop of sales in the Netherlands would create loss of profits for Xiaomi and worsen its relationships with its customers [361] . The Court highlighted such damages are difficult to evaluate as Xiaomi is still building its market position and there are many other players on the market [361] .

The Court further argued that the case was complex for a preliminary decision, because it required an opinion on the validity and scope of a patent protecting a complex technology as well as an assessment of Xiaomi’s FRAND defence, for which parties have arguments over many facts and the principles to determine a FRAND rate [381] . Additionally, the court that would be entrusted with the main proceedings could have a different opinion on the validity of the technology and the FRAND defence [361] . Therefore, the Court concluded there was no reason, even if the patent was valid and the FRAND defence had to be rejected, to force Xiaomi to leave the Dutch market or to take a licence from Sisvel [361] . The Court found that Xiaomi’s interest to reject the request for a preliminary injunction was stronger than Sisvel’s interest to stop the continuation of the infringement [381] .

The Court also rejected Sisvel’s claim that Xiaomi was an unwilling licensee [382] . Such claim could be used to invalidate Xiaomi’s FRAND defence, but the Court stated that the examination of Xiaomi’s FRAND defence had to be separated from the balance of interests’ assessment in preliminary proceedings [361] .

Reviewing Sisvel’s request based on the EU enforcement directive 2004/48 and Article 9 of such directive did not lead the Court to another conclusion: in light of the enforcement directive, the injunction would not be proportionate in this case, therefore the Court had no obligation to use Article 9 of the EU enforcement directive [383] .

Even in combining the application of Article 3 of the EU enforcement directive, Article 5, 17 and 47 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights the Court came to the same interpretation: an injunction for the limited remaining time of EP 536 would not help [384] . The lack of an injunction would not unreasonably delay the case as the Court argued that the effective remedy would be compensation for the damages in main proceedings [361] . Additionally, the Court found this conclusion to be supported by the fact that Sisvel had only initiated main proceedings against other parties in the Netherlands and abroad [361] .

Sisvel’s claim that the lack of an injunction would create an unfair playing field between market participants was also rejected by the Court [385] . The Court stated that Xiaomi’s security and the possibility for Sisvel to get compensation for damages in main proceedings created an equal playing field [361] . Sisvel had relied on a decision of the Dutch Supreme Court, according to which a patent can only be effectively protected if there is a quick stop to further infringement [386] . The Court explained that this is the case only when the damages for patent infringement are difficult to determine; this was, however, not the case here [361] .

Security

The Court rejected Sisvel’s claim that the deposit on the escrow account had been made in such a way that it would be impossible for Sisvel to get paid [387] . Indeed, the Court underlined that Sisvel can unilaterally reclaim payment, especially if a FRAND rate is determined in the English proceedings [361] . Moreover, Xiaomi declared itself to be ready to adapt the amount placed on the escrow account in close cooperation with Sisvel, if Sisvel wishes to do so or has requests about the escrow account [361] . The Court noted it did not seem Sisvel made use of this possibility to adapt the amount [361] .

The amount deposited for fees under Sisvel’s MCP Patent Licence was considered as sufficient by the Court for the products sold in the Netherlands for the lifetime of EP 536 [388] . The Court added that this would still be the case even in the event that Sisvel wanted to increase the licensing rate for non-compliant users or to account for profits based on the infringement [361] . The Court underlined that in the Huawei v. ZTE decision of the CJEU [389] , the security had to be “appropriate”, which depends on the context of the FRAND defence [361] .

Recall and destruction of products

Sisvel’s request to have infringing products recalled and destroyed, as well as all mentions about those products removed, resellers informed and profits provided was rejected by the Court [390] . Sisvel had asserted the same urgent interest as for the preliminary injunction to support this request: stopping and preventing infringement of EP 536. Since the request for a preliminary injunction failed, the further claims asserted by Sisvel had to follow the same fate [361] . The Court stated that there was no urgent interest to have Xiaomi disclosing its profits, or at least that was more important than having Xiaomi keeping this information confidential [361] . Sisvel did also not explain why profits data should be disclosed in advance of the main proceedings [361] .

C. Other important issues

The Court also denied Sisvel’s request to grant a preliminary injunction, as long as Xiaomi did not agree to initiating arbitration procedures [391] . The Court argued that if Xiaomi would be forced to have an arbitration tribunal determining the terms and conditions for all patents of the MCP Patent Licence for the whole world, this would deprive Xiaomi of its fundamental right of access to a court [361] . The acceptance of such arbitration proposal without conditions would have drastic consequences on Xiaomi’s position [361] .

