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 26 一月 2017

Saint Lawrence v Deutsche Telekom

曼海姆地区法院
27 十一月 2015 - Case No. 2 O 106/14

  1. Facts
    Since 28 August 2014, Claimant, a non-practicing entity established under German law, is registered as the current proprietor of the European patent EP 1.125.284 B1, originally granted to applicant “V” (Voiceage Corporation). Whether “V” validly transferred the patent to Claimant is disputed between the parties. Defendant is a company active in the telecommunications sector and which markets AMR-WB-based devices. The patent has been found to be essential to ETSI’s AMR-WB standard by IPEC. After the adoption (“freeze”) of AMR-WB by ETSI on 10 April 2001 “V”, who joined ETSI only after the standard had been set, repeatedly—on 29 May 2001, 26 October 2004 and 7 January 2010—declared its readiness to grant licenses on FRAND terms for the respective patent.
    After initiating the present action—Defendant having been served with the claim on 7 August 2014—Claimant informed Defendant by letter as of 31 July 2014 (including a copy of the statement of claims as of 23 July 2014) that it was ready to grant licenses on FRAND terms for the patent-in-suit and five other German patents allegedly used by Defendant. Inviting Defendant to discuss such a licensing agreement Claimant offered, in addition, to communicate a draft licensing agreement by letter as of 9 December 2014. Defendant did not show any interest in acquiring a license regarding the patent-in-suit.
    Prior to the infringement action, Claimant neither tried to contact nor to make a licensing offer to Defendant’s supplier “H”(HTE) which, knowing about the lawsuit since August 2014, acted as an intervener in the present proceedings. Subsequent to Defendant’s third-party notice, “H” started licensing negotiations with Claimant on 9 December 2014. After “H” had signed a non-disclosure agreement provided by Claimant on 22 December 2014, Claimant submitted a draft licensing agreement on 12 January 2015, being corrected on 26 January 2015. Talks took place on 9 February 2015. By letter as of 23 February 2015 “H” made a supplemented proposal for the determination of the licensing conditions. In an e-mail as of 6 March 2015 “H” declared its willingness to take a license for Germany alone and specified conditions. As a reaction to Claimant’s offer as of 25 March 2015 concerning a worldwide license “H” submitted, on 2 April 2015, a counter-offer that was limited to Germany and suggested third party determination of royalties by the High Court of England and Wales. While Claimant rejected the counter-offer by letter as of 19 April 2015, “H” declared to adhere to its offer by letter as of 8 June 2015. On 3 September 2015 “H” sent an additional letter according to which a bank guaranteed, under certain conditions, payment of royalties for past use of the relevant patents in Germany. As Claimant criticized the letter as incomprehensible by e-mail of 13 September 2015, Defendant subsequently (inter alia by submitting documents to the court on 23 September 2015) explained in greater detail how the royalties were to be calculated.
  2. Court’s reasoning
    1. Market power and notice of infringement
      The court finds, in any case, no abuse of (potential) market power, as H behaved tactically motivated causing delay and made its own offers linked to unacceptable conditions. However, the court leaves open the questions (1) of whether the SEP conveyed actual market power to Claimant, (2) of whether—even absent actual market dominance—the FRAND declaration subjected Claimant to the conduct requirements for a market dominant SEP proprietor, (3) of whether Claimant is to be treated as if it had made the FRAND declaration itself, and (4) of whether a refusal to grant FRAND licenses to Defendant’s device suppliers entitled Defendant to a FRAND defense regardless of its own readiness to take a license. [1] The court made however clear that enforcing the right of injunction is not a misuse when the infringer, even after the complaint has been raised and despite a reasonable timeframe, does not show any interest in getting a license.
      As regards the Huawei requirement to alert the standard user of the infringement, the court focused on different aspects. Since, in the present case, Defendant refrained from expressing its willingness to conclude a licensing agreement on FRAND terms it was left undecided whether Claimant complied with its obligation to notify prior to the initiation of court proceedings by sending, after bringing the action but before the statement of claims was served to Defendant, a letter from which Defendant could recognize that an action had already been brought.
      The Mannheim court did also not determine whether Claimant, in order to avoid a violation of Article 102 TFEU, had to inform “H” about the patent infringement because the latter learned or could have easily learned about the possible violation of the SEP during a phone call with Defendant in August 2014. [2] However, “H” did not sufficiently express its willingness to conclude a licensing agreement on FRAND terms because it took “H” more than three months to submit a license request after it had become aware of the court action. “H” could have objected a violation of Article 102 TFEU if it had expressed such willingness and complied with the subsequent Huawei obligations. However, “H” failed to do so also because it refrained from submitting a satisfying counter-offer. [3]
    2. The SEP owner’s licensing offer
      The court seems to favor FRAND-compatibility of worldwide licenses as it clarifies that limiting the counter-offer to Germany was “unacceptable” but does not decide on the issue. Also, the court left undecided whether the royalty rate offered by Claimant satisfied FRAND. [4]
    3. The standard implementer’s reaction
      Considering the subsequent conduct obligation of the standard user, the district court found that a FRAND counter-offer has to be submitted irrespective of whether the preceding licensing offer made by the SEP proprietor itself is FRAND. In order to trigger the counter-offer obligation it is sufficient that the licensing offer contains—as in the present case—all information, in particular regarding royalty calculation, which is necessary for Defendant to submit a counter-offer corresponding to FRAND terms. The Huawei obligation to diligently respond does not merely arise where a licensing offer is FRAND but it has to be considered as an expression of the sincere willingness of Defendant to conclude a licensing agreement. If such willingness is given, the patent proprietor will not be allowed to present a subsequent FRAND licensing offer after the initiation of proceedings. [5]
      The court then analyzed whether Defendant’s counter-offer met the ECJ requirements in terms of content, but left it undecided whether a limitation to Germany could be in compliance with FRAND terms. It denied the existence of a “specific” counter-offer in the present case because the amount of the royalty was not specified in the document itself but was intended to be determined by an independent third party. [6] In consequence, “H” could not fulfill its obligation to provide appropriate security because it was not possible to anticipate which amount of royalty would have been stipulated by the “independent third party”. [7]
  3. Other important issues
    In the course of licensing negotiations, the standard user is neither prevented from challenging validity, standard-essentiality or effective use of the patent in question nor to reserve its right to do so. [8]
    As regards ownership and the transfer of the patent from the original patent proprietor to the non-practicing entity, registration in the patent register in accordance with § 30 (3) PatG establishes the 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. [9]
    No patent ambush-defense based on § 242 BGB could be raised. As the court assessed in a detailed, torts-based analysis, [10] Defendant and Intervener could establish neither collusion of “V” and “N” (a participant in the setting of the AMR-WB standard) nor bad faith of “N” regarding “V” ’s patents. Hence, non-declaration by “N” did not amount to a patent ambush. Nor could non-declaration by “V” constitute a patent ambush since “V” was no member of ETSI—and, hence, not bound by a duty to disclose resulting from ETSI’s IP policy—when the AMR-WB standard was being set. Furthermore, Defendant and Intervener could not show why they should have been adversely affected by “V” ’s alleged violation of the ETSI IPR Policy, given that Claimant had declared its willingness to grant a license on FRAND terms. [11] In particular, they could not substantiate that a different form of the standard, avoiding “V” ’s patents, would have been set, had the standard-setting participants known about these patents. [12] Given these deficiencies in the attempt to establish a patent ambush the court left open whether such an ambush would result in an obligation to grant a royalty free- or “only” a FRAND license but indicated to favor the FRAND license-sanction. [13]
  • [1] Case No. 2 O 106/14, para. 133
  • [2] Case No. 2 O 106/14, para. 139-144
  • [3] Case No. 2 O 106/14, para. 146-149
  • [4] Case No. 2 O 106/14, para. 152-153
  • [5] Case No. 2 O 106/14, para. 153-160
  • [6] Case No. 2 O 106/14, para. 158-164
  • [7] Case No. 2 O 106/14, para. 167-169
  • [8] Case No. 2 O 106/14, para. 146
  • [9] Case No. 2 O 106/14, para. 78-80
  • [10] Cf. for details LG Mannheim, 27 November 2015 - Case No. 2 O 106/14, para. 119-131
  • [11] Case No. 2 O 106/14, para. 118-131
  • [12] Cf. LG Mannheim, 27 November 2015 - Case No. 2 O 106/14, para. 131, i.a. on the mechanism of “blind selection” among technological alternatives, (initially) irrespective of existing patents and their ownership situation.
  • [13] Case No. 2 O 106/14, para. 198

