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 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 16 六月 2021

慕尼黑一区地区法院康文森诉戴姆勒案

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

A. 事实

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

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

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

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

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

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

戴姆勒于2019年7月29日作出回应,并表示其正与

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

法院在当前判决 [27] 中做出了包含对戴姆勒出发禁令在内的多项有利于康文森的裁决。
 

B. 法院的论理

法院认为,本案涉案专利为实施4G / LTE标准时所必要,并且该专利遭受了侵权行为 [28] ,康文森所提出的索赔主张因此而被法院准许。

康文森就关于禁令救济以及召回并销毁侵权产品的诉讼主张也应该被准许。康文森对戴姆提起侵权诉讼的行为既不会构成《欧洲联盟运作条约》(TFEU)第102条所规定对市场支配地位的滥用行为(以下称“竞争法上抗辩”,参见下段第 1 项),也没有违反其因欧洲电信标准协会专利政策所应承担的合同义务(以下称“合同法上抗辩”,参见下段第 2 项) [29]
 

1. 竞争法上抗辩
市场支配地位

法院认为,康文森具备《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条涵义下的市场支配地位 [30]

享有专利所授与的独占权本身并不会造成市场支配地位的形成 [31] 。当一项专利对符合标准发展组织所发展出的标准(或事实上的标准)而言具备技术上的必要性,并且在(下游)市场提供的产品中并没有可以替代该标准的技术时 [32] ,市场支配地位才会形成。在法院看来,此一原则适用于本案涉案专利 [33]

在本案中,可以排除康文森市场支配地位的特殊情况并不存在。法院认为,单就康文森向欧洲电信标准协会做出FRAND承诺,从而确立其必须依照FRAND条款与条件授予许可的义务这一事实本身,并不会排除康文森的市场支配地位,并且,此一问题决定性的关键在于标准必要专利持有人是否真正履行了这一义务 [34] 。此外,潜在实施人也可以选择从Avanci平台获得本案涉案专利许可的这一替代途径也并不会对康文森的市场支配地位造成限制 [35]
 

未构成对市场支配地位的滥用

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

在实施人已经使用了受(专利)保护的标准化技术的情况下,对标准必要专利持有人行为的评估则需要采取更全面的综合分析,一方面需要考虑知识产权所享有的是宪法所赋予的强大保障,另一方面也需要将实施人可以实施标准的利益纳入考量,二者之间必须相互平衡 [36] 。在这种情况下,不仅只是私人利益,也应该将公共利益纳入考量范围之中 [37] 。法院强调,公共利益不应仅仅被视为“单纯的使用标准化技术各私人利益的总和”,而同时也应该包含对公众利益实质性的保护以保障知识产权的完整性并确保有效的执行力 [37]

考虑到标准必要专利在“本质上所具备的特殊性”,尤其是在通信领域,法院采取了与欧洲联盟法院(CJEU)华为诉中兴案判决(以下称“华为案判决”) [38] 一致的观点,认为对标准必要专利持有人施加某些特定的行为义务是合理且正当的。其原因基本上在于,与其他“普通”专利不同,标准必要专利是在专利持有人无需采取任何进一步行动的情况下,因该专利被纳入某一标准中而在市场上被确立 [39] 。因此,对于标准必要专利而言,通过授予专利技术的发明人在特定期间内的独占性的排他性权利来确保专利技术的发明人在市场上的竞争优势的需求,相较于非标准必要专利而言也就并不那么强烈 [40]

尽管如此,法院仍然明确表示,华为案判决对标准必要专利持有人所施加的行为义务仅存在于“严肃看待而不仅仅是口头上表示”愿意签署许可协议的实施人身上 [41] 。因此,一项基于对滥用市场支配地位的指控的抗辩只有在想要使用或者已经在未经授权的情况下使用专利的实施人愿意取得FRAND许可,并且在其与标准必要专利持有人进行许可谈判的整个过程中没有使用拖延战术的情况下,才有可能成立 [42] 。法院阐明到,华为案判决的关键概念在于谈判双方才是最有资格在公平、平衡且即时的许可谈判中确定 FRAND者,而是否能达成协议则将取决于谈判双方受为达成协议的实际“真诚动机”驱使的积极性参与 [43]
 

侵权通知

在对双方的行为进行审视后,法院认为,通过发送了日期为2018年12月18日的信函,康文森已经履行了就其标准必要专利遭受侵权情事对戴姆勒进行通知的义务,此信函的内容包含了与其专利组合相关的足够信息,其中也包括了数个各别专利所对应的权利要求对照表 [44] 。至于康文森是否充分解释了本信函中所附带的许可要约背后的许可费究竟是如何计算的则无关紧要,因为在此一阶段,康文森甚至还没有向戴姆勒提出许可要约的义务 [45]
 

取得许可的意愿

另一方面,法院认定戴姆勒不具备从康文森处取得许可的意愿。相反地,法院发现了一个“特别明显不具备取得许可意愿的案例” [46]

在内容方面,实施人必须“清楚”且“明确”地表明其愿意依照“任何实际上符合FRAND的条款”与标准必要专利持有人达成许可协议,并且随后以一种“目的性导向”且“积极”的态度来进行许可谈判 [47] 。相反地,在对(第一次)侵权通知做出回应时,仅仅是对侵权通知作出表达愿意考虑签署许可协议或就是否以及在什么条件下才考虑取得许可进行谈判是不够的 [47]

法院阐明,关于实施人是否具备取得许可的意愿的评估,需要通过对截至侵权诉讼程序中口头听证程序结束为止的所有案例事实进行全面性的分析来确定 [48] 。实施人是否表达出取得许可的意愿这一问题,并不能通过对实施人行为的“形式性的简略印象”来回答;更重要的是,实施人不能持续保持被动状态,直到在实施人眼中看来标准必要专利持有人已经履行了其义务时 [48]

此外,法院强调,谈判进行中的时机是在评估实施人是否具备取得许可的意愿时必须纳入考量范围的一项因素 [49] 。否则,实施人将会缺乏及时且积极地参与谈判的动力 [50] 。关于即时的概念法院认为严格的期限无法被设定,仍需要视个案具体情况逐一评估 [51] 。然而,已被告知侵权的实施人有义务通过与标准必要专利持有人签署 FRAND 许可而尽快使对该专利的非法使用合法化 [51]

此外,法院认为,实施人是否以及在何时向标准必要专利持有人提出许可反要约也可以作为实施人是否具备取得许可意愿的“重要指标” [49] 30。在侵权诉讼程序开始后才提出的许可反要约在通常情况下是不被认可的 [52] 。法院认为,实施人仅仅为了“做表面功夫”而进行谈判,然后透过提出许可反要约来对在侵权诉讼中可能被定罪的劣势进行“紧急刹车”,这种行为是不应该被允许的 [50] 。仅有在实施人自谈判开始时就愿意,并且始终积极地参与与专利持有人间的讨论这种特殊的情况下,在诉讼审判期间提出的许可反要约才可以被纳入对判断是否具备取得许可意愿的考量范围中 [53]

承上所述,法院认为,一般而言,实施人最初采用的拖延战术是无法在稍后的某一个时间点不费吹灰之力而被“消除”的 [54] 。尽管如此,对取得许可的意愿迟来的表述并不会“自动”排除实施人在侵权诉讼程序中提出“FRAND抗辩”的权利:无论是否出现这种情况,都还是应该根据具体个案在历史谈判过程中的各别情况逐一进行判断 [55]

在此背景下,考虑到戴姆勒的整体行为,法院得出了结论——尽管对戴姆勒而言,以符合FRAND要求的原则行事实际上有可能并且是合理的 [56] ,而戴姆勒仍然选择了采用拖延战术 [57]

法院认为,戴姆勒将康文森导引至其供应商的行为,并未表达出其愿意依照“任何实际上符合FRAND 的条款”来取得许可的意愿,反而是明确地展现出其本身并不准备从康文森处取得许可的态度 [58] 。戴姆勒与其供应商之间可能存在的关于第三方知识产权的赔偿条款在此处并不能发挥任何作用,因为戴姆勒的行为独立地造成了对康文森所持有的专利的侵权行为,因此必须为此承担相应的责任 [58]

另一个显示出戴姆勒并不具备取得许可的意愿的征兆是,戴姆勒花了超过两个月的时间才通知康文森其并未收到那一份本应该被附加于康文森在2020年7月5日发送的电子邮件中但因过失而未被添加的专利组合清单 [59] 。法院同样批评了戴姆勒此前从未针对康文森所提供的权利要求对照表向康文森提出任何问题,反而却是在侵权诉讼审判过程中才对相关专利的质量提出质疑此一事实 [60]

法院在戴姆勒於2020年7月27日所作出的回覆中,還發現了另一个“重大性指標”顯示出戴姆勒並不具備取得許可的意愿,在此回覆中,戴姆勒明确表示其签署许可協議的意愿僅限于尚未被许可或者由不愿自行向康文森取得许可的供应商處所購買的產品 [61] 。法院對於戴姆勒将其供应商的“不具備取得許可的意愿”設定為其己身与康文森签署许可協議的条件這一選擇特別反感 [62]