  • [359] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 2, par.2.2.
  • [360] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 2, par.2.4.
  • [361] Ibidem
  • [362] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 2, par.2.8.
  • [363] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 2, par.2.5.
  • [364] Dutch newspaper.
  • [365] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 4, par.2.11.
  • [366] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 4, par.2.12.
  • [367] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, pages 3 and 4, par.2.7 and 2.12.
  • [368] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 4, par.2.13.
  • [369] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 4, par.2.14.
  • [370] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, pages 4 and 5, par.3.3.
  • [371] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 2, par.1.
  • [372] Amount has been redacted.
  • [373] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 5, par.3.5.
  • [374] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, pages 10 and 11, par. 4.24 and following.
  • [375] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 5, par.4.3.
  • [376] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, pages 5 and 6, par.4.3.
  • [377] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 6, par.4.3.
  • [378] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 6, par.4.7.
  • [379] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, pages 6 and 7, par.4.8.
  • [380] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 7, par.4.9.
  • [381] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 7, par.4.11.
  • [382] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 7, par.2.12.
  • [383] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 8, par.4.14.
  • [384] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 8, par.4.15.
  • [385] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 8, par.4.16.
  • [386] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, pages 8 and 9, par.4.17.
  • [387] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 6, par. 4.5.
  • [388] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 6, par. 4.6.
  • [389] Court of Justice of the European Union, Huawei Technologies Co.Ltd. v. ZTE Corp. and ZTE Deutschland GmbH, 16 July 2015.
  • [390] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 9, par. 4.2.1.
  • [391] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 9, par.4.18.

Updated 6 十月 2020

无线星球诉华为 暨 康文森诉华为及中兴通讯

英国法院判决
26 八月 2020 - Case No. [2020] UKSC 37

A. 事实

本案中,英国最高法院(以下称“最高法院”)针对就两个个别独立案件所提出的上诉进行判决。这两个案件均涉及由欧洲电信标准协会(ETSI)所制定的对实施无线电通信技术标准必不可少(或潜在不必可少)的专利(标准必要专利或SEP)的侵权行为。根据欧洲电信标准协会知识产权政策的要求,该协会鼓励标准必要专利持有人对其愿依照公平、合理且无歧视(FRAND)的条款与条件向标准实施人提供其所持有的标准必要专利做出承诺。

1. 无线星球诉华为

第一个案件涉及一家拥有一组符合数项无线通信技术标准的标准必要专利组合的公司—— 无线星球国际有限公司(Unwired Planet International Limited,以下称“无线星球”)与另一家中国制造商和供应商——华为集团旗下的两家公司之间,关于使用此项标准的手机设备以及一些其他项目的纠纷。

2014年3月,无线星球于英格兰和威尔士高等法院(以下称“高等法院”)起诉华为、三星以及另一家公司侵害其所持有的五项英国标准必要专利。在这些诉讼进行的过程中,无线星球向华为提出了几项许可要约,然而最终并未能达成协议。另一方面,无线星球在诉讼进行中与三星公司签署了许可协议。

高等法院于2017年4月5日对华为核发了禁令,禁令的期限直到该公司与无线星球签订了法院认为符合FRAND原则的特定条款的全球许可协议为止 [392] 。华为对该决定提起了上诉,在上诉程序确定之前,高等法院中止了对该禁令的执行。

英国上诉法院(以下称“上诉法院”)于2018年10月23日驳回了华为对高等法院判决的上诉 [393] 。随后,华为向英国最高法院(以下称“最高法院”)提出了上诉。

2. 康文森诉华为及中兴通讯 第二起案件涉及一家专利许可公司——康文森无线许可有限公司(Conversant Wireless Licensing S.A.R.L.,以下称“康文森”)与华为以及中兴通讯集团(ZTE,以下称“中兴通讯”)旗下的两家公司之间的纠纷。中兴通讯是一家中国公司,生产网络设备、手机和消费电子产品,并销往世界各地。

康文森于2017年向高等法院提起了对华为以及中兴通信的侵权诉讼。除了一些其他的主张外,康文森还向高等法院提出了对其所持有的四项英国专利权侵权行为的禁令救济,同时也要求高等法院就其所持有的标准必要专利组合确定符合FRAND的全球许可条款。华为和中兴通信都对高等法院是否具备审理和裁决此案的管辖权提出异议,于此同时,并在中国提起诉讼,对康文森所持有的中国专利的有效性进行挑战。

高等法院于2018年4月16日确认了其对包括确定该专利组合的全球许可条款在内的,此一系列争议的管辖权限 [394] 。华为和中兴通信对高等法院的判决不服并提起上诉。 2019年1月30日,上诉法院驳回了该上诉,并以该侵权行为侵害英国专利为由,确认了英国法院对包含确定全球许可条款在内的各项纷争的管辖权 [395] 。华为和中兴通信对此判决不服,从而再向最高法院提起上诉。

根据目前的判决 [396] ,最高法院全体一致同意驳回了这两个案件的上诉。

B. 法院的论理

最高法院指出并解决了上诉中提出的如下五个问题:

1. 管辖权

最高法院在其判决中确认,英国法院对跨国标准必要专利组合的全球FRAND许可条款判定事宜有管辖权,因此,如果标准实施人拒绝签订此类许可,则英国法院有权基于其中的英国标准必要专利授予禁令 [397]