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) [14] 。 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 [15]

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 [16] ,同时其也在德国等市场销售符合LTE标准的产品 [17]

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 [17] 。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 [18] 。于是,此项许可协议的要约未能达成最终协议 [18]

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 [19]

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 [20] 。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) [21] 。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 [22]

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 [23]

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 [24] 。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 [25] ,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 [26]

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 [27]

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 [28]

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” [29] 。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 [30] 。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 [31]

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” [32] 。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” [32] 。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 [33]

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 [34] 。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 [35] ,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 [36] 。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” [37]

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 [24] 。(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” [24]

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 [25] 。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 [26] 。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 [26]

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” [38]

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 [39]

 

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

Updated 26 一月 2017

Saint Lawrence v Vodafone

LG Düsseldorf
31 三月 2016 - Case No. 4a O 73/14

  1. Facts
    Since 28 August 2014 Claimant, a non-practicing entity, is the proprietor of the European patent EP 1 125 276 B1 “J”, originally granted to applicants “Voiceage, and allegedly covering part of the AMR-WB standard. Defendant is a company active in the telecommunications sector and which markets AMR-WB-based devices, inter alia devices produced by the Intervener in this case. After the adoption (“freeze”) of AMR-WB by ETSI on 10 April 2001, Claimant (who was not an ETSI member during the setting of the AMR-WB standard) made, on 29 May 2001, a commitment towards ETSI to grant licenses on FRAND terms inter alia for patent EP J. Claimant and its parent company “O” offer the SEP and all other patents of the same family to third parties by means of a portfolio license. Licensing conditions are accessible on the Internet and various producers in the sector have taken a license under these conditions. Prior to the submission of the patent infringement action on 23 July 2014 and to the advance payments on costs on 29 July 2014, Claimant alerted neither Defendant nor the manufacturer of the contested embodiments, who acted as an intervener in the present proceedings and became aware of the lawsuit in August 2014. By e-mails on 31 July and (as a reminder) on 9 December 2014, the first of which included a copy of the statement of claims and reached the defendant before it was formally served with the statement, Claimant notified the alleged patent violation to Defendant. After Defendant’s reply as of 12 January 2015, Claimant presented a draft licensing agreement to Defendant by letter as of 22 April 2015. On 9 December 2014, the Intervener (HTC) declared willingness to take a license for that patent, inter alia for the patent-in-suit, provided infringement was found in Mannheim’s District Court. It further declared that it would accept royalties determined by a court or arbitration tribunal. Claimant, in turn, offered a licensing agreement by letters as of 12 January 2015 and 25 March 2015 respectively. In the course of meetings taking place since 23 January 2014, [40] Claimant offered a license to the Intervener. On 23 February 2015 and on 2 April 2015 respectively, the Intervener made two licensing offers, including third party determination (arbitration panel or English court) of the amount of royalty, for the whole German patent portfolio of Claimant. An additional offer for a licensing agreement, limited to Germany and implementing a royalty of USD 0.0055 per patent by reference to the “WCDMA Patent Pools”, was made by the Intervener on 6 March 2015 and 24 September 2015 respectively, but it was finally refused by Claimant on 4 October 2015. Moreover, the Intervener provided a bank “guarantee of payment” as of 3 September 2015, being modified by letter as of 10 November 2015, and also rendered account of past and prospective sales in Germany since 2011.
  2. Court’s reasoning
    1. Market power and notice of infringement
      The court leaves open the question of whether the SEP conferred market power to Claimant since it did, in any case, find no abuse of such potential market power. [41] The court declared the Huawei rules applicable to claims for the recall of products. [42] As regards the Huawei requirement to alert the standard user of the infringement, the decision arrived at various findings of interest: Firstly, the judges found that—in “non-transitional” cases where the lawsuit was brought after the Huawei decision—the infringement notification has to take place before the action is filed, or the latest before the advance payment on costs is made. In transitional cases, such as the present case, a delayed infringement notification, taking place after the advance payment on costs as well as the submission of the court action, but before the statement of claims is served, is admissible. [43] Moreover, an infringement notification could possibly be omitted (in particular) if—as in the present case—the patent user already disposes of all necessary information and lacks willingness to license. [44] In non-transitional cases, however, the court doubts whether it is possible to rectify an omitted infringement notification without withdrawing the action. [45] Secondly, the court specified the minimum content of the infringement notification which has to indicate at least the number of the patent, the contested embodiments and the alleged acts of use performed by the standard implementer. The court did not decide whether additional information has to be provided, in particular regarding the interpretation of the patent claims or on which part of the standard the patent reads, but it stated that such additional information is not harmful to the patent proprietor. [46] Lastly, the court detailed on the particular situation of the Intervener, being Defendant’s manufacturer and supplier in the present case: Even though a FRAND defense successfully raised by the Intervener would in general also cover subsequent levels of the distribution chain, the Huawei requirements apply only indirectly to suppliers of contested embodiments which have not been sued themselves. Accordingly, the SEP proprietor is not obliged to notify the patent infringement to third parties, but as soon as a request to grant a license on FRAND terms is submitted the (adapted) Huawei procedure applies. [47] In casu, no separate infringement notice vis-à-vis the Intervener was required since the Intervener was, since August 2014, aware of the action having been brought.
    2. The SEP owner’s licensing offer
      Since the patent user did not express its willingness to conclude a licensing agreement in due time, the court found Claimant to comply with the Huawei requirement to submit a licensing offer on FRAND terms even though the offer was made in the course of the ongoing litigation. For transitional cases, as the present one, this holds true even if infringement notification and court action take place at the same time. [48] Besides, the court analyzed under which circumstances licensing conditions can be considered as FRAND according to Huawei. In the opinion of the judges, the more licensing agreements implementing comparable terms the SEP proprietor has already concluded, the stronger is the presumption that these conditions are FRAND, unless factual reasons—which are to be demonstrated by the patent user—justify modified terms. Recognized commercial practice in the relevant sector has to be considered when defining the admissible scope of the licensing agreement. If patent portfolios are usually covered by group or worldwide licenses in the relevant market, a (worldwide) portfolio license will be FRAND unless the circumstances of the specific case, e.g. the SEP proprietor’s market activity being limited to one geographic market, require a modification. [49] Accordingly, Claimant’s (worldwide) licensing offer to Defendant for the whole AMR-WB pool, demanding royalties of USD 0.26 per mobile device that implemented the standard and was produced or marketed in countries in which the SEP was in force, and complying with Claimants existing licensing practice (accessible on the Internet and