此外,戴姆勒没有针对康文森在2019年12月4日举行的当事方会议上所提出的使用替代性争议解决机制,特别是以仲裁程序来确定FRAND许可费的提议做出回应,这一事实也被法院认为是戴姆勒方并不具备取得许可意愿的表现 [63]

法院指出,另一个“明显”展现出戴姆勒不具备取得许可意愿且采用拖延战术的迹象在于,于2019年12月4日双方间的讨论结束以后,尽管戴姆勒曾暗示其已与其供应商讨论过有关由供应商直接向康文森取得许可此一潜在选项,然而实际上戴姆勒并未组织其所有一级供应商就此议题召开会议讨论 [64]
 

许可反要约

随后,法院指出,戴姆勒于2020年4月8日所提出的许可反要约并无法弥补戴姆勒在此之前表现出的取得许可意愿缺失 [65] 。更有甚者,这更像是一种“不在场证明” [56]

在法院看来,由于此一许可反要约是在康文森对戴姆勒提出许可要约后的一年零四个月以后才提出的,此一许可反要约的发出是迟延的 [65] 。更重要的是,此一许可反要约是戴姆勒在侵权诉讼程序进行的过程中才提出的,如前所述,此一行为是不被认可的,因为在此之前戴姆勒很显然是不愿意取得许可的 [66] 。法院近一步阐明,戴姆勒以康文森未提供相关的必要信息为借口来正当化其延迟回覆的行为是站不住脚的,因为该许可反要约仅基于公开且可供公众使用的数据撰写,而并未进行任何进一步的详细分析;因此,该许可反要约本来可以在戴姆勒收到康文森初次许可要约后不久的一个更早的时间点发出 [67]

除此之外,法院也认为,戴姆勒所提出的许可反要约在内容上“显然并不符合FRAND” [68] 。根据概括性的分析,戴姆勒所提出的许可费被认为明显是过低的 [69]

法院指出,FRAND费率是一个数值范围,并且有多种可以用于计算 FRAND许可费的方法 [69] 。法院采用了所谓的“自上而下法”(此一方法康文森与戴姆勒双方都曾经使用过) [70] 。在检视过戴姆勒提出的按照“自上而下法”而进行的计算后,法院认为,将所有向欧洲电信标准协会作出声明其为标准必要专利的专利总数作为确定康文森所持有的与LTE相关的标准必要专利所占份额的基础这种做法并不符合FRAND [71] 。考虑到并非所有被声明为标准必要专利的专利实际上都确实属于标准必要专利(这种现象被称为“过度声明”),使用被声明的专利总数作为计算基础将有利于戴姆勒:如果采用的是真正属于LTE标准必要专利的(较低)专利数量做为计算的基础,则康文森所持有的标准专利数量就其本身而言将会变得更高 [71]

此外,法院也指出,采用车载信息控制单元的平均采购价格作为计算基础并不是在FRAND下适当的许可费计算基础 [72] 。标准必要专利的价值是通过许可费而体现的,而该许可费与所提供服务的价值应符合比例原则 [72] 。法院认为,在本案中,通过在戴姆勒汽车上提供支持LTE技术的相关功能以及戴姆勒汽车的消费者对这些功能的使用而创造了经济价值 [72] 。因此,在此处真正相关的是戴姆勒的消费者对因为LTE技术而得以在车辆上实现的各项功能所赋予的价值 [72] 。戴姆勒向供应商支付的车载信息控制单元的采购价格并不能反映该项价值 [72]
 

供应商提出的FRAND抗辩 / 许可层级

法院进一步阐明,戴姆勒不能援引其供应商(据称的)具备直接从康文森处取得许可的意愿做为其FRAND抗辩 [73]

如果一个实施人在声明了自己具备取得许可意愿的同时,也表示了希望该许可的授与可以在其供应商层级进行,则其有义务以书面形式全面地披露其产品中包含了哪些符合标准的元件,以及哪些供应商向其提供了哪些对应的元件 [74] 。如果此一信息披露义务并没有被履行,正如同本案的情况一样,则实施人要求在其供应商层级别进行许可的请求与实施人表示愿意与自己与标准必要专利持有人签署许可协议的声明彼此矛盾,因此,属于恶意行为(见德国民法典第242条) [75] 。在这种情况下,法院明确表示,实施人仍然有义务以一种及时且有目的性的态度积极地与标准必要专利持有人进行双边谈判,即便在实施人已经向标准必要专利持有人提供上述信息后,仍应该同时积极参与促进在供应商层级相关许可机制的建立 [76] 。并且,在与标准必要专利持有人的双边谈判过程中,实施人可以要求在许可协议中包含一项排除对供应商已取得许可的组件双重支付许可费的条款 [76]

承上所述,法院認為,康文森要求由戴姆勒來取得許可的做法並没有構成滥用或歧视性行為 [77]

法院认为,關於在供应链中對标准必要专利的许可应遵循所谓的“所有人均有權要求取得许可”或者是“所有人均有權使用许可”的作法这一基礎性问题,在此无需被回答 [78] 。在标准必要专利持有人与终端设备制造商之间的法律纠纷中,从竞争法的角度而言,只要标准必要专利持有人在诉讼中所追求達成的目标並不会将供应商完全排除在市场之外便已足夠;当供应商通过由终端设备制造商签署的许可協議建立的“委託製造”权而被授予对标准化技术的使用权时,情况正是如此,正如同此處康文森所提供的那样 [78] 。供应商是否有權要求單獨取得许可則是一个不同的问题,而這個問題可能可以在标准必要专利持有人与供应商之间的另外的訴訟程序中被提出 [79]

法院补充到,标准必要专利持有人有权自由决定对供应链中的哪个侵权者向法院提起诉讼 [80] 。该自由选择权源自于宪法对财产权的保障,以及专利作为一种排他性权利的本质 [81] 。 法院认为,尽管在汽车行业的普遍做法是当零部件被出售给汽车制造商时不受第三方权利的限制,然而这并会不因此使康文森要求戴姆勒取得许可的行为成为竞争法上的滥用行为 [82] 。终端设备制造商与其供应商间的各别协议仅具有双边(合同)效力而不能损害第三方的法律地位 [82] 。特别是,此类条款并不能限制标准必要专利持有人选择向供应链中哪个层级的实施人主张其专利权的权利 [83] 。法院指出,鉴于附加技术的整合符合戴姆勒进入新市场与吸引消费者群的经济利益,从竞争法上的角度而言,汽车行业是否有必要放弃其现有的做法并不重要 [83]

在此背景下,法院同时阐明,只要是侵权诉讼仅针对终端设备制造商发动,标准必要专利持有人对供应商并没有履行华为案判决所确定的义务 [84] 。因此,参与此类诉讼的供应商不能以例如略过单独向供应商发送侵权通知等理由而主张标准必要专利持有人滥用其市场支配地位 [85] 。法院否定了标准必要专利持有人应承担这种全面性的通知义务,因为尝试在多层次的复杂供应链中找出所有可能牵涉到的供应商既不可行也不合理 [86]

法院认为,关于标准必要专利持有人拒绝直接对供应商授与许可是否会构成对其市场支配地位的滥用这一问题,应视竞争法上的一般性原则而定 [87] 。在本案中,法院并没有发现充足的理由可以支撑这种滥用行为的成立 [87] 。法院不认为若是供应商没有取得一份专属于自己的双边许可协议,那么其就无法享有权利或将面临法律上的不确定性 [88] 。然而,取得一份专属于自己的双边许可协议将赋予供应商相较于通过“委托制造权”所取得者更广泛的经营自由,从而更能契合其商业利益的这一事实,在供应商对标准充分的使用权仍然可以通过“委托制造权”而被保障的情况下,此问题便与标准必要专利持有人及终端设备制造商间的诉讼程序没有任何相关性了 [89] 。于此范围内,法院同时指出,以“委托制造权”为基础的供应链内部合作在现实中广泛存在且十分普遍,并且也得到了欧盟相关法律的支持(见欧洲联盟委员会12 月 18 日关于与欧洲联盟条约第 85 (1) 条有关分包协议的评估的通知,OJ C 1,1979 年 1 月 3 日) [89]

最后,法院驳回了戴姆勒方关于康文森与Avanci平台的其他成员勾结,通过排除实施人对相关标准的使用而对实施人为具体歧视行为的指控 [90] 。法院并没有发现任何迹象表明此种情况确实存在,相反地,法院强调了专利池通常被认为具有促进竞争的效果,尤其是在欧盟法律体系之下(详见关于欧洲联盟运作条约第 101 条应用于技术转让协议的指南第245段;2014/C 89/03) [90]
 

2. 合同法上抗辩

法院进一步指出,戴姆勒无法因其被授与FRAND许可而引用合同法上的抗辩以对抗康文森的禁令救济主张,因为此种主张并不存在 [91] 。戴姆勒曾经主张,根据康文森对欧洲电信标准协会所作出的FRAND承诺,康文森不被允许向法院提出禁令救济主张。