法院认为,根据欧洲电信标准协会知识产权政策,标准必要专利持有人并未被禁止于各国家法院系统中寻求禁令救济[7]。相反地,透过国家法院授予的禁令来阻止侵权行为的可能性被认为是“知识产权政策寻求平衡下的必要组成部分”,借此并能够确保实施人有动力去进行FRAND许可谈判 [398]

除了有权基于英国专利授与禁令外,英国法院也有权决定涉及全球范围的FRAND许可条款。最高法院认为,欧洲电信标准协会知识产权政策所确立的“合同关系”赋予英国法院各自行使管辖权的权利 [399]

在最高法院看来,欧洲电信标准协会知识产权政策订定时即“有意使其具备国际效力”,因为此政策的制定即是为了尝试“反映电信行业中的商业惯例” [400] 。在电信行业中,通常的做法是,即便是在不明确知道究竟有多少被许可的专利是有效的或者是侵权的的情况下,仍然以专利组合为单位签署全球范围的许可 [401]

此原因一方面在于,专利持有人无法在其宣告该专利具备(或可能具备)标准必要性之时,就预测到在接下来标准不断发展的过程中,该专利将持续有效或者产生侵权 [401] ;另一方面,实施人在实施标准之时也不会知道其中哪些专利是有效的或者哪些专利是侵权的 [401]

这种“不可避免的不确定性”,是通过以一种“基本上能够反映专利组合中必然含有许多未经验证的专利此一性质“的价格[10]而缔结一次性涵盖全球范围内专利持有人所持有的全部已宣告的标准必要专利组合的许可协议来解决的。借由获取这种许可,实施人购买“实施标准的权利”与“确定性”,确保其有权使用符合该项标准的所有技术 [401]

由于依照商业惯例,FRAND许可必然包括“未经验证”的专利,最高法院认为,确定涵盖全球范围的许可条款和条件并不意味着必须评估其所涵盖的所有专利的有效性。因此,在设定全球范围的专利组合许可条款时,英国法院并不会就外国专利的有效性以及是否侵权这一实际上应由授予该项专利的各国国家法院享有专属管辖权的问题于进行裁决 [402] 。因此,通常来说,实施人“保留在各相关外国法院对这些专利或这些专利的样本提出挑战,并借此要求专利持有人提供一个对许可费率进行调整的机制的权利”将是“公平合理的” [403]

在此范围内,最高法院强调,上述见解并非英国法院独有,而与其他司法管辖区,特别是美国、德国、中国和日本的相关判例所采取的见解一致 [404]

2. 合适的法庭(便利法庭原则)

最高法院审查的第二个问题同样涉及英国法院的管辖权问题。在康文森诉华为一案中,被告抗辩称,在中国法院对康文森所持有的中国专利的有效性做出裁决之前,英国法院本应该拒绝其管辖权,转而选择由中国法院进行管辖,或者至少应该中止该诉讼程序。 然而,最高法院认为,英国法院没有义务拒绝其管辖权转而选择由中国法院进行管辖 [405] 。所谓的“便利法庭原则”在本案中不适用,其原因在于,与英国法院不同的是,由于本案当事人并没有达成协议由中国法院对涵盖全球范围的FRAND专利组合许可条款的决定等相关事项行使管辖权,中国法院于此类争议上没有管辖的权利 [405] 。此外,法院认为,在目前的情况下,可能无法合理预期康文森会同意将管辖权授予中国法院 [405]

在最高法院的眼中,涉及本次争议的英国法院也没有义务为了等待进行中的中国专利有效性诉讼的结果而中止其诉讼程序[15]。其原因在于,此有效性诉讼仅涉及康文森所持有的中国专利的有效性,而在英国提起的这一诉讼所涉及的却是对康文森所持有的全球范围内标准必要专利组合的FRAND许可条款的确定 [406]

3. 无歧视

最高法院审查的第三个问题涉及对FRAND承诺中无歧视义务的解释。在此前的诉讼程序中产生了一个争议点,即无线星球是否会因为其向华为所提供的许可条款比起审判开始后与三星达成协议的条款更为不利而违反了FRAND的无歧视义务。

最高法院对高等法院以及上诉法院就此问题的决定均表示赞同,并指出此一区别不会构成对FRAND的无歧视义务的违反。法院解释到,FRAND并不意味着所谓的“严格无歧视义务”而要求专利持有人向所有条件相似的被许可人提供完全相同或者相似的条款 [407]

根据欧洲电信标准协会知识产权政策(第6.1条)的要求,专利持有人必须承诺按照FRAND条款提供许可。在最高法院看来,这是一个“单一且整体性的义务”,而并非三项各自独立的义务,要求许可条款分别应公平、分别应合理、分别应无歧视 [408] 。因此,这些条款和条件“在通常情况下应能够由任何市场参与者以公平的市场价格获得”,并且应能够反映标准必要专利组合的“真实价值”,同时不须根据特定被许可人的个别特征进行调整 [409]