already implemented in 12 licensing agreements) was declared FRAND. While the court considered that comparable licensing agreements “represent an important indicator of the adequacy of the license terms offered” it clarified that the significance of a patent pool as an indication of FRAND conformity is “limited”. Defendant and the Intervener failed to show that the portfolio comprised (non-used) non-SEPs as well. [50] They further failed to show that the pre-concluded licensing agreements provided no valid basis for comparison as they were concluded under the threat of pending litigation. [51] In order to fulfill the Huawei obligation of specifying the calculation of royalties, the SEP proprietor only has to provide the information necessary to determine the amount of royalties to be paid, e.g. the royalty per unit and the products covered by the license. While the court left undecided whether additional indications, e.g. concerning the FRAND character of the licensing offer, are necessary to comply with Huawei, it found that the SEP proprietor’s duty to inform should not be interpreted too strictly as FRAND does regularly encompass a range of values that will be fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory. [52] Claimant’s licensing offer presented to the Intervener was considered as being FRAND for the same reasons. Furthermore, the court emphasized that the contractual clause allowing for judicial review of the royalties offered could be a possible way to avoid abusive practices and to ensure that licensing offers correspond to FRAND terms. [53]
    3. The standard implementer’s reaction
      The court found that the more details the infringement notification contains, the less time remains for the standard user to examine the patent(s) at issue and to express its willingness to conclude a licensing agreement on FRAND terms. In the present case, Defendant did not comply with Huawei because it took more than five months to react and then only asked for proof of the alleged infringement. Given this excessive delay, the court did not decide whether Defendant’s reaction satisfied the Huawei requirements in terms of content. It denied the possibility to remedy a belated reaction by a subsequent declaration of willingness to license. On the contrary, and as a consequence of the patent user’s non-compliance, the SEP proprietor may continue the infringement action without violating Article 102 TFEU, but it still has to grant licenses on FRAND terms. [54] Whether the Intervener satisfied the ECJ criteria was left undecided. [55] The court made some further remarks of interest as to the Huawei requirements concerning the standard implementer: Firstly, it left undecided whether the obligation of the patent user to diligently respond is caused also by a (potentially) non-FRAND licensing offer. [56] Secondly, a standard user who has taken a license is not prevented from challenging validity and essentiality of the SEP afterwards, nor is the SEP proprietor entitled to terminate the license if such a challenge takes place. However, the standard implementer may not delay the (unconditional) conclusion of the licensing agreement until a final court decision on these issues has been rendered. While validity and standard-essentiality is litigated, the licensee remains obliged to pay royalties and it cannot request to insert into the licensing contract a clause entitling it to reclaim paid royalties in case of its success in court. [57] Thirdly, as, in the present case, no specific counter-offers satisfying FRAND terms were submitted and Defendant could not establish that Claimant had waived this requirement the court did not decide on whether a SEP proprietor is obliged to negotiate further although itself and the patent user have submitted FRAND offers. [58] None of the counter-offers of the Intervener were FRAND in terms of content. They were either inadmissibly limited to Germany, contained no precise royalty, were not submitted “promptly” because the standard user had waited until the oral pleadings in the parallel procedure, or they proposed royalties per device which the court considered as too low. [59] While it was therefore held to be irrelevant whether, in the first place, the Intervener duly declared its willingness to license, the court emphasized that the Intervener’s readiness to take a license only after the SEP infringement was determined in court did not satisfy the Huawei standard of conduct. [60] Moreover, the obligation imposed by Huawei to provide appropriate security and to render account was not fulfilled. While Defendant refrained from taking any of these actions, the Intervener waited several months after the counter-offers were refused in order to submit its bank “guarantee of payment”, which was not recognized as “appropriate security” due to its amount and its limitation to acts of use in Germany. [61] Neither was the Intervener’s initial proposal to have the security—if requested by Claimant—determined by an arbitration tribunal or by an English court accepted as an appropriate way to provide security. [62]
  3. Other important issues
    According to the court, the Huawei requirements apply to both non-practicing entities and other market participants. [63] Suing a network operator instead of the undertakings producing devices operating in the network constitutes (at least under the circumstances of this case and absent selective enforcement) no violation of competition law even though this strategy might aim at using the action against the network operator as a “lever” to obtain licensing commitments from the device suppliers. On the other hand, device manufacturers are entitled to a FRAND license as well and can raise the FRAND defense if such a license is not granted. In consequence, the court perceives a fair balance of interests as the SEP proprietor can choose on which level of the chain of production to sue while the undertakings in the chain of production can choose on which level to take a license. [64] Furthermore, no patent ambush-defense based on § 242 BGB could be raised because, firstly, Defendant and the Intervener could not substantiate the alleged patent ambush by “Y” and “C”, being the original SEP proprietors; secondly, they could not show that a different patent declaration conduct would have resulted in a different version of the standard excluding the patent-in-suit; thirdly, the alleged patent ambush would, arguably, have resulted only in a FRAND-licensing obligation and, fourthly, Claimant had declared its willingness to grant a license on FRAND terms anyway. [65]
  • [40] This is the date mentioned by the Court although “23 January 2015” may seem more plausible and the date given by the Court may result from a scrivener’s error.
  • [41] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 184
  • [42] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 187
  • [43] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 195 et seq.
  • [44] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 208-210
  • [45] Case No. 4a O 126/14, para. IV, 3, a, bb, 2, c
  • [46] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 193
  • [47] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 270 et seq.
  • [48] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 222 et seq.
  • [49] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 225 et seq.
  • [50] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 225 et seq. On the relevance of the SIPRO-pool royalty rates, cf. LG Düsseldorf, 31 March 2016 – Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 245-248. On the facts indicating that a worldwide license was appropriate LG Düsseldorf, 31 March 2016 – Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 249-255.
  • [51] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 234-242. The court argued that it is questionable in principle how much the threat of a claim for injunctive relief can (inadmissibly) affect license agreement negotiations, since the Orange Book case law of the BGH (German Federal Court of Justice), the Motorola decision of the European Commission, and now the CJEU judgment in the Huawei Technologies/ZTE Case could be and can be invoked against inappropriate demands that are in breach of antitrust law.
  • [52] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 256 et seq.
  • [53] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 279 et seq.
  • [54] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 214-220
  • [55] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 214-220; 278
  • [56] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 266
  • [57] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 185 et seq.; 262 et seq.
  • [58] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 264
  • [59] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 291 et seq.
  • [60] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 278
  • [61] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 267 et seq.; 299 et seq.
  • [62] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 304
  • [63] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 189
  • [64] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 309-313
  • [65] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 317 et seq.