法院认为,欧洲电信标准协会的FRAND承诺并未创造出与欧盟竞争法(特别是《欧洲联盟运作条约》第 102 条)规定下所应遵守或享有者不同的义务或权利,而在本案中,康文森已经满足了这些要求 [92] 。在法律上,欧洲电信标准协会的FRAND承诺是根据法国法律所规定的为第三方利益所签订的合同(’stipulation pour l’autrui’),其中包含了标准必要专利持有人必须在稍后时间点授予 FRAND 许可这项具有约束力的承诺 [93] 。然而,关于许可协商的进行以及相对应的义务的内容及范围应按华为案判决所创立的规则来解释,这些规则包括了依据《欧洲联盟运作条约》第 102 条所制定的行为准则 [93] 。事实上,欧洲电信标准协会的FRAND承诺实现了在《欧洲联盟运作条约》第 102 条的规定下提供对标准的使用权的要求,同时也支持采用统一的行为标准 [93] 。在法院看来,法国法律不能创设其他进一步的行为义务,因为法国法律也必须按照欧盟法律的精神来进行解释 [93]
 

C. 其他重要问题

最后,基于比例原则的考量,法院采取了没有理由限制康文森禁令救济主张的观点 [94] 。根据德国法律,比例原则是一项具备宪法位阶的一般性法律原则,如果被告在审判中根据此项原则提出了相应的反对意见,则在审查是否核准禁令救济时也应将此原则纳入考量范围之中 [94] 。德国联邦法院(Bundesgerichtshof)也认可在实施人将遭受的损害因为专利持有人行使其排他性权利时违反诚信原则而无法被合理化的情况下,禁令将可能无法立即被执行(详见2016 年 5 月 10 日’Wärmetauscher’案裁决,案件编号 X ZR 114/13) [94] 。然而,在法院看来,戴姆勒在本次诉讼中并未就任何相关事实进行抗辩 [94]
 

  • [27] Conversant v Daimler, District Court of Munich I, 30 October 2020, Case-No. 21 O 11384/19 (cited by juris)。
  • [28] 同上注,段122-265。
  • [29] 同上注,段285。
  • [30] 同上注,段286。
  • [31] 同上注,段288。
  • [32] 同上注,段287及以下。
  • [33] 同上注,段291及以下。
  • [34] 同上注,段295。
  • [35] 同上注,段296。
  • [36] 同上注,段299。
  • [37] 同上注,段300。
  • [38] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13。
  • [39] Conversant v Daimler, District Court of Munich I, 30 October 2020, Case-No. 21 O 11384/19, 段301。
  • [40] 同上注,段301。
  • [41] 同上注,段307。
  • [42] 同上注,段308。
  • [43] 同上注,段302及308。
  • [44] 同上注,段323及以下。
  • [45] 同上注,段324。然而,法院对于康文森仅提及英国高等法院在无限星球诉华为案中使用的计算方法是否足以解释其向戴姆勒所提供的费率表示怀疑。
  • [46] 同上注,段309。
  • [47] 同上注,段310。
  • [48] 同上注,段316。
  • [49] 同上注,段311。
  • [50] 同上注,段312。
  • [51] 同上注,段320。
  • [52] 同上注,段312及316。
  • [53] 同上注,段315。
  • [54] 同上注,段317及以下。
  • [55] 同上注,段321。
  • [56] 同上注,段357。
  • [57] 同上注,段322及358。
  • [58] 同上注,段328。
  • [59] 同上注,段331及336。
  • [60] 同上注,段332。
  • [61] 同上注,段334及336。
  • [62] 同上注,段335。
  • [63] 同上注,段337。
  • [64] 同上注,段338。
  • [65] 同上注,段339。
  • [66] 同上注,段340。
  • [67] 同上注,段355及以下。
  • [68] 同上注,段341及354。
  • [69] 同上注,段341。
  • [70] 同上注,段341及348。
  • [71] 同上注,段352。
  • [72] 同上注,段353。
  • [73] 同上注,段360。
  • [74] 同上注,段362。
  • [75] 同上注,段362及364。
  • [76] 同上注,段363。
  • [77] 同上注,段365。
  • [78] 同上注,段366。
  • [79] 同上注,段367。
  • [80] 同上注,段368及382。
  • [81] 同上注,段368。
  • [82] 同上注,段370。
  • [83] 同上注,段372。
  • [84] 同上注,段373及376-378。
  • [85] 同上注,段373。
  • [86] 同上注,段373及382。
  • [87] 同上注,段373及379。
  • [88] 同上注,段374。
  • [89] 同上注,段375。
  • [90] 同上注,段380。
  • [91] 同上注,段384。
  • [92] 同上注,段384及以下。
  • [93] 同上注,段385。
  • [94] 同上注,段269。

Updated 3 二月 2020

Philips v Wiko

OLG Karlsruhe
30 十月 2019 - Case No. 6 U 183/16

A. Facts

The Claimant, Philips, holds patents declared as (potentially) essential to the practice of wireless telecommunications standards (Standard Essential Patents or SEPs) developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), including SEPs reading on the UMTS and LTE standards. Philips committed towards ETSI to make its SEPs accessible to standard users on Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions.

The Defendant is the German subsidiary of the Wiko group of companies, which has its headquarters in France (Wiko). Wiko sells mobile phones implementing the LTE standard in Germany.

In October 2014, Philips informed the parent company of the Wiko group about its SEP portfolio, but did not receive a response. In July 2015, Philips shared a draft licensing agreement for its SEP portfolio as well as claim charts referring to several of its SEPs with the parent company of the Wiko group, which again did not react at all. In September 2015, Philips shared further technical details regarding its SEPs.

On 19 October 2015, Philips brought an infringement action against Wiko before the District Court of Mannheim based on one of its SEPs, requesting for injunctive relief, information and rendering of accounts, destruction and recall of infringing products from the market as well as a declaratory judgment confirming Wiko’s liability for damages on the merits.

On the next day, 20 October 2015, Wiko sent a letter to Philips, in which it declared its willingness to enter into negotiations with the latter for a licence covering ‘valuable’ patents. In August 2016, during the course of the pending infringement proceedings, Wiko made a counteroffer to Philips. Philips did not accept this offer. Subsequently, Wiko provided security to Philips for the use of its patents, calculated on basis of its counteroffer.

By judgment dated 25 November 2016 [95] , the District Court of Mannheim granted Philips’ claims almost to the full extent. Wiko appealed the District Court’s judgement. In addition, by way of a counterclaim, Wiko requested disclosure of existing licensing agreements signed by Philips with similarly situated licensees (comparable agreements).

With the present judgment [96] , the Higher District Court of Karlsruhe (Court) overturned the ruling of the District Court in part. In detail, the Court confirmed Philips’ claims for information and the rendering of accounts as well as Wiko’s liability for damages on the merits. The Court, however, rejected Philips’ claims for injunctive relief, destruction and recall of infringing products from the market.

Apart from that, the Court also rejected Wiko’s counterclaim regarding the production of comparable agreements in the proceedings.


B. Court’s reasoning

The Court confirmed that Wiko’s products infringe the patent in suit [97] .

Contrary to the view taken previously by the District Court, the Court found, however, that Article 102 of the Treaty for the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) prevents Philips from enforcing the claims for injunctive relief as well as the recall and destruction of infringing products asserted in the infringement proceedings for the time being [98] . In the Court’s eyes, Philips had failed to meet the conduct obligations established by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) in the matter Huawei v ZTE [99] (Huawei framework or obligations) [100] .

Huawei framework

The Court explained that SEP holder’s failure to meet its Huawei obligations will – as a rule – render an infringement action resulting in an exclusion of the implementer from a downstream market (action for injunctive relief and/or recall and destruction of products) abusive in terms of Article 102 TFEU [101] . This will, however, not be the case, when the implementer himself fails to fulfil its duties under the Huawei framework; if the implementer acts in bad faith as an ‘unwilling’ licensee, then SEP holder’s Huawei obligations are ‘suspended’ [101] . As a result, asserting the rights to injunctive relief and/or the destruction and recall of infringing products in court could then be considered as a justified reaction of the SEP holder to the implementer’s unwillingness to enter into a FRAND licence [101] .

Having said that, the Court expressed the view that the parties can remedy potential flaws in their conduct under the Huawei judgment and/or even fulfil their Huawei obligations for the first time during the course of pending infringement proceedings [102] . The Court noted that in Huawei v ZTE, the CJEU did not require that the parties fulfil all conduct obligations established prior to the initiation of court proceedings [103] . In the Court’s eyes, denying the parties such possibility is not compatible either with the general principle of proportionality known to European law, nor with the German civil procedural law, according to which courts need to consider all facts relevant for their decision-making raised in the proceedings until the end of the oral arguments [104] .

Accordingly, an infringement action that did not give rise to any antitrust concerns at the time it was filed, can be considered as abusive at a later point in time, if the situation significantly changed, e.g. the implementer fulfilled its Huawei obligations in the meantime [105] . Vice versa, an action of an abusive nature can later on be ‘corrected’, if the patent holder performs its duties under the Huawei framework during the course of the pending proceedings [105] .

In the Court’s view, a SEP holder seeking to remedy (or fulfil for the first time) obligations under the Huawei framework after the initiation of infringement proceedings must make sure that pressure-free licensing negotiations between the parties are enabled, as required by the CJEU in Huawei v ZTE [106] . For this, the patent holder must use procedural tools available under German law, particularly a motion for suspension of the trial [106] . The SEP holder can also propose a consensual stay of the proceedings, especially when a parallel nullity action against the patent in suit is pending before the Federal Patent Court [106] . In case such a motion is filed, the Court expects that a ‘willing’ implementer will consent to a suspension of the proceedings [106] .