最高法院更进一步地明确表示,在欧洲电信标准协会知识产权政策要求下所进行的FRAND承诺并不代表所谓的“最惠许可”条款而表示专利持有人被要求必须以相当于最惠许可条款的许可条件向所有类似情况的被许可人授予许可 [410] 。在仔细查看欧洲电信标准协会知识产权政策的创建过程后,法院认为欧洲电信标准协会先前曾明确地表示拒绝将此类条款纳入FRAND承诺的提案 [411]

此外,法院指出,有关差别费率会损害所涉及的私人或公共利益的“一般性推定”并不存在 [412] 。相反地,在某些情况下,标准必要专利持有人选择向特定被许可人提供低于基准费率的许可费这一选择在商业上是合理的 [413] 。举例言之,此种做法适用于所谓的“先行者优势”,法院承认,与第一位被许可人达成费率较低的许可协议具备“经济上的合理性“以及”商业上的重要性“,因为如此一来除了能为标准必要专利创造初始收入,更可以透过许可协议的签署于市场中对专利组合进行“验证”,并促进未来许可协议的达成[22]。此外,对于所谓的“减价销售”而言,情况亦是如此。在这种情况下,专利持有人为了确保其能够在市场上生存而被迫以较低的费率进行许可,而当初在无线星球与三星签署许可协议之时即是属于这种情况 [414]

4. 滥用市场支配地位/华为框架

最高法院审查的第四个问题是,无线星球是否会因为其对华为提起了侵权诉讼,而违反《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条所称的滥用了市场支配地位,并且因此不能主张禁令救济。尤其是,华为曾经提出抗辩指称,由于无线星球并未遵守欧洲联盟法院于华为诉中兴案中所确立的行为义务(华为判决或华为框架),因此其禁令救济主张应予否决 [415] 。 然而,最高法院认为情况并非如此 [416] 。在法院看来,华为判决确立了一项义务,即专利持有人在提出禁令救济诉讼前,必须就标准实施人对涉案标准必要专利的侵权使用行为向其进行通知,而如果标准必要专利持有人违反了此项义务,则将构成《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条下的滥用行为[26]。这项义务的“性质”将取决于每个个案的具体情况来进行个案判断 [417] 。本案中,法院认为,无线星球在提起本侵权诉讼之前已经对华为进行了适当的通知 [418]

有关华为判决所确立的其他各项义务,最高法院赞同了先前高等法院和上诉法院的观点,即认为华为框架并不是“强制性的”,而只是建立了一个“路线图”,如果专利持有人能严格遵循此一路线图行事,则其寻求禁令救济的权利将能够获得保障,而不会产生违反第102条的风险 [419] 。此外,华为判决还提供了“多项能帮助评估许可各方是否有按照FRAND条款达成许可协议的意愿此一核心问题的参考点” [418] 。话虽如此,最高法院认为,无线星球一直以来都有按照FRAND条款对华为进行许可的意愿,因此不能认为其表现出滥用行为 [418]

5. 损害赔偿而非禁令救济?

最高法院审查的第五个(也是最后一个问题)涉及对标准必要专利侵权行为的适当补偿措施。在最高法院的上诉程序中,就无线星球所持有的标准必要专利所遭受侵权损害此一事实而言,最适当且符合比例原则的补偿措施应是判给损害赔偿金而不是核发禁令此一抗辩首次被提出。

最高法院认为,在本案中,以损害赔偿取代禁令救济的做法没有依据 [420] 。无线星球和康文森都不可能利用“申请禁令救济”作为向华为或中兴收取“过高费用”的威胁手段,因为他们只有在提交了其条款可能符合法院认定的FRAND许可要约后,才有权获得强制令 [421]

此外,法院认为,判给损害赔偿金“不太可能能够恰当地替代因不能核发禁令所可能造成的损失”,因为如此一来标准必要专利持有人就必须就每一个个别专利在各个国家逐一对实施人提起专利诉讼,而这被认为是“不切实际的” [422] 。更有甚者,标准实施人将“产生动机持续性地为侵权行为,直到其就逐个专利在逐个国家中被迫支付许可费为止”,而这将使得FRAND许可变得更加困难,正如同最高法院所指出的,对侵权者而言,主动取得许可不具备“经济上意义” [423]

另一方面,禁令救济“可能是更有效的补救方法”,通过对各种侵权行为的全面性禁止,禁令带给侵权人的可能只剩下接受标准必要专利持有人所提供的FRAND许可条款这一“有限的选择”,“如果其希望能继续留在市场当中” [423] 。出于上述原因,最高法院强调,禁令救济是“维持司法公正所必需的” [424]

