在欧洲联盟法院华为诉中兴通信案判决后所做成的判例
gb jp cn

回到4iP Council主页

Case law search


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) [1] 。 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 [2]

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 [3] ,同时其也在德国等市场销售符合LTE标准的产品 [4]

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 [4] 。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 [5] 。于是,此项许可协议的要约未能达成最终协议 [5]

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 [6]

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 [7] 。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) [8] 。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 [9]

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 [10]

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 [11] 。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 [12] ,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 [13]

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 [14]

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 [15]

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” [16] 。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 [17] 。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 [18]

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” [19] 。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” [19] 。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 [20]

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 [21] 。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 [22] ,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 [23] 。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” [24]

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 [11] 。(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” [11]

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 [12] 。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 [13] 。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 [13]

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” [25]

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 [26]

 

  • [1] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 6 July 2015, 段 22。
  • [2] 同上注, 段 22。
  • [3] 同上注, 段 40。
  • [4] 同上注, 段 24。
  • [5] 同上注, 段 25。
  • [6] 同上注, 段 27。
  • [7] 同上注, 段 29 及以下。
  • [8] 同上注, 段 30 及以下。
  • [9] 同上注, 段 34 及以下。
  • [10] 同上注, 段 77。
  • [11] 同上注, 段 65。
  • [12] 同上注, 段 66。
  • [13] 同上注, 段 67。
  • [14] 同上注, 段 72及以下。
  • [15] 同上注, 段 42。
  • [16] 同上注, 段 43。
  • [17] 同上注, 段 46。
  • [18]  同上注, 段 47。
  • [19] 同上注, 段 53。
  • [20] 同上注, 段 53及以下。
  • [21] 同上注, 段 58 及以下。
  • [22] 同上注, 段 61。
  • [23] 同上注, 段 63。
  • [24] 同上注, 段 64。
  • [25] 同上注, 段 68。
  • [26] 同上注, 段 69。

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 [27] .

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 [28] .

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 [29] .

In first instance, the Court rejected Conversant’s claims, as it held that Conversant had not demonstrated the essentiality of the patents in suit [30] .

On appeal, Conversant solely asserted two out of the five patents asserted in first instance [31] . 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 [32] .

B. Court’s reasoning

Validity, Essentiality and Infringement

In first instance, Conversant alleged five patents to be essential and infringed by LG [27] . On appeal, both parties acknowledged that, for three of them, the essentiality was not sufficiently supported [33] .

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) [29] . 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 [34] .

Regarding the essentiality, Conversant had alleged that EP 210 was essential to both UMTS and LTE standards [35] and EP 330 was essential to the LTE standard [36] . The Court of Appeal rejected those claims by comparing the patent specifications to the technical specifications of the relevant standards [37] 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 [29] .

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 [38] .

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 [31] . 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 [29] .

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 [29] .

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 [39] : (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 [40] .

  • [27] Court of Appeal of Paris, judgement dated 16 April 2019, page 3.
  • [28] Ibidem.
  • [29] Ibid.
  • [30] Court of Appeal of Paris, judgement dated 16 April 2019, pages 5-6.
  • [31] Court of Appeal of Paris, judgement dated 16 April 2019, page 6.
  • [32] Court of Appeal of Paris, judgement dated 16 April 2019, pages 15-24.
  • [33] Court of Appeal of Paris, judgement dated 16 April 2019, page 15.
  • [34] Court of Appeal of Paris, judgement dated 16 April 2019, pages 15 and subsequent.
  • [35] Court of Appeal of Paris, judgement dated 16 April 2019, pages 19-21.
  • [36] Court of Appeal of Paris, judgement dated 16 April 2019, pages 23-24.
  • [37] Court of Appeal of Paris, judgement dated 16 April 2019, pages 19-21 and 23-24.
  • [38] Court of Appeal of Paris, judgement dated 16 April 2019, pages 24-25.
  • [39] Court of Appeal of Paris, judgement dated 16 April 2019, page 13
  • [40] Court of Appeal of Paris, judgement dated 16 April 2019, page 14

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 [41] . 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 [42] (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 [43] . 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 [45] . 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) [48] .
 

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 [57] . 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 [57] .

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. [58] 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. [59] The fact that a party fails to contribute in negotiations towards a FRAND agreement will regularly be considered to its detriment. [60] 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. [61]

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. [62] Otherwise, competition could be distorted, because the infringer would gain unfair advantages over implementers that have taken a licence in a timely manner. [62]

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. [66]

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. [77] 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 [78] . 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 [78] . 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 [79] . 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. [80]

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 [81] . 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 [83] .