On the other hand, the Court pointed out that fulfilment of Huawei obligations by the implementer after the beginning of infringement proceedings does not necessarily lead to a dismissal of the claims asserted by the SEP holder [107] . Indeed, if the implementer meets its Huawei duties at a very late point in time in the proceedings (e.g. shortly before the closing of the oral arguments), the Court could eventually neglect this fact in its decision [108] . This way, delays can be avoided. In this context, the Court also made clear that the implementer is not in a position to cause a unilateral suspension of the proceedings; in contrast to the opposite case (that is cases, in which a stay of the proceedings is suggested by the claimant), the SEP holder will usually not be required to agree to a suspension of the proceedings proposed by the implementer, in order to allow pressure-free negotiations to take place [108] . Insofar, the implementer bears the risk that the fulfilment of its obligations under the Huawei framework in the course of a pending infringement trial will have no impact [108] .

Notification of infringement

Looking at the specific conduct of the parties in the present case, the Court found that Philips had fulfilled its obligation to notify Wiko about the infringement of the SEP in suit prior to the commencement of the infringement proceedings.

The Court confirmed that a notification addressed to the parent company within a group of companies will usually be sufficient under the Huawei framework [109] . In terms of content, the Court was satisfied by the fact that Philips’ letter from July 2015 named the patent in suit as well as the relevant part of standard document implementing the technical teachings of this patent [110] . The Court explained that the notification does not have to contain (further) information required for a final assessment of the validity and essentiality of the patent in suit [110] . Accordingly, the SEP holder is not obliged to share claims charts customarily used in SEP licensing negotiations with the implementer along with the notification of infringement [110] .

Willingness to enter into a licence

The Court further found that Wiko had sufficiently met its obligation to express its willingness to negotiate a licence with Philips [111] .

The Court agreed with the assessment of the District Court that Wiko’s initial reaction to Philips’ notification in July 2015 by letter dated 20 October 2015 was belated. According to the Court, the time available to the implementer for expressing its willingness to enter into negotiations for a licence will – as a rule – not exceed two months [112] . This period of time will usually be sufficient: since by declaring its willingness to enter into negotiations the implementer does not waive any rights (especially the right to contest the validity and/or infringement of the patents in question), it shall not be given more time than the time needed for an ‘initial overview’ of the SEP holder’s claims [112] . Delaying tactics potentially applied by the implementer must be prevented [112] . Against this background, Wiko’s letter dated 20 October 2015 was sent to Philips too late.

Nevertheless, the Court found that Wiko had remedied the belated response after the beginning of the infringement proceedings. On the one hand, Wiko’s letter dated 20 October 2015 had reached Philips at a very early stage of the proceedings, namely just some days after the action was filed [113] . In addition, Wiko had confirmed its willingness to enter into negotiations with Philips expressed in said letter during the course of the proceedings, by making a counteroffer, rendering accounts and providing security to Philips [113] .

SEP holder’s offer

On the other hand, the Court held that Philips had failed to comply with its obligation to make a FRAND licensing offer to Wiko. In particular, the Court took the view that Philips did not provide sufficient information to Wiko with respect to its licensing offer dated July 2015 [114] .

The Court argued that the ‘fairness’ element of the FRAND commitment establishes an ‘information duty’ (‘Informationspflicht’) of the SEP holder with respect to the content of its licensing offer to the implementer [115] . This duty exists besides the patent holder’s duty to make a FRAND licensing offer to the implementer [116] .

In terms of scope, the Court found that the information duty is, basically, not limited to the calculation of the offered royalty but also covers (objective) facts showing that the ‘contractual compensation factors’ (‘vertragliche Vergütungsfaktoren’) are not discriminatory [117] . The extent of the information to be shared depends on the circumstances of the specific ‘licensing situation’ [117] .

In case that the patent holder has already granted licences to third parties, the information duty will extend also towards its ‘licensing practice’, including comparable agreements [118] .

If the SEP holder uses exclusively a standard licensing programme, then it will be sufficient to show that said programme has been accepted in the market and that the offer made to the implementer corresponds with the standard licensing agreement used [118] .

On the other hand, if the SEP holder has concluded individual licensing agreements with third licensees, then it would be obliged to disclose – at least – the content of the key contractual terms in a way that would allow the implementer to identify whether (respectively why) the offer it received is subject to dissimilar conditions [118] . The Court made, however, clear that – contrary to the approach adopted by the Duesseldorf courts – the SEP holder is not obliged in any case to disclose the full content of all existing comparable agreements [118] . In the eyes of the Court, the information duty serves only the purpose of facilitating good will licensing negotiations. A full disclosure of comparable agreement is, however, uncommon in practice [118] .

In this context, the Court pointed out that the patent holder will have to adequately substantiate the content of ‘justified confidentiality interests’ that might hinder the disclosure of comparable agreements [118] . Furthermore, the SEP holder would need to facilitate the conclusion of a Non-Disclosure Agreement which would allow sharing further information with the implementer [118] .

Based on the above considerations, the Court found that Philips had not fulfilled its information duty at any time [119] . In particular, the Court criticized that Philips did not adequately explain the reasons for choosing to agree on a lump sum payment (instead of a running royalty) in an existing agreement with a third licensee [120] . The fact that companies of different size were affected did not relieve Philips from its information duty; according to the Court, the mere fact that two competitors in a downstream market are of different size does not per se offer sufficient ground for different treatment [121] .

Since the Court assumed that Philips had failed to meet its information duties, it did not examine whether Philips’ licensing offer to Wiko was FRAND in terms of content [122] . In this respect, the Court seemed to agree, however, with the notion that FRAND is a range providing parties with a degree of flexibility [123] .

Implementer’s claim for disclosure of comparable agreements

Referring to the counterclaim for full disclosure of Philips’ comparable agreements raised by Wiko in the appeal proceedings, the Court clarified that a respective right of Wiko does not exist [124] .

Such a right does not arise either from German civil law (Articles 809 and 810 German Civil Code) [124] or Article 102 TFEU [125] . Furthermore, a right for disclosure of comparable agreement can neither be extracted by the SEP holder’s FRAND commitment to ETSI [126] . The Court saw no indication that French law (which is applicable to the ETSI FRAND undertaking) establishes such a right in favour of standards implementers [127] .

C. Other important issues

The Court pointed out that the claims for damages as well as information and rendering of accounts also asserted by Philips in the present proceedings are not subject to the Huawei framework [128] . Moreover, the Court explained that the non-fulfilment of the Huawei obligations by the patent holder poses no limitations on these rights in terms of content [129] . This is particularly true with respect to SEP holder’s claim to request information about expenses and profits from the implementer5 [130] .

  • [95] Philips v Wiko, District Court (Landgericht) of Mannheim, judgment dated 25 November 2016, Case No. 7 O 44/16.
  • [96] Philips v Wiko, Higher District Court of Mannheim, judgment dated 25 November 2016, Case No. 7 O 44/16, cited by http://lrbw.juris.de.
  • [97] Ibid, paras. 37-87.
  • [98] Ibid, para. 88.
  • [99] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C 170/13.
  • [100] Philips v Wiko, Higher District Court of Mannheim, judgment dated 25 November 2016, para. 108.
  • [101] Ibid, para. 107.
  • [102] Ibid, paras. 117 et seqq.
  • [103] Ibid, para. 119.
  • [104] Ibid, paras. 120 et seq.
  • [105] Ibid, para. 120.
  • [106] Ibid, para. 125.
  • [107] Ibid, para. 126.
  • [108] Ibid, para. 127.
  • [109] Ibid, para. 111.
  • [110] Ibid, para. 112.
  • [111] Ibid, paras. 115 and 117.
  • [112] Ibid, para. 115.
  • [113] Ibid, para. 129.
  • [114] Ibid, paras. 131 et seqq.
  • [115] Ibid, paras. 132 et seq.
  • [116] Ibid, para. 135.
  • [117] Ibid, para. 133.
  • [118] Ibid, para. 134.
  • [119] Ibid, paras. 136 et seqq.
  • [120] Ibid, para. 136.
  • [121] Ibid, para. 138.
  • [122] Ibid, para. 131.
  • [123] Ibid, para. 106.
  • [124] Ibid, paras. 157 et seqq.
  • [125] Ibid, paras. 162 et seqq.
  • [126] Ibid, paras. 160 et seq.
  • [127] Ibid, para. 161.
  • [128] Ibid, para. 143.
  • [129] Ibid, para. 144.
  • [130] Ibid, paras. 145 et seqq.

Updated 7 四月 2021

Sisvel v Wiko

OLG Karlsruhe
9 十二月 2020 - Case No. 6 U 103/19

A. Facts

The claimant, Sisvel, holds patents declared as (potentially) essential to the practice of the UMTS and LTE wireless telecommunications standards, which are subject to a commitment to be made accessible to users on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions (standard-essential patents or SEPs). Sisvel also administrates a patent pool, comprising patents of several SEP holders, including Sisvel's own SEPs (patent pool).