  • [392] Unwired Planet v Huawei, High Court of Justice for England and Wales, judgment dated 5 April 2017, Case No. [2017] EWHC 711(Pat)。
  • [393] Unwired Planet v Huawei, UK Court of Appeal, judgment dated 23 October 2018, Case No. [2018] EWCA Civ 2344。
  • [394] Conversant v Huawei and ZTE, High Court of Justice for England and Wales, judgment dated 16 April 2018, Case No. [2018] EWHC 808 (Pat)。
  • [395] Conversant v Huawei and ZTE, UK Court of Appeal, judgment dated 30 January 2019, Case No. [2019] EWCA Civ 38。
  • [396] Unwired Planet v Huawei and Conversant v Huawei and ZTE, UK Supreme Court, judgment dated 30 January 2019, Case No. [2019] EWCA Civ 38。
  • [397] 同上注, 段 49 及以下。
  • [398] 同上注, 段 61。
  • [399] 同上注, 段 58。
  • [400] 同上注, 段 62。
  • [401] 同上注, 段 60。
  • [402] 同上注, 段 63。
  • [403] 同上注, 段 64。
  • [404] 同上注, 段 68-84。
  • [405] 同上注, 段 97。
  • [406] 同上注, 段 99 及以下。
  • [407] 同上注, 段 112 及以下。
  • [408] 同上注, 段 113。
  • [409] 同上注, 段 114。
  • [410] 同上注, 段 116。
  • [411] 同上注, 段 116 及以下。
  • [412] 同上注, 段 123。
  • [413] 同上注, 段 125。
  • [414] 同上注, 段 126。
  • [415] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13。
  • [416] Unwired Planet v Huawei and Conversant v Huawei and ZTE, UK Supreme Court, judgment dated 30 January 2019, Case No. [2019] EWCA Civ 38, 段 149 及以下。
  • [417] 同上注, 段 150。
  • [418] 同上注, 段 158。
  • [419] 同上注, 段 157 及 158。
  • [420] 同上注, 段 163。
  • [421] 同上注, 段 164。
  • [422] 同上注, 段 166。
  • [423] 同上注, 段 167。
  • [424] 同上注, 段 169。

Updated 3 二月 2021

HEVC (Dolby) v MAS Elektronik

LG Düsseldorf
7 五月 2020 - Case No. 4c O 44/18

A. Facts

The claimant, Dolby, operates in the field of audio and video innovation and is the owner of a portfolio of related patents, including a European Patent concerning the encoding and decoding as well as the sequence of digital images. This patent reads on the HEVC standard (Standard Essential Patent, or SEP). Dolby has contributed the patent in question to a pool administered by HEVC Advance, which offers licences to standards users for a significant portfolio of related SEPs of several patent holders.

The Defendant, MAS Elektronik AG (MAS), operates in the home entertainment field and sells articles such as television sets and receivers (set-up boxes, or STBs). These devices are compatible with the DVB-T/T2 standard that, in turn, makes use of the encoding method according to the HEVC standard.

In 2017, HEVC Advance sent a notification informing MAS about the infringement of SEPs included in the pool. On 7 November 2017, HEVC Advanced offered a licence to MAS on basis of its standard licensing agreement.

Since no agreement was reached, Dolby filed a lawsuit against MAS before the District Court of Düsseldorf (Court). Dolby initially moved for a declaratory judgement confirming MAS' liability for damages on the merits and also asserted relevant claims for information. The action was later extended. Additionally, Dolby requested injunctive relief as well as recall and destruction of infringing products.

On 11 July 2018, after the action was filed, Dolby directly approached MAS as well. It shared a list of patents included in its SEP portfolio as well as 'claim charts', mapping a number of patents to the relevant parts of the standard. Dolby also submitted an offer for a bilateral portfolio licence to MAS which the latter did not accept.

In January 2019, MAS presented a counteroffer to HEVC Advance, which included an amount for settlement the past uses. However, MAS did not render accounts for past uses nor provided security.

On 7 May 2020, the Court rendered a decision in favour of Dolby and ordered MAS to (i) refrain from offering or supplying devices and/or means that infringe Dolby's patent in Germany, under penalty up to EUR 250,000 for each case of infringement; (ii) render accounts and information regarding infringing products; (iii) surrender for destruction any infringing product in its possession and (iv) recall infringing products from the market. The Court also recognised MAS' liability to pay for past and future damages.


B. Court's reasoning

The Court found that Dolby was entitled to assert claims arising from the patent-in-suit. The respective patent application was transferred before grant and Dolby was registered as owner in the Patent Register at the moment the patent was granted. MAS did not present any reason to question the validity of the transfer of the patent application to Dolby. [425]

Furthermore, the Court held that the patent-in-suit is essential (and not only optional) to the improvement process of encoding and decoding of images under the HEVC standard and, therefore, infringed by the devices manufactured and sold by MAS. [426]


Abuse of dominant market position

Having said that, the Court explained that by asserting claims for injunctive relief as well as recall and destruction of infringing products before court, Dolby had not abused its dominant market position in violation of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) [427] .

In the eyes of the Court, Dolby holds a dominant position [428] . The Court highlighted that owning a patent, even a standard-essential patent, does not constitute per se a condition for market dominance [429] . That must be assessed case by case. A dominant position will be, as a rule, given if the use of a SEP is considered a pre-requisite to enter a downstream market. This is true also when the SEP is needed for offering competitive products in the downstream market. [429] In the present case, the implementation of the HEVC was required to make a competitive offering in the STB market [430] .