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 [66] ,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 [67]

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 [68] 。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 [69] ,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 [70]

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 [71]

联邦法院于2020年5月5日做出的当前判决 [72] 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 [73]

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 [74] 。 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 [75]

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 [76] ,因此,需要将许多因素共同纳入考量 [77] 。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 [78]

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 [79]

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 [80] 。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 [81] 。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 [82] 。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 [83]

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 [84] 。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 [84] 。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 [84]

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 [85] 。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 [85]

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 [86]

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 [87] 。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 [87] 。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 [88]

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) [89]
  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 [90]

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 [91] 。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 [93] 。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 [93] 。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 [94]

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 [95] 。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 [96] 。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 [96] 。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) [96] 。 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 [97] 。这也适用于涉及多项专利和标准的情况 [97]

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 [98]

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 [99] 。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 [100] 。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 [100] 。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 [100] 。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 [101] 。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 [102]

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) [103] 。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 [103] 。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 [103]

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” [104]

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 [105] 。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 [105]

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 [106]

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 [107]

 

  • [66] Sisvel v Haier, District Court of Duesseldorf, judgment dated 3 November 2015, Case No. 4a O 93/14。
  • [67] Sisvel v Haier, Higher District Court of Duesseldorf, judgment dated 13 January 2016, Case No. I-15 U 66/15。
  • [68] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13。
  • [69] Sisvel v Haier, Higher District Court of Duesseldorf, judgment dated 30 March 2017, Case No. I-15 U 66/15。
  • [70] Federal Patent Court, judgment dated 6 October 2017, Case No. 6 Ni 10/15 (EP)。
  • [71] Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 10 March 2020, Case No. X ZR 44/18。
  • [72] 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)。
  • [73] 同上注, 段 9以下及段59。
  • [74] 同上注, 段 52。
  • [75] 同上注, 段 54。
  • [76] 同上注, 段 56。
  • [77] 同上注, 段 57 及以下。
  • [78] 同上注, 段 58。
  • [79] 同上注, 段 59 及以下。
  • [80] 同上注, 段 61。
  • [81] 同上注, 段 63。
  • [82] 同上注, 段 62。
  • [83] 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。
  • [84] 同上注, 段 64。
  • [85] 同上注, 段 65。
  • [86] 同上注, 段 67 及以下。
  • [87] 同上注, 段 69。
  • [88] 同上注, 段 70。
  • [89] 同上注, 段 71。
  • [90] 同上注, 段 72。
  • [91] 同上注, 段 73 及以下。
  • [92] 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。
  • [93] 同上注, 段 74。
  • [94] 同上注, 段 74 及段 85。
  • [95] 同上注, 段 89。
  • [96] 同上注, 段 85。
  • [97] 同上注, 段 87。
  • [98] 同上注, 段 86 及以下。
  • [99] 同上注, 段 91 及以下。
  • [100] 同上注, 段 92。
  • [101] 同上注, 段 93及以下。
  • [102] 同上注, 段 94。
  • [103] 同上注, 段 83。
  • [104] 同上注, 段 95。
  • [105] 同上注, 段 96。
  • [106] 同上注, 段 98。
  • [107] 同上注, 段 97。

Updated 6 六月 2019

Conversant v LG, Court of Appeal of Paris

法国法院判决
16 四月 2019 - Case No. 061/2019, RG 15/17037

A. Facts

On 1 September 2011, the Claimant, Conversant Wireless Licensing SARL (Conversant; previously named Core Wireless Licensing SARL), acquired from Nokia more than 2,000 patents declared essential to the GSM, UMTS or LTE standards (Standard Essential Patents, or SEPs) towards ETSI [108] .

Conversant contacted the Defendants, LG Electronics France SAS and LG Electronics Inc. (LG) for a licence under the patents in March 2012. The parties held a few meetings to find an agreement on a Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) rate for a global license under Conversant’s essential patents [109] .

On 30 September 2014, Conversant brought an infringement action against LG based on five patents before the Paris Court (Court), asking inter alia for a FRAND rate determination [110] .

In first instance, the Court rejected Conversant’s claims, as it held that Conversant had not demonstrated the essentiality of the patents in suit [111] .

On appeal, Conversant solely asserted two out of the five patents asserted in first instance [112] . With the present judgment, the Court of Appeal of Paris (Court of Appeal) confirmed the first instance decision, finding the patents in suit valid but not essential [113] .

B. Court’s reasoning

Validity, Essentiality and Infringement

In first instance, Conversant alleged five patents to be essential and infringed by LG [108] . On appeal, both parties acknowledged that, for three of them, the essentiality was not sufficiently supported [114] .

Therefore, the Court of Appeal limited the analysis of validity, essentiality and infringement to the two other patents, EP 978 210 (EP 210) and EP 950 330 (EP 330) [110] . LG raised prior art documents to challenge the validity, novelty and inventive steps of the patents. The Court of Appeal analysed those documents to determine that none was destroying the validity of the patents [115] .

Regarding the essentiality, Conversant had alleged that EP 210 was essential to both UMTS and LTE standards [116] and EP 330 was essential to the LTE standard [117] . The Court of Appeal rejected those claims by comparing the patent specifications to the technical specifications of the relevant standards [118] and found hold that standard compliant devices do not necessarily have to use the patents in suit. The Court considered that it is possible to comply with the UMTS and LTE standards without implementing said patents. The Court, therefore, found that the patents are not essential [110] .

FRAND determination

Conversant and LG both had requested the Court to make a FRAND determination. However, as Conversant’s infringement claim was based on the essentiality of the patents, the Court of Appeal declared any request concerning a FRAND rate determination, past damages and the nomination of an expert without object [119] .