The defendants are two companies that are part of the Wiko group (Wiko). [131] Wiko sells mobile phones complying with the LTE standard - among other markets- in Germany.

In June 2015, the patent pool informed Wiko for the first time about the need to obtain a licence. On 1 June 2016, Sisvel (as the patent pool's administrator) offered Wiko a portfolio licence, which also covered the patent in suit. Agreement was, however, not reached.

On 22 June 2016, Sisvel brought an action against Wiko before the District Court (Landgericht) of Mannheim in Germany (District Court) based on one patent reading on the LTE standard (infringement proceedings). Sisvel requested a declaratory judgment confirming Wiko's liability for damages on the merits, as well as information and rendering of accounts.

On 23 June 2016, Sisvel made an offer for a bilateral licence limited to its own SEP portfolio to the German subsidiary of Wiko. This offer was not accepted. Moreover, Wiko filed a nullity action against the SEP in suit before the German Federal Patent Court (nullity proceedings).

In October 2016, Sisvel extended the lawsuit. Claims for injunctive relief as well as the recall and destruction of infringing products were added to the other claims initially asserted.

On 11 November 2016, Wiko made a counteroffer to Sisvel. Some days prior to the oral hearing in the infringement proceedings, Wiko informed the Court that it had provided information to Sisvel and had also deposited a security amount for past uses.

On 8 November 2017, Sisvel made a new offer to Wiko with reduced royalty rates. Wiko did not immediately react to this offer.

On 22 December 2017, Sisvel asked the District Court to order a stay of the infringement proceedings, until the decision of the Federal Patent Court in the parallel nullity proceedings. Wiko agreed with Sisvel's motion. On 30 January 2018, the infringement proceedings were stayed.

On 9 February 2018, Sisvel sent a reminder to Wiko regarding the offer made on 8 November 2017. Wiko responded on 16 February 2018, requesting further claim charts and more time to examine the patents covered by the offer.

On 26 June 2018, during the stay of the infringement proceedings, Sisvel made another licensing offer to Wiko based on a new restructured licensing program (2018 offer). Along with the 2018 offer, Sisvel provided Wiko with claim charts regarding 20 selected patents and a list of existing licensees of both its new licensing program and two pre-existing programs. The list contained the date of the conclusion of each agreement as well as the agreed licence fees. The names of the licensees were, however, redacted.

Wiko did not react to the 2018 offer for more than three months. On 15 October 2018, following a respective reminder sent by Sisvel on 14 September 2018, Wiko replied, without, however, commenting the 2018 offer; it just referred back to its counteroffer dated 11 November 2016. Wiko also criticized the fact that Sisvel did not disclose the names of the existing licensees so far.

In response to that claim, Sisvel shared a draft Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) with Wiko on 22 October 2018, based on which it would be willing to disclose the names of the existing licensees. Wiko refused to sign the NDA proposed by Sisvel.

In October 2018, the Federal Patent Court upheld the SEP in suit in part. Subsequently, the District Court moved on with the infringement proceedings. After the end of the oral hearings in July 2019, Wiko made a new counteroffer to Sisvel and provided the latter with additional information. However, Wiko did not increase the amount of security deposited after its first counteroffer dated 11 November 2016.

In the beginning of September 2019, Sisvel set up an electronic data room containing redacted versions of Sisvel's existing licensing agreements with third parties and granted Wiko respective access rights. Wiko did not make use of this data room at any point in time.

On 4 September 2019, the District Court granted an injunction against Wiko and ordered the removal and destruction of infringing products from the market. It also confirmed Wiko's liability for damages on the merits and ordered Wiko to provide Sisvel with information required for the calculation of damages. Wiko appealed the decision of the District Court.

Shortly after the District Court rendered its decision, the term of the patent-in-suit expired. Sisvel, however, enforced the injunction granted by the District Court.

With the present judgment [132] (cited by http://lrbw.juris.de/cgi-bin/laender_rechtsprechung/list.py?Gericht=bw&GerichtAuswahl=Oberlandesgerichte&Art=en&sid=2b226ea73cc9637362d8e1af04a34d05), the Higher District Court (Oberlandesgericht) of Karlsruhe (Court) predominantly upheld the judgment of the District Court [133] .
 

B. Court's reasoning

The Court found that Wiko could not successfully raise a so-called 'FRAND-defence' based on an alleged abuse of market dominance (Article 102 TFEU) against the claims for injunctive relief and the recall and destruction of infringing products asserted by Sisvel. [134]

This question was still decisive in the present case, despite the fact that the patent-in-suit expired before the start of the appeal proceedings. The Court explained that the expiration of a patent affects only future acts of use (which, then, no longer constitute infringement): On the contrary, claims that had arisen prior to expiration based on acts of use during the lifetime of the patent are not impaired. [135] Whether claims were given before the expiration of the patent-in-suit is of particular importance, especially when the patent holder has enforced a (first-instance) judgment delivered in proceedings conducted within the term of protection of the patent, as it was the case here. [136]
 

Dominant market position

Having said that, the Court agreed with the finding of the District Court that Sisvel had a market dominant position in terms of Article 102 TFEU with respect to the patent-in-suit in the relevant time period prior to its expiration. [137]

The Court followed the District Court also insofar, as it confirmed that, by filing an infringement action, Sisvel had not abused its market dominance.
 

Notification of infringement

In the eyes of the Court, Sisvel had sufficiently notified Wiko about the infringement of the patent-in-suit prior to filing a court action. [138] The purpose of the notification of infringement is to draw the implementer's attention to the infringement and the necessity of taking a license on FRAND terms and conditions. [139] In terms of content, the notification must identify the patent infringed, the form of infringement and also designate the infringing embodiments. [139] Detailed technical or legal analysis of the infringement allegation is not required. [139] The production of so-called 'claim charts', which is common in practice, will, as a rule, suffice, but is not mandatory. [139] If the patent holder offers a portfolio licence, respective extended information duties occur. [139]

In the present case, it was not disputed that Sisvel had notified Wiko about the patent-in-suit prior to litigation. [140] As far as Wiko complained that no claim charts were presented before trial, the Court reiterated that no respective obligation of Sisvel existed. [141] What is more, the Court held that the court action initially filed by Sisvel, which did not include claims for injunctive relief and the recall and destruction of infringing products, could also be seen as an adequate notification of infringement. [140]
 

Willingness to obtain a licence

The Court then found that Wiko behaved as an unwilling (potential) licensee both prior and during the infringement proceedings [142] . The Court agreed with the assessment of the District Court that Wiko delayed the licensing negotiations between the parties with the goal to avoid taking a licence for as long as possible, in order to gain economic benefits. [143]

According to the Court, the 'expression of a general willingness to license' is not sufficient for assuming that an implementer is a 'willing licensee'. [144] Moreover, the implementer must 'clearly and unambiguously' declare willingness to conclude a license agreement on FRAND terms, 'whatever FRAND terms may actually look like" [144] . The respective declaration must be 'serious and unconditional'. [144]

The Court highlighted that for the assessment of willingness the overall facts and the particular conduct of the implementer shall be taken into account. [144] Willingness is not 'static': the finding that an implementer was willing (or unwilling) at a certain moment in time does not remain unchanged henceforth. [144]

The implementer must always be willing to obtain a licence and participate in negotiations in a 'target-oriented manner'; since implementers might be inclined to delay negotiations until the expiration of the patent-in-suit, there is a need to make sure that their behaviour in negotiations will not lead to delays. [145] Moreover, it should be expected that a willing implementer would seek a license as soon as possible, in order to shorten the period, in which it makes use of the patent-in-suit or the SEP holder's portfolio without authorisation and without paying licensing fees. [146] Accordingly, a willing licensee would not consider the 'negotiation obligations' of the SEP holder primarily as a means to defend itself against a court action, but as a means to utilize in order to reach a FRAND agreement, if needed. [146]

In the view of the Court, the above requirements are in line with the Huawei v ZTE judgment (Huawei judgment or Huawei) [147] of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU). [148] In Huawei, CJEU focused on the will of the infringer to conclude a license agreement on FRAND terms and emphasized that the latter must not pursue 'delaying tactics'. The Court explained that, although in Huawei the requirement to refrain from 'delaying tactics' is expressly mentioned only with respect to the duty of the implementer to react to a licensing offer of the SEP holder, it applies 'at all times' as long as the implementer uses the patents without a licence; otherwise, the suspension of SEP holder's right to the injunctive relief cannot be justified. [149]

In this context, the Court pointed out that not every 'reluctant involvement' of the implementer in licensing discussions will necessarily allow for the assumption of unwillingness. [150] Such behaviour could be justified in individual cases, especially when the SEP holder does not act in a 'target-oriented' manner itself. [150] Nevertheless, implementers must, as a rule, react timely even to a belated action of the SEP holder. [150] Furthermore, implementers must, in principle, inform the SEP holder of any objections at an early stage and should not wait to raise those much later in court proceedings. [150]

Looking at Wiko's conduct, the Court criticized especially the fact that it became active mostly as a reaction to new developments in the pending infringement proceedings. [151] A willing implementer would have, however, sought a licence independently of the initiation of legal steps and independently of the course of litigation. [152] As an example, the Court highlighted the fact that Wiko's counteroffer dated 11 November 2016 was made only shortly after Sisvel extended the infringement suit by adding a claim for injunctive relief. [153] Wiko also provided information on past acts of infringement only a few days prior to the first oral hearing in February 2017 (and refrained from constantly updating this information afterwards, as it would be expected by a willing licensee). [154]