Notwithstanding the above, the Court found that Dolby had not abused its dominant market position, considering that it had fulfilled the obligations set forth by the Court of Justice the EU (CJEU) in the matter Huawei v ZTE (Huawei judgment or framework) [431] .


Notification of infringement

The required notification of the infringement by the patent holder was properly done. The Court understood that HEVC Advance, as the pool administrator, was entitled to do such notification on behalf of the patent holders that contributed patents to the pool. There is nothing in the Huawei judgment that suggests otherwise. [432]

The Court explained that the notification must, at least, include the publication number of the patent-in-suit and also indicate the infringing products and the infringing act(s) of use. [433] The notification does not need to contain a detailed (technical or legal) analysis, with reference to standards or claim features, but only present sufficient information that enables the other party to assess the infringement accusation made against it. [433]

In this case, the notification initially sent by HEVC Advance to MAS was sufficient in terms of content, since it specified the infringing products, and referred to HEVC Advance's patent portfolio and its website containing additional information. The fact that no patent numbers were mentioned was not considered harmful, since this information is publicly available in the pool's website. [434] Moreover, the Court highlighted that the notification can be a mere formality, if knowledge of the infringement by the implementer can be assumed. In such case, arguing that the notification was flawed, can be considered abusive, as it was the case here. [435]

Besides the notification made by HEVC Advance, the Court found that Dolby had also made a sufficient notification itself by the letter sent to MAS on 11 July 2018. [436] The letter fulfilled all requirements in terms of content. The fact that it was sent only after the action was filed was not harmful, since MAS had been already adequately informed by HEVC Advance before.Ibid, para. 759.

Willingness to obtain a licence

Looking at the conduct of MAS after receipt of the notifications of infringement, the Court reached the conclusion that MAS had sufficiently declared willingness to enter into a pool licence with HEVC Advance. [437] On the contrary, the Court took the view that MAS had not acted as a willing licensee with respect to Dolby's subsequent offer for a bilateral licence. [438]

The Court explained that, in its licensing request towards the SEP holder, the standards implementer must express its 'serious' willingness to conclude a licensing agreement on FRAND terms [439] . For this, no strict requirements apply, in terms of content or form; moreover, also an 'implicit behaviour' can suffice [440] . The implementer is, however, required to react in due course. [441] Furthermore, 'willingness' must still exist when the patent holder makes his licensing offer [439] .

The Court held that MAS had expressed willingness to take a pool license from HEVC Advance –although no express request was made–, since "immediately" after receipt of the notification of infringement, MAS started a correspondence with HEVC Advance with the goal to initiate negotiations. [442]

On the other hand, MAS had not been willing to obtain a bilateral licence from Dolby. [436] The Court emphasized that the whole conduct of the implementer must be assessed; a 'genuine' willingness to obtain a license must be demonstrated. [443] This is not given, when -as it had been the case here- the implementer only poses repetitive questions that do not present any constructive remarks and, therefore, do not lead to any progress in the negotiation. [444] In addition to that, it could be expected that a licensee willing to sign a bilateral agreement with an individual pool member, will have an interest to also engage in discussions with further pool members, especially for assessing the total 'economic burden' for its products, in comparison with a pool licensing agreement. [445] MAS refrained from doing that. What is more, it made clear in the proceedings that it was only interested in a pool licence.Ibid, para. 765.

SEP holder's offer

Since the Court held that MAS had adequately expressed willingness to sign a pool licence with HEVC Advance, it moved on to examine, whether HEVC Advance's licensing offer to MAS based on its standard licensing agreement was in line with the Huawei framework. Since the Court reached the conclusion that MAS had not been willing to enter into a bilateral licence with Dolby, it refrained from examining the compliance of Dolby's offer with the Huawei judgment in detail.

The Court found that the offer made by HEVC Advance met the Huawei requirements. In terms of form, the fact that the standard agreement sent to MAS had not been signed did not cause any concerns. [446] In the Court's view, the CJEU requires that the SEP holder's offer contains all usual terms of a licensing agreement, however, no binding offer that could lead to the conclusion of a licence through sole acceptance by the implementer is needed. [447]

Furthermore, HEVC Advance had sufficiently explained the royalty calculation, in line with the Huawei judgment. [448] If the patent holder has previously granted licenses to third parties, it has to give more or less substantiated reasons, depending on the circumstances of the individual case, why the royalty it envisages is Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND). [449] In case that the SEP holder offers licences exclusively based on a standard licensing agreement, it will, as a rule, suffice to establish the adoption of the licensing programme in practice and to show that the specific offer corresponds to the standard licensing agreement. [450] The more standard licensing agreements signed are shared by the patent holder, the stronger the assumption is, that the offered rates are FRAND. [451]