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. [85] 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'. [85]

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 [93] . 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. [100]

What is more, Sisvel's claim for damages was not limited to the amount of a FRAND licensing rate ('licensing analogy'). [101] 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. [100] 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

  • [41] 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).
  • [42] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [43] 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).
  • [44] Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 28 April 2020, Case No. X ZR 35/18.
  • [45] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 5 May 2020, Case No. KZR 36/17.
  • [46] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17 (cited by ).
  • [47] Ibid, paras. 10-43.
  • [48] Ibid, para. 44.
  • [49] Ibid, paras. 48 et seqq.
  • [50] Ibid, para. 49.
  • [51] Ibid, para. 52.
  • [52] Ibid, para. 53.
  • [53] Ibid, para. 54.
  • [54] Ibid, para. 55.
  • [55] Ibid, para. 84.
  • [56] Ibid, paras. 86 et seqq.
  • [57] Ibid, para. 57.
  • [58] Ibid, para. 58.
  • [59] Ibid, para. 59.
  • [60] Ibid, para. 60.
  • [61] Ibid, para. 62.
  • [62] Ibid, para. 61.
  • [63] Ibid, para. 63.
  • [64] Ibid, para. 65.
  • [65] Ibid, para. 68.
  • [66] Ibid, paras. 66 and 68.
  • [67] Ibid, para. 69.
  • [68] Ibid, para. 69. See Nokia v Daimler, District Court of Duesseldorf, order dated 26 November 2020, Case No. 4c O 17/19.
  • [69] Ibid, paras. 70 and 71.
  • [70] Ibid, para. 71.
  • [71] Ibid, para. 72.
  • [72] Ibid, para. 73.
  • [73] Ibid, para. 74.
  • [74] Ibid, para. 76.
  • [75] Ibid, para. 77.
  • [76] Ibid, paras. 79 et seqq.
  • [77] Ibid, para. 83.
  • [78] Ibid, para. 87.
  • [79] Ibid, paras. 88 et seqq.
  • [80] Ibid, para. 89.
  • [81] Ibid, paras. 93 et seqq.
  • [82] Ibid, para. 95.
  • [83] Ibid, paras. 96-99.
  • [84] Ibid, paras. 102 et seqq.
  • [85] Ibid, para. 102.
  • [86] Ibid, paras. 108 et seqq.
  • [87] Ibid, para. 116.
  • [88] Ibid, para. 118.
  • [89] Ibid, paras. 124 et seqq.
  • [90] Ibid, para. 124.
  • [91] Ibid, para. 125.
  • [92] Ibid, para. 126.
  • [93] 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.
  • [94] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17, para. 107.
  • [95] Ibid, para. 56.
  • [96] Ibid, paras. 127 et seqq.
  • [97] Ibid, para. 130.
  • [98] Ibid, para. 131.
  • [99] Ibid, paras. 131 et seq.
  • [100] Ibid, para. 135.
  • [101] 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 [102] 。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 [103]


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 [104] 。此外,上诉法院认为该专利具备标准必要性,并且遭受侵权 [105]

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 [106] 。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 [107] 。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 [108]

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 [109] 。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 [110]

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 [111] 。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 [112] 。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 [113] 。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 [114] 。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” [115]

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 [116] 。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 [117] 。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 [118]

  • [102] Koninklijke Philips N.V. v. Asustek Computers INC, District Court of the Hague, 2017, Case No. C 09 512839 /HA ZA 16-712。
  • [103] 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。
  • [104] 同上注, 段4.63, 4.68, 4.75, 4.80, 4.82, 4.93, 4.100, 及 4.117。
  • [105] 同上注, 段4.118及以下。
  • [106] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case-No. C-170/13。
  • [107] 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。
  • [108] 同上注, 段4.155及4.157。
  • [109] 同上注, 段 4.159。
  • [110] 同上注, 段 4.164。
  • [111] 同上注, 段 4.171。
  • [112] 同上注, 段 4.172。
  • [113] 同上注。
  • [114] 同上注, 段4.172-4.179。
  • [115] 同上注, 段 4.179。
  • [116] 同上注, 段 4.183。
  • [117] 同上注, 段 4.185。
  • [118] 同上注, 段4.202及以下。