The Court identified also further facts that indicate that Wiko engaged in delaying tactics. [155] Wiko reacted to Sisvel's licensing offers made during the course of the proceedings always belatedly and only after a reminder by Sisvel (for instance, it took Wiko more than three months to react to the 2018 offer) [156] . It also demanded further claim charts in February 2018, years after the action was filed. [157]

Wiko's refusal to sign the NDA offered by Sisvel -despite multiple reminders of the latter- without providing any reasons was also considered as a sign of unwillingness. [158] According to the Court, it should be expected by a willing licensee, who is not interested in delaying negotiations, to swiftly raise any criticisms regarding an NDA proposed by the SEP holder in writing or by e-mail, and not wait to raise any concerns several months later in the infringement proceedings, as Wiko had done here. [159] The Court also considered the fact that Wiko did not access the electronic data room set up by Sisvel containing redacted versions of Sisvel's third party agreements as an additional indication of unwillingness. [160]

Furthermore, the Court clarified that -contrary to Wiko's view- school holidays and/or staff shortages cannot provide sufficient justification for delays in negotiations. [161] Even if such circumstances occur, a willing implementer would have communicated any obstacles immediately. [161] Wiko failed to do so.
 

SEP holder's offer

Since Wiko was found to have been an unwilling licensee, the Court explained that the question whether Sisvel fulfilled its duty to make and adequately elaborate a FRAND licensing offer, was no longer decisive. [162] In fact, no such duty had arisen in the present case, due to Wiko's unwillingness to obtain a licence. [162] Notwithstanding the above, the Court provided guidance on the content and extend of the respective obligation of the SEP holder.

The Court first explained that FRAND is a 'range', which leaves room for flexibility. [163] As a rule, FRAND is determined in bilateral good faith negotiations between SEP holders and implementers, taking into account the specific circumstances of each individual case [163] ; indeed, parties are best situated to determine the exact content of FRAND in a specific setting. [163]

In order to meet its obligation, an SEP holder must present an offer to a willing licensee, which 'in general' complies with FRAND requirements and is fair, reasonable and not discriminatory with respect to the 'average licensee'. [164] The SEP holder shall further explain its offer in a way that permits the licensee to understand the assumptions, on which the offered rate and further conditions are based. [165] The rationale behind this obligation is to create a sufficient basis of information for the implementer for assessing the offer and eventually formulating a counteroffer. [166]

In this context, the Court made clear that implementers should not expect that the SEP holder individually adapts its (first) offer to the specific circumstances of each particular case. [167] The SEP holder's FRAND commitment does not give rise to such obligation. [167] The (first) offer is intended to launch the negotiations and provide an adequate information basis to the implementer, who will then be in a position to suggest necessary amendments by means of a counteroffer. [167] Accordingly, it will regularly be acceptable that the SEP holder's offer is 'not clearly and evidently' non-FRAND and sufficient information was provided to the implementer. [168]

The Court dismissed the notion that the implementer is obliged to negotiate (and eventually) make a counteroffer, only when the SEP holder's offer was fully FRAND-compliant. [168] This would bring the negotiations to a stand-still and, therefore, conflict with the spirit of the Huawei judgment, which is to encourage the parties to reach agreement on the licensing terms. [169] Moreover, the Court explained that –irrespective of whether the offer triggers an obligation of the implementer to submit a counter-offer– the latter will be regularly required, at least, to analyse the SEP holder's offer in due course and express any objections and queries without delay. [170]

Against this background, the Court found that none of the offers made to Wiko during the infringement proceedings was 'clearly and evidently' non-FRAND. [171] The fact that the offers did not define the start of the contract or the amount of royalties payable for past uses was not considered problematic. [172] The Court also found that the royalty rates offered were not 'evidently non-FRAND', since they were sufficiently substantiated by reference to existing licensing agreements and calculated on basis of a 'top-down' method. [173] A need to calculate royalties on grounds of the costs that incurred for the creation of the patented invention (cost-based approach) was not given, since this factor was not relevant for establishing value. [174]

In addition, the Court did not raise any concerns against the fact that Sisvel's offer concerned a worldwide portfolio licence: On the one hand, agreements with such scope are common in the telecommunications industry. [175] On the other hand, Wiko had worldwide activities, so that a licence with a limited scope would not provide sufficient coverage. [175]

The fact that some of the patents included in Sisvel's portfolio were -allegedly- not standard-essential did not render the offers 'un-FRAND'. [176] The Court stressed that, for the purpose of licensing negotiations and the conclusion of a licence, it is not necessary to conclusively clarify whether each portfolio patent is standard-essential. [177] Implementers can reserve the right to challenge the validity and essentiality of affected patents even after the conclusion of a licensing agreement. [177]

Similarly, the Court had no objections against a clause placing the burden of proof with regard to the exhaustion of licenced patents on Wiko. [178] This rule corresponds with the common allocation of the burden of proof under German law and does not place unreasonable weight on the licensee, since it will be better situated to trace the licensing chain by engaging with its suppliers. [179]

The question whether an adjustment clause is necessary for an offer to be considered FRAND was left unanswered by the Court. [180] Such clause would allow the implementer to adapt the agreed royalties, in case that patents fall out of the scope of the licence (e.g. due to expiration or invalidation). The Court saw no need for a respective contractual provision, since the licences offered by Sisvel would expire and, therefore, be re-negotiated after five years. [180] The Court did not express any concerns against the term of the offered licence or the termination clauses contained therein, either. [181]

Furthermore, the Court made clear that Sisvel had adequately elaborated the licensing rates offered to Wiko. [182] In the infringement proceedings, Sisvel responded to the 'top-down' calculation of Wiko in detail and made relevant clarifications. [183] According to the Court, Sisvel was under no circumstances obliged to elaborate on a cost-based calculation of royalties, as requested by Wiko; such demand was considered just another means to delay negotiations. [184]
 

Implementers' counteroffer

The Court also found that the counteroffers made by Wiko during the course of the first instance infringement proceedings were not FRAND. [185]

The Court highlighted that the obligation of the implementer to submit a FRAND counteroffer to the SEP holder is already triggered, when the previous licensing offer of the latter is not 'clearly and evidently' non-FRAND and sufficient information was provided, enabling the implementer to formulate its counteroffer. [186]

Having said that, the Court took the view that the royalty rates which Wiko offered were very low and, thus, not FRAND-compliant. [187] The Court criticized especially the fact that the rates were significantly lower than the rates which were considered to be adequate in previous court decisions. [188] Notwithstanding the above, the Court explained that, even if Wiko's counteroffer had been FRAND, this would not change the conclusion that Wiko had acted as an unwilling licensee. [189] According to the Court, a willing licensee would not have submitted a counteroffer around one year after receipt of the SEP holder's offer, as Wiko did. [190]
 

C. Other important issues

The Court stressed that for generating pressure-free licensing negotiations during pending infringement proceedings, it will, as a rule, be sufficient, if the proceedings are stayed with a view to parallel nullity proceedings concerning the patent-in-suit. [191] This is particularly true, when the SEP holder takes the respective initiative, as it was the case here. [191] Nevertheless, even if a pressure-free negotiation situation is not given, the infringers is not released from the obligation to act in good faith and engage in licensing negotiations, for instance by analysing a licensing offer of the SEP holder. [191] The refusal of the infringer to act accordingly could, in the eyes of the Court, allow the conclusion that it is an unwilling licensee. [191]

Apart from that, the Court confirmed that Wiko had no legal ground for requesting full disclosure of Sisvel's third party agreements [192] . Even if one would recognize a duty of the SEP holder to share information about the core content of existing licensing agreements (that are still in force), it is questionable whether this duty would also extend to agreements signed by previous patent holders. [193] The Court expressed particular doubts that this applies in cases in which a portfolio was assembled from patents acquired from different patent holders, since the relevance of bilateral or pool licensing agreements of the former patent holder can be limited in this case. [194]

Furthermore, the Court expressed the view that under German law a so-called 'covenant not to sue' does not have the effect of a (royalty-free) licence: such agreements will, as a rule, have only a procedural effect in terms of a pactum de non petendo, excluding only the initiation of court proceedings. [195]

Finally, the Court denied Wiko's motion to order a stay in the appeal proceedings due to the recent referral of several questions regarding the interpretation of the Huawei framework to the CJEU by the District Court of Düsseldorf in the matter Nokia v Daimler [196] . [197] According to the Court, it appears unlikely that the CJEU will establish criteria, by which SEP-based court actions against implementers engaging in delaying tactics would amount to an abuse of market dominance. [198]
 