FRAND duties and abuse of a dominant position

In its decision, the Court of Appeal also briefly summarized two points addressed by the first instance Court regarding parties’ duties in negotiation and a potential abuse of dominant position without any further analysis.

One of them is the determination of bad faith of the parties in the negotiations. In first instance, the Court stated that it was difficult to assess bad faith in view of the history of the negotiations. The Court had underlined that the fact that the parties negotiated for more than two years tended to demonstrate that none of them was of particularly bad faith to push the other not to further pursue the negotiations [112] . The Court had further stressed that as each company passed the buck to the other, it was difficult to declare that bad faith lied more on one side than the other [110] .

Regarding a potential abuse of dominant position through the filing of an action based on SEPs by Conversant, the Court had stated that filing a judicial complaint to have a FRAND rate determined that could not be amicably fixed, without any other circumstance demonstrating among others the express willingness to deprive LG of its rights to exploit the patents against a fair and proportionate compensation, could not constitute an abuse of a dominant position [110] .

Confidentiality and Trade Secret Protection

The Court of Appeals also briefly referred to the rules for the protection of trade secrets that had been agreed upon by the parties and accepted by the Court of Appeal.

In application of Article L153-1 of French Commercial Code, the parties had set up a protection mechanism for confidential documents, which included the following steps [120] : (1) access to some licensing agreements from Nokia and Conversant would be restricted to the parties’ legal representatives, the court and persons (translators or experts) obliged to confidentiality by a Non-Disclosure Agreement, (2) the parties would submit two versions of each party’s written conclusions to the Court of Appeal, one with a reference to all disclosed agreements in full with confidential information highlighted and one without any reference to any confidential information [121] .

  • [108] Court of Appeal of Paris, judgement dated 16 April 2019, page 3.
  • [109] Ibidem.
  • [110] Ibid.
  • [111] Court of Appeal of Paris, judgement dated 16 April 2019, pages 5-6.
  • [112] Court of Appeal of Paris, judgement dated 16 April 2019, page 6.
  • [113] Court of Appeal of Paris, judgement dated 16 April 2019, pages 15-24.
  • [114] Court of Appeal of Paris, judgement dated 16 April 2019, page 15.
  • [115] Court of Appeal of Paris, judgement dated 16 April 2019, pages 15 and subsequent.
  • [116] Court of Appeal of Paris, judgement dated 16 April 2019, pages 19-21.
  • [117] Court of Appeal of Paris, judgement dated 16 April 2019, pages 23-24.
  • [118] Court of Appeal of Paris, judgement dated 16 April 2019, pages 19-21 and 23-24.
  • [119] Court of Appeal of Paris, judgement dated 16 April 2019, pages 24-25.
  • [120] Court of Appeal of Paris, judgement dated 16 April 2019, page 13
  • [121] Court of Appeal of Paris, judgement dated 16 April 2019, page 14