The Court emphasized that is not necessary to present the full content of all the licensing agreements already concluded, but only the relevant ones, considering clearly delineated product categories. [452] Existing licences with cross-licensing-elements, are not relevant in this context, especially, when the implementer does not have any patents himself, as it was the case here. [453] Accordingly, the Court found that the forty third party agreements disclosed by Dolby in the proceedings were enough in the present case. [454]


Fair and reasonable terms

Looking at the content, the Court found that the terms of the standard licensing agreement offered by HEVC Advance are fair and reasonable. [455] As fair and reasonable can be considered terms offered to a willing party, without exploiting a dominant position. [456] Apart from the royalties, the offer must also prove reasonable with regard to the other terms as well (scope, territory etc.). [456]

Having said that, the Court held that the royalties charged by HEVC Advance's standard licensing agreement are fair and reasonable. [457] An indication of that is the fact, that up to January 2020, more than forty licensees selling products in the same category as MAS had taken a license on the same terms, modified sometimes by 'blended rates'. [458] On the other hand, the fact that lower royalties are charged by a competing patent pool (MPEG LA) does not make the HEVC Advance's rate unreasonable, as FRAND is considered rather to be a range than a specific amount. [459]

Furthermore, the Court took the view that the limitation of the offered licence to 'practised claims' only (that is those claims of the licenced patents that are essential to the practice of the HEVC standard), is not unreasonable. [460] This limitation does not present any adverse effect on MAS' business, since the royalty payments correspond to the claims that are actually used by the licensee (and, vice versa, no obligation to pay for claims not used is established). [461]

Also, in the eyes of the Court, MAS was not able to prove that the lack of an adjustment clause is unreasonable [462] . MAS failed to establish that respective clauses are common in industry practice; on the contrary, the fact that at least forty parties had signed a licence with HEVC Advance without such clause indicated the opposite. [463] What is more, the royalty clause is constant. That means that the rate charged will not change if licenced patents expire, but also will remain the same in the case of addition of new patents to the pool that will be automatically covered by the agreement. Insofar, an economic risk for both parties exists. [464]

Regarding the choice of forum clause contained in the standard licensing agreement, establishing the jurisdiction of courts in New York as well as granting HEVC Advance the right to also choose other venues at its discretion, the Court was not able to conclude any unfair disadvantage for MAS. [465] The same clause was agreed in many other licensing agreements signed by HEVC Advance with third parties. [466] In fact, MAS agreed to a similar one in its license agreement with the MPEG LA pool. [466]


Non-discrimination

Besides that, the Court was unable to establish any discrimination against MAS through the licence offered by HEVC Advance. [467] The obligation of equal treatment applies only to aspects that are comparable; even a market dominant undertaking must be allowed to respond differently to different market conditions. [468] An unequal treatment is to be assessed based on the specific circumstances of each individual case under the goals of competition and can be accepted as lawful, if objectively justified. [469] Therefore, not every difference in the terms and conditions of a licence can be seen as abusive. [470] According to the Court, the same principle also applies to the licensing of SEPs. [471]

Against this background, the Court found that the fact that the pool administered by HEVC Advance updated its terms in a way that an 'uniform licensing regime' no longer exists, since for certain licensees the previous version of the agreement still applies, does not mean that the new standard licensing agreement offered to MAS was discriminatory. [472] Although, according to the case-law of the Higher District Court of Düsseldorf, a patent holder (and its assignees) is bound to the 'licensing concept' underlying the first ever licence granted, it is allowed to deviate from such 'concept', if this does not lead to a discrimination of either past nor future licensees. [473] In the Court's view, this was not the case here: The old licensees were offered the possibility to shift to the new terms, and there is no evidence that MAS would be treated worse by the terms of the new standard licensing agreement. [473] On the contrary, the new royalty calculation leads to a lower licensing burden. [473]

The Court also took the view, that there is also no discrimination in the way the patent-in-suit is enforced. [474] MAS argued that it was discriminated, because its competitors or large companies were not sued by members of the HEVC Advance pool for patent infringement. The Court highlighted that refraining from enforcement does not necessarily mean discrimination: the phase of adoption of the relevant standard, the costs and procedural risks involved, the knowledge of the holder regarding the infringement and its extent are factors to be considered. [475] In the case of HEVC Advance, the initial phase of its existence and limitation of resources are relevant for this assessment. [476]

Moreover, no discrimination with respect to the amount of the royalty rate or the scope offered was found. [477] The Court pointed out that the fact that some of the existing licensees have agreed on rates higher than those offered to MAS, could not be used in favour of the latter: as a rule, only those who are treated less favourably can invoke discrimination. [478]

The Court further held that the 'blended rates' agreed with certain other licensees, did not render the offer made to MAS by HEVC Advance discriminatory either. [479] These rates mirrored variations due to the difference in products and implementer's profiles and were either offered to MAS or not applicable to his business model. [480]

Furthermore, the Court found that the 'incentive programme' offered by the HEVC Advance pool, which under specific conditions (especially the signing of a licence at an early point in time) results in discounted rates, is lawful and non-discriminatory. [481] The same is true with respect to discounts offered for past uses prior to the signing a licence, as it is the case for HEVC Advance [482] .