  • [131] The action was extended to a third defendant, an individual person, who had served as a managing director for both aforementioned companies.
  • [132] Sisvel v Wiko, Higher Regional Court Karlsruhe, judgment dated 9 December 2020, Case-No. 6 U 103/19
  • [133] The claims for injunctive relief, rendering of accounts and damages asserted against the former managing director of the two Wiko companies were limited to the period of time until the end of its tenure; ibid, paras. 265-288.
  • [134] Ibid, para. 289.
  • [135] Ibid, paras. 284 et seqq.
  • [136] Ibid, para. 287.
  • [137] Ibid, paras. 290 et seq. Insofar, the Court made clear that a market dominant position ceases to exist after the expiration of the relevant patent.
  • [138] Ibid, paras. 292 et seqq.
  • [139] Ibid, para. 293.
  • [140] Ibid, para. 297.
  • [141] Ibid, paras. 297 et seq.
  • [142] Ibid, para. 299.
  • [143] Ibid, para. 299 and paras. 320 et seqq.
  • [144] Ibid, para. 301.
  • [145] Ibid, para. 302.
  • [146] Ibid, para. 303.
  • [147] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case-No. C-170/13.
  • [148] Sisvel v Wiko, Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe, judgment dated 9 December 2020, para. 304.
  • [149] Ibid, para. 304.
  • [150] Ibid, para. 305.
  • [151] Ibid, paras. 321 et seqq.
  • [152] Ibid, para. 321.
  • [153] Ibid, para. 322.
  • [154] Ibid, paras. 323 et seq.
  • [155] In addition, the Court found that Wiko’s lack of willingness to obtain a license is also manifested in the fact that it (i) attempted to impede the enforcement of the first instance ruling of the District Court by questionable means (para. 335) and (ii) did not accept the offer of the District Court of The Hague, in which proceedings between the parties were pending in parallel, to engage in settlement negotiations (para. 336).
  • [156] Ibid, paras. 325, 328 and 331.
  • [157] Ibid, para. 327.
  • [158] Ibid, paras. 333 et seqq.
  • [159] Ibid, paras. 334 and 338.
  • [160] Ibid, paras. 337 and 341 et seqq.
  • [161] Ibid, para. 330.
  • [162] Ibid, para. 342.
  • [163] Ibid, para. 307.
  • [164] Ibid, para. 308.
  • [165] Ibid, paras. 308 and 310.
  • [166] Ibid, para. 309.
  • [167] Ibid, para. 310.
  • [168] Ibid, paras. 311 et seqq.
  • [169] Ibid, paras. 311 and 313 et seqq.
  • [170] Ibid, paras. 316 et seqq.
  • [171] Ibid, para. 352.
  • [172] Ibid, para. 353.
  • [173] Ibid, paras. 354 et seqq.
  • [174] Ibid, para. 358.
  • [175] Ibid, para. 359.
  • [176] Ibid, para. 360.
  • [177] Ibid, para. 361.
  • [178] Ibid, para. 362.
  • [179] Ibid, para. 363.
  • [180] Ibid, paras. 365 et seqq.
  • [181] Ibid, paras. 367 et seqq.
  • [182] Ibid, para. 366.
  • [183] Ibid, para. 344.
  • [184] Ibid, para. 346.
  • [185] Ibid, paras. 379 et seqq.
  • [186] Ibid, para. 311.
  • [187] Ibid, paras. 379 et seqq.
  • [188] Ibid, para. 380.
  • [189] Ibid, para. 378.
  • [190] Ibid, para. 384.
  • [191] Ibid, para. 348.
  • [192] Ibid, para. 389.
  • [193] Ibid, paras. 389 et seq.
  • [194] Ibid, para. 391.
  • [195] Ibid, paras. 260 et seqq.
  • [196] Nokia v Daimler, District Court of Düsseldorf, order dated 26 November 2020, Case No. 4c O 17/19.
  • [197] Sisvel v Wiko, Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe, judgment dated 9 December 2020, para. 395.
  • [198] Ibid, para. 395.

Updated 20 十月 2020

西斯维尔诉Wiko

曼海姆地区法院
4 九月 2019 - Case No. 7 O 115/16

A. 事实

原告西斯维尔(Sisvel)持有被宣告为于实施UMTS和LTE无线通信标准时(潜在)必要的专利,并承诺愿依照公平、合理且无歧视(FRAND)的条款和条件向标准实施人提供该专利(以下称“标准必要专利”或“SEP“)。西斯维尔还管理着一个由多个标准必要专利持有人分别持有的专利所组成的专利池,其中也包括西斯维尔自己所持有的标准必要专利(以下称”专利池“)。

被告是Wiko集团法国母公司以及其德国子公司(以下称“Wiko“)。 Wiko在包含德国市场在内的数个市场中销售实施LTE标准的手机。

西斯维尔在2015年6月时就该专利池的存在以及其取得许可的必要性对Wiko进行告知。双方进行了许可谈判。

西斯维尔向Wiko提供了其专利池中所包含的标准必要专利的相关信息,其中包括了对这些专利中的数个专利具备标准必要性进行说明的权利要求对照表。2016年6月1日,西斯维尔向Wiko提出了一份涵盖整个专利池的许可要约。然而,双方并未能就此达成协议。

西斯维尔于2016年6月22日就其所持有的一项实施LTE标准的专利在德国曼海姆地区法院(Landgericht,以下称“法院”)对Wiko提起了诉讼(以下称“侵权诉讼”)。

西斯维尔要求法院作出确认之诉判决,确认Wiko应承担实质损害赔偿责任、提交相关信息、以及开立担保帐户等主张有法律上依据。

西斯维尔并于2016年6月23日对Wiko的德国子公司发出了仅涵盖其己身所持有的标准必要专利的双边许可要约。此许可要约并未被接受。此外,Wiko就本案涉案标准必要专利向德国联邦专利法院提起了确认该专利无效的诉讼(以下称“无效诉讼”)。

西斯维尔于2016年10月4日修改了其在侵权诉讼中的诉讼主张。除原有的诉讼主张外,西斯维尔还增加了要求禁令救济以及移除并销毁市场上的侵权产品的主张。

Wiko在2016年11月11日时向西斯维尔提交了许可反要约。随后,Wiko根据其许可反要约的内容向西斯维尔提供了相关信息并提交了保证金。

在诉讼进行的过程中,西斯维尔向Wiko发出了一项新的许可要约,此许可要约涵盖整个专利池并且降低了许可费。此一许可要约Wiko仍然表示拒绝接受。西斯维尔于2017年12月22日请求法院判令中止侵权诉讼程序直至德国联邦专利法院在与本案平行的专利无效诉讼中就涉案标准必要专利的有效性做出裁决为止。

Wiko对西斯维尔所提出的动议表示同意。法院于是在2018年1月30日判令中止该侵权诉讼程序。

于此同时,在侵权诉讼程序中止期间,西斯维尔于2018年6月26日依据其重新设计后的许可计划的内容向Wiko提出了另一项许可要约(以下称“2018年许可要约”)。

除2018年许可要约外,西斯维尔还向Wiko提供了多项其他信息,其中包括了20个被选定的专利所对应的权利要求对照表,以及在其新许可计划和两个既存许可计划下现有的被许可人清单等信息。前述清单的内容包含每份许可协议签订的日期以及双方达成协议的许可费数额,然而被许可人的名称并没有被揭露。

Wiko花了超过三个月的时间均没有对对2018年许可要约做出任何反应。 直至2018年10月15日Wiko才对西斯维尔作出回复,然而却未就2018年许可要约的内容提供任何实质性的反馈,反而只是重新提起了其于2016年11月11日所做出的许可反要约。Wiko并且还批评了西斯维尔没有在与2018年许可要约一并提供的被许可人清单中揭露现有被许可人的名称的这一事实。

为了回应此项要求,西斯维尔于2018年10月22日向Wiko发送了其所草拟的保密协议(NDA)。西斯维尔并表示愿意在Wiko签署保密协议之时对其揭露现有被许可人的名称。然而,Wiko拒绝签署西斯维尔提出的保密协议。

德国联邦专利法院在2018年10月作出判决部分维持了涉案标准必要专利的有效性。在此之后,法院继续进行了侵权诉讼程序,以讨论特别是与FRAND相关的议题。

在2019年7月的口头听证程序结束之后,Wiko向西斯维尔提出了新的许可反要约,并对其提供了更多的相关信息。然而,Wiko并未增加其于2016年11月11日第一次提出反许可要约后所存入的保证金数额。

法院于当前判决 [199] 中对Wiko核发了禁令,同时判令其移除并销毁市场上的侵权产品。法院还确认了Wiko的实质损害赔偿责任,并要求Wiko向西斯维尔提供计算损害赔偿数额所必需的相关信息。

B. 法院的论理

法院认为,Wiko的产品构成对涉案专利的侵权行为 [200] 。涉案专利是否具备标准必要性并非本案当事人间争执之所在 [201]

法院进一步指出,《欧洲联盟运作条约》(TFEU)第102条并未禁止西斯维尔在侵权诉讼程序中主张禁令救济或召回并销毁涉案侵权产品。

Wiko主张西斯维尔提起当前诉讼的行为构成了对其在市场上主导地位的滥用,从而违反了《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条。

然而,这在法院看来并非如此,因为西斯维尔已经践行了欧洲联盟法院在华为诉中兴案 [202] 中所创建的行为义务(以下称“华为框架”或“华为框架义务”)。而另一方面,法院认为,Wiko未能遵守其华为框架义务。。