Updated 26 一月 2017

Saint Lawrence v Vodafone 2

LG Düsseldorf
31 三月 2016 - Case No. 4a O 126/14

  1. Facts
    Since 28 August 2014 Claimant, a non-practicing entity, is the proprietor of the European patent EP J, originally granted to applicants “Y” and “C”, and allegedly covering part of the AMR-WB standard. Defendant is a company active in the telecommunications sector and which markets AMR-WB-based devices, inter alia devices produced by the Intervener in this case. After the adoption (“freeze”) of AMR-WB by ETSI on 10 April 2001, Claimant (who was not an ETSI member during the setting of the AMR-WB standard) made, on 29 May 2001, a commitment towards ETSI to grant licenses on FRAND terms inter alia for patent EP J. Claimant and its parent company “O” offer the SEP and all other patents of the same family to third parties by means of a portfolio license. Licensing conditions are accessible on the Internet and various producers in the sector have taken a license under these conditions.
    Prior to the submission of the patent infringement action on 23 July 2014 and to the advance payments on costs on 29 July 2014, Claimant alerted neither Defendant nor the manufacturer of the contested embodiments, who acted as an intervener in the present proceedings and became aware of the lawsuit in August 2014. By e-mails on 31 July and (as a reminder) on 9 December 2014, the first of which included a copy of the statement of claims and reached the defendant before it was formally served with the statement, Claimant notified the alleged patent violation to Defendant. After Defendant’s reply as of 12 January 2015, Claimant presented a draft licensing agreement to Defendant by letter as of 22 April 2015.
    On 9 December 2014, the Intervener declared willingness to take a license, inter alia for the patent-in-suit, provided infringement was found in court. It further declared that it would accept royalties determined by a court or arbitration tribunal. Claimant, in turn, offered a licensing agreement by letters as of 12 January 2015 and 25 March 2015 respectively. In the course of meetings taking place since 23 January 2014, [122] Claimant offered a license to the Intervener. On 23 February 2015 and on 2 April 2015 respectively, the Intervener made two licensing offers, including third party determination (arbitration panel or English court) of the amount of royalty, for the whole German patent portfolio of Claimant. An additional offer for a licensing agreement, limited to Germany and implementing a royalty of USD 0.0055 per patent by reference to the “WCDMA Patent Pools”, was made by the Intervener on 6 March 2015 and 24 September 2015 respectively, but it was finally refused by Claimant on 4 October 2015. Moreover, the Intervener provided a bank “guarantee of payment” as of 3 September 2015, being modified by letter as of 10 November 2015, and also rendered account of past and prospective sales in Germany since 2011.
  2. Court’s reasoning
    The considerations of the court are almost exactly the same as those in the case LG Düsseldorf, 31 March 2016 – Case No. 4a O 73/14.
    1. Market power and notice of infringement
      The court leaves open the question of whether the SEP conferred market power to Claimant since it did, in any case, find no abuse of such potential market power. [123] The court declared the Huawei rules applicable to claims for the recall of products. [124]
      As regards the Huawei requirement to alert the standard user of the infringement, the decision arrived at various findings of interest: Firstly, the judges found that—in “non-transitional” cases where the lawsuit was brought after the Huawei decision—the infringement notification has to take place before the action is filed, or the latest before the advance payment on costs is made. In transitional cases, such as the present case, a delayed infringement notification, taking place after the advance payment on costs as well as the submission of the court action, but before the statement of claims is served, is admissible. [125] Moreover, an infringement notification could possibly be omitted (in particular) if—as in the present case—the patent user already disposes of all necessary information and lacks willingness to license. [126] In non-transitional cases, however, the court doubts whether it is possible to rectify an omitted infringement notification without withdrawing the action. [127]
      Secondly, the court specified the minimum content of the infringement notification which has to indicate at least the number of the patent, the contested embodiments and the alleged acts of use performed by the standard implementer. The court did not decide whether additional information has to be provided, in particular regarding the interpretation of the patent claims or on which part of the standard the patent reads, but it stated that such additional information is not harmful to the patent proprietor. [128]
      Lastly, the court detailed on the particular situation of the Intervener, being Defendant’s manufacturer and supplier in the present case: Even though a FRAND defense successfully raised by the Intervener would in general also cover subsequent levels of the distribution chain, the Huawei requirements apply only indirectly to suppliers of contested embodiments which have not been sued themselves. Accordingly, the SEP proprietor is not obliged to notify the patent infringement to third parties, but as soon as a request to grant a license on FRAND terms is submitted the (adapted) Huawei procedure applies. [129] In casu, no separate infringement notice vis-à-vis the Intervener was required since the Intervener was, since August 2014, aware of the action having been brought.
    2. The SEP owner’s licensing offer
      Since the patent user did not express its willingness to conclude a licensing agreement in due time, the court found Claimant to comply with the Huawei requirement to submit a licensing offer on FRAND terms even though the offer was made in the course of the ongoing litigation. For transitional cases, as the present one, this holds true even if infringement notification and court action take place at the same time. [130]
      Besides, the court analyzed under which circumstances licensing conditions can be considered as FRAND according to Huawei. In the opinion of the judges, the more licensing agreements implementing comparable terms the SEP proprietor has already concluded, the stronger is the presumption that these conditions are FRAND, unless factual reasons—which are to be demonstrated by the patent user—justify modified terms. Recognized commercial practice in the relevant sector has to be considered when defining the admissible scope of the licensing agreement. If patent portfolios are usually covered by group or worldwide licenses in the relevant market, a (worldwide) portfolio license will be FRAND unless the circumstances of the specific case, e.g. the SEP proprietor’s market activity being limited to one geographic market, require a modification. [131] Accordingly, Claimant’s (worldwide) licensing offer to Defendant for the whole AMR-WB pool, demanding royalties of USD 0.26 per mobile device that implemented the standard and was produced or marketed in countries in which the SEP was in force, and complying with Claimants existing licensing practice (accessible on the Internet and already implemented in 12 licensing agreements) was declared FRAND. While the court considered that comparable licensing agreements “represent an important indicator of the adequacy of the license terms offered” it clarified that the significance of a patent pool as an indication of FRAND conformity is “limited”. Defendant and the Intervener failed to show that the portfolio comprised (non-used) non-SEPs as well. [132] They further failed to show that the pre-concluded licensing agreements provided no valid basis for comparison as they were concluded under the threat of pending litigation. [133]
      In order to fulfill the Huawei obligation of specifying the calculation of royalties, the SEP proprietor only has to provide the information necessary to determine the amount of royalties to be paid, e.g. the royalty per unit and the products covered by the license. While the court left undecided whether additional indications, e.g. concerning the FRAND character of the licensing offer, are necessary to comply with Huawei, it found that the SEP proprietor’s duty to inform should not be interpreted too strictly as FRAND does regularly encompass a range of values that will be fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory. [134]
      Claimant’s licensing offer presented to the Intervener was considered as being FRAND for the same reasons. Furthermore, the court emphasized that the contractual clause allowing for judicial review of the royalties offered could be a possible way to avoid abusive practices and to ensure that licensing offers correspond to FRAND terms. [135]
    3. The standard implementer’s reaction
      The court found that the more details the infringement notification contains, the less time remains for the standard user to examine the patent(s) at issue and to express its willingness to conclude a licensing agreement on FRAND terms. In the present case, Defendant did not comply with Huawei because it took more than five months to react and then only asked for proof of the alleged infringement. Given this excessive delay, the court did not decide whether Defendant’s reaction satisfied the Huawei requirements in terms of content. It denied the possibility to remedy a belated reaction by a subsequent declaration of willingness to license. On the contrary, and as a consequence of the patent user’s non-compliance, the SEP proprietor may continue the infringement action without violating Article 102 TFEU, but it still has to grant licenses on FRAND terms. [136] Whether the Intervener satisfied the ECJ criteria was left undecided. [137]
      The court made some further remarks of interest as to the Huawei requirements concerning the standard implementer: Firstly, it left undecided whether the obligation of the patent user to diligently respond is caused also by a (potentially) non-FRAND licensing offer. [138] Secondly, a standard user who has taken a license is not prevented from challenging validity and essentiality of the SEP afterwards, nor is the SEP proprietor entitled to terminate the license if such a challenge takes place. However, the standard implementer may not delay the (unconditional) conclusion of the licensing agreement until a final court decision on these issues has been rendered. While validity and standard-essentiality is litigated, the licensee remains obliged to pay royalties and it cannot request to insert into the licensing contract a clause entitling it to reclaim paid royalties in case of its success in court. [139] Thirdly, as, in the present case, no specific counter-offers satisfying FRAND terms were submitted and Defendant could not establish that Claimant had waived this requirement the court did not decide on whether a SEP proprietor is obliged to negotiate further although itself and the patent user have submitted FRAND offers. [140]
      None of the counter-offers of the Intervener were FRAND in terms of content. They were either inadmissibly limited to Germany, contained no precise royalty, were not submitted “promptly” because the standard user had waited until the oral pleadings in the parallel procedure, or they proposed royalties per device which the court considered as too low. [141] While it was therefore held to be irrelevant whether, in the first place, the Intervener duly declared its willingness to license, the court emphasized that the Intervener’s readiness to take a license only after the SEP infringement was determined in court did not satisfy the Huawei standard of conduct. [142]
      Moreover, the obligation imposed by Huawei to provide appropriate security and to render account was not fulfilled. While Defendant refrained from taking any of these actions, the Intervener waited several months after the counter-offers were refused in order to submit its bank “guarantee of payment”, which was not recognized as “appropriate security” due to its amount and its limitation to acts of use in Germany. [143] Neither was the Intervener’s initial proposal to have the security—if requested by Claimant—determined by an arbitration tribunal or by an English court accepted as an appropriate way to provide security. [144]
  3. Other important issues
    According to the court, the Huawei requirements apply to both non-practicing entities and other market participants. [145]
    Suing a network operator instead of the undertakings producing devices operating in the network constitutes (at least under the circumstances of this case and absent selective enforcement) no violation of competition law even though this strategy might aim at using the action against the network operator as a “lever” to obtain licensing commitments from the device suppliers. On the other hand, device manufacturers are entitled to a FRAND license as well and can raise the FRAND defense if such a license is not granted. In consequence, the court perceives a fair balance of interests as the SEP proprietor can choose on which level of the chain of production to sue while the undertakings in the chain of production can choose on which level to take a license. [146]
    Furthermore, no patent ambush-defense based on § 242 BGB could be raised because, firstly, Defendant and the Intervener could not substantiate the alleged patent ambush by “Y” and “C”, being the original SEP proprietors; secondly, they could not show that a different patent declaration conduct would have resulted in a different version of the standard excluding the patent-in-suit; thirdly, the alleged patent ambush would, arguably, have resulted only in a FRAND-licensing obligation and, fourthly, Claimant had declared its willingness to grant a license on FRAND terms anyway. [147]
  • [122] This is the date mentioned by the court although “23 January 2015” may seem more plausible and the date given by the court may result from a scrivener’s error.
  • [123] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 184
  • [124] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 187
  • [125] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 195 et seq.
  • [126] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 208-210
  • [127] Case No. 4a O 126/14, para. IV, 3, a, bb, 2, c
  • [128] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 193
  • [129] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 270 et seq.
  • [130] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 222 et seq.
  • [131] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 225 et seq.
  • [132] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 225 et seq. On the relevance of the SIPRO-pool royalty rates, cf. LG Düsseldorf, 31 March 2016 – Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 245-248. On the facts indicating that a worldwide license was appropriate LG Düsseldorf, 31 March 2016 – Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 249-255.
  • [133] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 234-242. The court argued that it is questionable in principle how much the threat of a claim for injunctive relief can (inadmissibly) affect license agreement negotiations, since the Orange Book case law of the BGH (German Federal Court of Justice), the Motorola decision of the European Commission, and now the CJEU judgment in the Huawei Technologies/ZTE Case could be and can be invoked against inappropriate demands that are in breach of antitrust law.
  • [134] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 256 et seq.
  • [135] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 279 et seq.
  • [136] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 214-220
  • [137] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 214-220; 278
  • [138] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 266
  • [139] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 185 et seq.; 262 et seq.
  • [140] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 264.
  • [141] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 291 et seq.
  • [142] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 278
  • [143] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 267 et seq.; 299 et seq.
  • [144] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 304
  • [145] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 189
  • [146] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 309-313
  • [147] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 317 et seq.