Finally, a 10% discount offered by HEVC Advance when a licensee also takes a trademark licence, allowing for the labelling of products with the HEVC trademark, was equally offered to the MAS, so that the Court could not see a discrimination of MAS by such provision in the standard licensing agreement. [483]


Implementer's counteroffer

The Court found that MAS' counteroffer was not FRAND. [484] The offer made by MAS failed to present sufficiently an explanation of why its terms would be FRAND, in view of the terms offered by HEVC Advance. MAS presented only a royalty rate, without making any reference to the rest of the clauses contained in the offer previously made by HEVC Advance, which it alleged to be discriminatory or unreasonable. [485]

Having found that MAS' counteroffer had not been FRAND, the Court explained that the fact that MAS neither rendered accounts nor provided security did not play any role for its decision. [486]


C. Other issues

By the facts of the case, the Court concluded that MAS acted culpably, or at least negligently, and, therefore, owes compensation for past and future damages caused by its actions. Moreover, damages should not be limited to a FRAND royalty. [487] The quantification of the damages will be possible with the rendering of accounts by MAS. [488]

The lawsuit for revocation of the patent, arguing lack of inventive step, that had not been decided yet, had no likelihood of success, according to the Court's analysis. Therefore, the request for staying the proceedings until a decision on the validity is delivered by the Federal Patent Court was denied. [489]

  • [425] HEVC (Dolby) v MAS Elektronik, District Court (Landgericht) of Düsseldorf, 7 May 2020, Case No. 4c O 44/18 (cited by www.nrwe.de), paras. 75 et seqq.
  • [426] Ibid, paras. 157-184.
  • [427] Ibid, paras. 186 et seqq.
  • [428] Ibid, paras. 189 et seqq.
  • [429] Ibid, paras. 194 et seqq.
  • [430] Ibid, para. 197.
  • [431] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [432] HEVC (Dolby) v MAS Elektronik, District Court (Landgericht) of Düsseldorf, 7 May 2020, Case No. 4c O 44/18, paras. 213 et seqq and paras. 221 et seqq.
  • [433] Ibid, para. 210.
  • [434] Ibid, paras. 229 et seqq.
  • [435] Ibid, para. 233.
  • [436] Ibid, para. 759.
  • [437] Ibid, paras. 236 et seqq.
  • [438] Ibid, paras. 760 et seqq.
  • [439] Ibid, para. 237.
  • [440] Ibid, para. 237 and para. 761.
  • [441] Ibid, para. 760.
  • [442] Ibid, para. 238.
  • [443] Ibid, para. 763.
  • [444] Ibid, para. 764.
  • [445] Ibid, para. 765.
  • [446] Ibid, paras. 241 et seqq.
  • [447] Ibid, para. 242.
  • [448] Ibid, paras. 244 et seqq.
  • [449] Ibid, para. 245.
  • [450] Ibid, para. 248.
  • [451] Ibid, para. 255.
  • [452] Ibid, para. 250.
  • [453] Ibid, para. 253.
  • [454] Ibid, para. 249.
  • [455] Ibid, paras. 257 and 258.
  • [456] Ibid, para. 260.
  • [457] Ibid, paras. 264 et seqq.
  • [458] Ibid, para. 268.
  • [459] Ibid, paras. 271 et seqq.
  • [460] Ibid, paras. 280 et seqq.
  • [461] Ibid, para. 284.
  • [462] Ibid, paras. 286 et seqq.
  • [463] Ibid, para. 295.
  • [464] Ibid, para. 298.
  • [465] Ibid, paras. 301 et seqq.
  • [466] Ibid, para. 304.
  • [467] Ibid, paras. 306 et seqq. and paras. 314 et seqq.
  • [468] Ibid, para. 308.
  • [469] Ibid, paras. 308 et seq.
  • [470] Ibid, para. 310.
  • [471] Ibid, para. 311.
  • [472] Ibid, paras. 314 et seqq.
  • [473] Ibid, para. 318.
  • [474] Ibid, para. 321.
  • [475] Ibid, para. 322.
  • [476] Ibid, para. 323.
  • [477] Ibid, paras. 325 et seqq. as well as paras. 443 et seqq.
  • [478] Ibid, para. 326.
  • [479] Ibid, paras. 328 et seqq.
  • [480] Ibid, paras. 329 et seqq.
  • [481] Ibid, paras. 334 et seqq.
  • [482] Ibid, paras. 526 et seqq.
  • [483] Ibid, paras. 665 et seqq.
  • [484] Ibid, paras. 751 et seqq.
  • [485] Ibid, paras. 754.
  • [486] Ibid, para. 756.
  • [487] Ibid, para. 773.
  • [488] Ibid, para. 774.
  • [489] Ibid, paras. 781 et seqq.