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 [148] . 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 [149] (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 [150] . 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 [152] . 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) [155] .
 

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 [164] . 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 [164] .

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. [165] 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. [166] The fact that a party fails to contribute in negotiations towards a FRAND agreement will regularly be considered to its detriment. [167] 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. [168]

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. [169] Otherwise, competition could be distorted, because the infringer would gain unfair advantages over implementers that have taken a licence in a timely manner. [169]

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. [173]

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. [184] 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 [185] . 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 [185] . 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 [186] . 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. [187]

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 [188] . 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 [190] .

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. [192] 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'. [192]

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 [200] . 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. [207]

What is more, Sisvel's claim for damages was not limited to the amount of a FRAND licensing rate ('licensing analogy'). [208] 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. [207] 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

  • [148] 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).
  • [149] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [150] 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).
  • [151] Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 28 April 2020, Case No. X ZR 35/18.
  • [152] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 5 May 2020, Case No. KZR 36/17.
  • [153] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17 (cited by ).
  • [154] Ibid, paras. 10-43.
  • [155] Ibid, para. 44.
  • [156] Ibid, paras. 48 et seqq.
  • [157] Ibid, para. 49.
  • [158] Ibid, para. 52.
  • [159] Ibid, para. 53.
  • [160] Ibid, para. 54.
  • [161] Ibid, para. 55.
  • [162] Ibid, para. 84.
  • [163] Ibid, paras. 86 et seqq.
  • [164] Ibid, para. 57.
  • [165] Ibid, para. 58.
  • [166] Ibid, para. 59.
  • [167] Ibid, para. 60.
  • [168] Ibid, para. 62.
  • [169] Ibid, para. 61.
  • [170] Ibid, para. 63.
  • [171] Ibid, para. 65.
  • [172] Ibid, para. 68.
  • [173] Ibid, paras. 66 and 68.
  • [174] Ibid, para. 69.
  • [175] Ibid, para. 69. See Nokia v Daimler, District Court of Duesseldorf, order dated 26 November 2020, Case No. 4c O 17/19.
  • [176] Ibid, paras. 70 and 71.
  • [177] Ibid, para. 71.
  • [178] Ibid, para. 72.
  • [179] Ibid, para. 73.
  • [180] Ibid, para. 74.
  • [181] Ibid, para. 76.
  • [182] Ibid, para. 77.
  • [183] Ibid, paras. 79 et seqq.
  • [184] Ibid, para. 83.
  • [185] Ibid, para. 87.
  • [186] Ibid, paras. 88 et seqq.
  • [187] Ibid, para. 89.
  • [188] Ibid, paras. 93 et seqq.
  • [189] Ibid, para. 95.
  • [190] Ibid, paras. 96-99.
  • [191] Ibid, paras. 102 et seqq.
  • [192] Ibid, para. 102.
  • [193] Ibid, paras. 108 et seqq.
  • [194] Ibid, para. 116.
  • [195] Ibid, para. 118.
  • [196] Ibid, paras. 124 et seqq.
  • [197] Ibid, para. 124.
  • [198] Ibid, para. 125.
  • [199] Ibid, para. 126.
  • [200] 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.
  • [201] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17, para. 107.
  • [202] Ibid, para. 56.
  • [203] Ibid, paras. 127 et seqq.
  • [204] Ibid, para. 130.
  • [205] Ibid, para. 131.
  • [206] Ibid, paras. 131 et seq.
  • [207] Ibid, para. 135.
  • [208] Ibid, paras. 134 et seqq.

Updated 6 六月 2019

飞利浦诉华硕

荷兰法院判决
7 五月 2019 - Case No. 200.221.250/01

A. 事实

本案涉及飞利浦——一家消费电子产品制造商,其同时持有一组被宣告为对实施由欧洲电信标准协会(ETSI)所发展的数项标准而言潜在必不可少的专利组合(以下称“标准必要专利”或“SEP”),与华硕——一家生产例如笔记本电脑,平板电脑和智能手机等无线设备的制造商间的纠纷。

飞利浦早先已向欧洲电信标准协会承诺,其将以公平、合理且无歧视(FRAND)的条款向标准实施人提供其所持有的标准必要专利。特别是于1998年时,飞利浦向欧洲电信标准协会提交了一项概括性的承诺,承诺其将依照FRAND条款向实施人提供其所持有的标准必要专利。

飞利浦于2013年时将其覆盖3G-UMTS和4G-LTE无线电信标准的专利组合的持有状态向华硕告知,并对华硕提出了许可要约。在后续双方之间进行的会议中,飞利浦进一步向华硕提供了有关其专利的更多详细信息,并且提供了权利要求对照表与其专利组合中各项专利与该标准之间的对应关系的相关信息。飞利浦还向华硕提交了其许可协议模板,其中包括飞利浦许可计划中许可费率的标准以及其相应的计算方式。

双方谈判于2015年间破裂,飞利浦于是基于其所持有的包含欧盟专利1 623 511(以下称“EP 511专利”)等在内的多项专利,于英国、法国及德国等欧盟司法管辖区内提起了侵权诉讼。飞利浦曾就EP 511专利作出声明,称此专利对3G-UMTS和4G-LTE标准而言具有潜在的标准必要性。英格兰暨威尔士高等法院并作出了先行裁决,确认了EP 511专利的有效性。

在荷兰,飞利浦于海牙地区法院(以下称“地区法院”)向华硕提起诉讼,请求包含核发禁令在内的多项主张。地区法院驳回了飞利浦针对EP 511专利核发禁令的请求 [209] 。飞利浦于是向海牙上诉法院(以下称“上诉法院”)提起上诉。

根据当前判决,上诉法院确认了EP 511的有效性和标准必要性,驳回了华硕基于《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条所提出的FRAND抗辩,并就华硕相关产品侵害涉案专利权的行为对其发出了禁令 [210]


B. 法院的论理

上诉法院驳回了华硕的专利无效性抗辩,确认了EP 511专利新颖性及创造性的存在 [211] 。此外,上诉法院认为该专利具备标准必要性,并且遭受侵权 [212]

上诉法院继续审查了华硕所提出的主张,即飞利浦提起侵权诉讼要求禁令救济的行为,违反了其对欧洲电信标准协会FRAND承诺的合同义务,并且因其行为未能符合欧洲联盟法院于华为诉中兴案裁决中的要求(即“华为框架义务”)而违反了《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条 [213] 。特别是,华硕主张飞利浦(a)没有按照欧洲电信标准协会知识产权政策的要求适当且及时地揭露关于EP 511专利的信息,并且(b)飞利浦并未遵守华为框架的要求,因其并没有针对其所提出的许可要约条款为何符合FRAND进行说明。

关于前项主张(a),上诉法院认为,飞利浦在EP 511专利获得核准的两年后才对其潜在标准必要性进行声明的行为,并未违反欧洲电信标准协会知识产权政策第4.1条所要求的对标准必要专利进行“及时披露”的合同义务。 从欧洲电信标准协会规范披露义务的一般目的出发,上诉法院认为,此义务存在的目的并非如华硕所主张的那样是为了赋予欧洲电信标准协会的参与者自由选择采纳成本最低的技术方案的权利,因为欧洲电信标准协会于发展各项标准时均是力求将最佳可行技术纳入标准的 [214] 。相反的,此项披露义务存在的目的其实在于降低标准实施人事后无法取得标准必要专利的风险 [215]

尽管如此,上诉法院认为,飞利浦所作出的概括性承诺已经足以履行其于欧洲电信标准协会知识产权政策下所应承担的义务。由此角度出发,上诉法院驳回了华硕所提出的关于飞利浦针对某些特定标准必要专利的延迟声明可能会导致过度宣告的论点,相反地,上诉法院认为,过早的披露才更有可能将事实上不具备标准必要性的专利错误地纳入欧洲电信标准协会的标准中 [216] 。此外,上诉法院指出,飞利浦所作出的概括性承诺并未违反《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条的规定,因为根据欧洲联盟委员会所发行的《关于横向限制的指南》指出,概括性的承诺也是一种在欧盟竞争法下可以被接受的对标准必要专利进行宣告的形式 [217]

在驳回了华硕第一个关于FRAND抗辩的主张后,上诉法院评估了双方在谈判过程中对华为框架要求的遵循状况。作为一个初步的观点,上诉法院指出,欧洲联盟法院对华为案所做出的判决并没有创造出一套一旦专利持有人没有逐一遵守就会自动构成对《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条违反的严格规范 [218] 。因此,对案件的具体情况以及当事各方的行为进行全面性的评估是有必要的。

接下来,上诉法院审查了飞利浦对华为框架中第一个要求——对侵权人进行适当通知——的遵守情况。上诉法院认为,飞利浦很显然已经践行了其对华硕进行通知的义务,因为根据该案各项记录显示,飞利浦在谈判过程中已经对华硕提交了可能涉及侵权的各项专利清单,说明了这些专利对哪些标准而言具备标准必要性,并且表达了其按照FRAND条款进行许可的意愿 [219] 。此外,在接下来的技术协商中,飞利浦更进一步提供了有关其专利组合和许可计划的多项技术性细节,其中包括了权利要求对照表以及其授与许可的标准费率 [220] 。然而,华硕却未能表现出其按照FRAND条款取得许可的意愿。上诉法院发现,双方的谈判总是由飞利浦发起,而华硕在这些谈判中并未由有能力对飞利浦的专利组合进行评估的技术专家代表进行谈判 [221] 。华硕在谈判中提出的技术性问题只是为了拖延谈判进行的借口,换句话说,正如上诉法院所称的那样,是“一种也被称为“反向专利挟持“的行为” [222]

尽管上诉法院认为截至目前为止华硕已经违反了其在华为框架下的义务,因此飞利浦有权寻求禁令救济,法院仍然继续就华为框架中其他义务的遵循状况进行进一步的讨论。上诉法院认为,飞利浦所提出的许可协议模板完全符合欧洲联盟法院的要求,因为它非常具体,并且清楚地解释了建议的费率以及该费率是如何计算得出的 [223] 。此外,上诉法院认为,华硕在飞利浦于德国提起诉讼后才提出许可反要约的行为本身并不会改变飞利浦已经践行了华为框架义务的结论,因此飞利浦有权寻求禁令救济 [224] 。最后,法院拒绝了华硕检阅飞利浦所签署的其他类似许可协议,以评估飞利浦是否遵守FRAND的要求。法院认为,无论是根据欧洲电信标准协会知识产权政策,或者《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条,又或者是华为框架,均未对此类请求提供依据 [225]

  • [209] Koninklijke Philips N.V. v. Asustek Computers INC, District Court of the Hague, 2017, Case No. C 09 512839 /HA ZA 16-712。
  • [210] Koninklijke Philips N.V. v. Asustek Computers INC, Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgment 7 May 2019, dated Case No. 200.221.250/01。
  • [211] 同上注, 段4.63, 4.68, 4.75, 4.80, 4.82, 4.93, 4.100, 及 4.117。
  • [212] 同上注, 段4.118及以下。
  • [213] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case-No. C-170/13。
  • [214] Koninklijke Philips N.V. v. Asustek Computers INC, Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgment 7 May 2019, dated Case No. 200.221.250/01, 段4.153及以下。
  • [215] 同上注, 段4.155及4.157。
  • [216] 同上注, 段 4.159。
  • [217] 同上注, 段 4.164。
  • [218] 同上注, 段 4.171。
  • [219] 同上注, 段 4.172。
  • [220] 同上注。
  • [221] 同上注, 段4.172-4.179。
  • [222] 同上注, 段 4.179。
  • [223] 同上注, 段 4.183。
  • [224] 同上注, 段 4.185。
  • [225] 同上注, 段4.202及以下。