华为框架

与其先前的判例的观点不同,法院认为,华为框架义务的履行可以通过诉讼当事人在诉讼过程中所为的行为而补正 [203] 。但是,这必须在当事方之间能够如同欧洲联盟法院所要求的那样没有压力地进行许可协商的情况下,方得以实现。为此,当事方必须借助可用的程序性手段——例如提起中止审判程序的动议 [204] 或在双方同意的情况下中止诉讼,直到联邦专利法院就专利无效的平行诉讼做出裁定为止 [205] ——以暂时中止诉讼程序的进行。

在这种背景下,法院要求在侵权诉讼程序开始后才寻求补正华为框架中信息提交义务的标准必要专利持有人提起中止审判程序的动议 [205] 。当这项动议被提起时,法院期待一个“善意”的实施人会同意对此诉讼程序的中止 [205]

法院指出,在未决侵权诉讼过程中给予当事方补正其华为框架义务缺失部分的机会,与英格兰与威尔士上诉法院在无线星球诉华为案 [206] 以及海牙上诉法院在飞利浦诉华硕案 [207] 中所采纳的“避风港”观点一致。这些法院并不认为华为框架是必须被严格执行的强制性程序,因此,与欧洲联盟法院所建立的谈判框架有所偏离并不一定会构成滥用行为从而导致专利持有人被禁止主张禁令救济 [208] ,并且情况是否如此则需要视个案具体情况进行个别评估 [209]

侵权通知

尽管如此,法院认为,西斯维尔已经践行了其华为框架义务而在侵权诉讼程序开始之前即就涉案标准必要专利的侵权行为向Wiko进行通知。

关于标准必要专利持有人此一通知的内容,法院基本上引用了与先前判决中所提出的相同要求。法院认为,此类通知必须(1)明确指出涉及侵权者为何项专利,包括专利编号;(2)告知该专利已在相应的标准发展组织中被宣告为实施标准所必要;(3)指明该专利对于实施哪种标准而言具备必要性;(4)说明实施人的产品或服务中的哪些技术功能实施了该项标准 [210] 。通知的详细程度适当与否则应根据具体个案情况判定 [210] 。法院认为,通常情况下,当标准必要专利持有人向实施人提供了于标准必要专利许可谈判中惯用的权利要求对照表时,则其通知义务便已经履行 [210] 。法院更进一步确认了,在华为框架下,对集团公司中的母公司发出通知通常就已经足够了 [210] 。。

标准必要专利持有人所提出的许可要约

法院认为,西斯维尔也遵守了华为框架义务中向Wiko提出书面且特定的FRAND许可要约的义务。在对此要件进行评估时,法院仅考虑了2018年许可要约,即西斯维尔在侵权诉讼程序中止期间对Wiko所提出的最后一次许可要约 [211]

首先,法院重申了其关于侵权法院并没有义务决定何种具体许可费以及何种更进一步的合同条款和条件在“在客观层面上”符合FRAND的立场 [212] 。与先前卡尔斯鲁厄高等法院所采取的观点相反,法院认为,欧洲联盟法院并无意对仅与禁令救济和侵权产品召回相关的诉讼程序施加对FRAND条款作出“精确数学计算“的负担 [213] 。此外,由于潜在符合FRAND的条款和条件存在于一个范围内,只有当考虑到在特定的议价情况和市场条件下,标准必要专利持有人所提出的许可要约将将构成“剥削性滥用”时 [212] ,其寻求禁令救济的行为才可能违反《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条。于此范围内,法院与英格兰与威尔士上诉法院在无线星球诉华为案中的理解相似 [206]

尽管如此,法院仍明确指出,侵权法院不应只是对标准必要专利持有人所提出的许可要约是否符合FRAND进行“表面性”审查。侵权法院应就该具体许可要约的整体结构是否在不论双方议价能力有否存在特定初始差异情况下均足以让善意实施人对该许可要约作出回覆进行审查 [214] 。通常情况下,此义务在当标准必要专利持有人以某种能展现出其有理由认为该许可要约符合FR​​AND的方式来解释其许可费计算方法时便会显现 [215] 。而当存在有专利池许可计划或标准许可计划时,一般来说只要能够证明该许可计划已在市场上被接受便已经足够。如果一专利池过去已经授予过足够数量的许可,专利持有人将只需要通过出示足够数量涉及该专利池中所包含专利的权利要求对照表来概述此专利池的组成分子即可 [216]

于此脉络下,法院指出,任何由实施人所提出的关于专利持有人的许可要约是否符合FRAND提出的指控,原则上均不能仅是基于某一个别合同条款(被指控为)不合法。此外,判断某一许可要约是否符合FRAND则必须通过对整体协议的内容进行概括性的评估决定 [217] 。只有在当要约中的某一特定条款产生了“不可接受的效果”时才有例外的适用 [217] 。在本案中,法院认为,2018年许可要约中包含的所有条款均不产生上述效果 [217]

法院特别指出了其中一项要求被许可人(此处为Wiko)承担对许可专利中所涵盖的专利权已穷竭的部分的举证责任是可以被允许的 [218] 。与杜塞尔多夫地区法院在另一件类似案件中所采取的观点相反,本案中,法院认为,由于被许可人通过与供应商的互动可以更好地对许可链进行追踪,因此要求被许可人对相关事实作出确认是恰当的 [218]

此外,法院认为,从反垄断的角度出发,将所授与的许可期限限制为五年的条款并不会产生“不可接受的效果”。法院认为,以五年为期的许可协议符合在以技术快速发展为典型的无线通信行业中普遍实施的惯例 [219]

法院进一步指出,在被许可人违反申报责任或付款延误超过30天的情况下授予许可人终止许可协议权利的条款在上述意义上并不会产生“不可接受的效果” [219]

然而,法院并没有对2018年许可要约中未包含当协议所涵盖的许可专利数量在协议期间内发生变化时,双方可以对达成协议的许可费率进行调整的条款表示反对。法院认为,在FRAND许可协议中包含此类条款本身就不是必要的 [219] 。然而,如果一专利池主要由在签署许可协议后不久就将到期失效的专利组成,则应当作例外处理 [219] 。一般而言,许可协议未包含“调整”条款并不会产生问题,特别是在该许可要约并未限制或排除当事人以合同标的物减损或灭失为由要求调整许可内容的法定权利时(详见《德国民法典》第313条第1项) [219] 。。

无歧视 / 保密协议

有关FRAND许可要约中的无歧视要素,法院指出,《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条中对专利持有人确立了一项(次要)义务,即专利持有人在未决的侵权诉讼程序中应展现出其对被告发出的许可要约相较于其他与被告处于类似地位的竞争对手而言并未加以歧视 [216]

不过,法院也明确指出,这项义务在法律上并不意味着在每一个案件中都要做到“完全透明” [216] 。标准必要专利持有人的反垄断义务并非永远凌驾于应受法律保障的机密信息利益之上;此外,具体个案的特殊情况也可能需要寻求对机密信息的保护 [216]

特别是关于标准必要专利持有人与条件相似的第三方被许可人间的现存的许可协议(以下称“可比协议“)中所包含的信息,法院认为,专利持有人于何种程度下有披露此类协议的义务,应由侵权法院在考量双方于诉讼程序中的主张后,视个案具体情况决定 [216]

法院认为,专利持有人将必须确立机密信息存在值得保护的利益;仅仅是基于该可比协议受保密条款的约束此一事实本身并不能合理化对专利持有人的披露义务范围的限制 [220] 。另一方面,被告将需要向法院证明为何其所要求提供的信息对评估专利持有人提出的许可要约是否符合FRAND而言是必须的 [220] 。被告将必须提出具体事实显示标准必要专利持有人可能存在歧视性行为 [221]

考虑到这一点,法院不同意杜塞尔多夫法院所提出的关于标准必要专利持有人无论如何都必须在侵权诉讼程序中出示其所有现存的可比协议的观点 [222] 。尤其是在当专利持有人仅与实施人签订标准化的许可协议且其条款和条件皆可以被公开获取的情况下,法院认为没有理由要求专利持有人在诉讼程序中出示(大量)一致相同的合同。于此范围内,标准必要专利持有人仅需要披露截至目前为止已经达成了多少(标准化的)许可协议就已经足够了 [222]

因此,法院认为,即使被许可人的名称已被遮盖,西斯维尔向Wiko出示的现有被许可人名单以及2018年许可要约也足以确认该要约的FRAND符合性。在法院看来,Wiko无法解释其为何需要现有被许可人的名称才得以对2018年许可要约的FRAND符合性进行评估 [223] 。此外,法院同时考量到Wiko拒绝签署在诉讼中止期间由西斯维尔所提供的以揭露现有被许可人名称为目的的保密协议的事实 [224] 。由于Wiko就2018年许可要约是否符合FRAND并无异议,法院因此而没有对Wiko拒绝签署保密协议的行为是否可以被视为不愿意遵守华为框架义务的象征这一问题作出裁判。然而,法院同意杜塞尔多夫法院所采取的“实施人拒绝签署适当的保密协议此一行为,原则上是在评估标准必要专利持有人的要约时需要考虑的相关要素“这项观点 [224]

除此之外,法院也考虑了通过由具有管辖权的法院依德国民事诉讼法(Zivilprozessordnung,ZPO)第142条之规定所核发的文件提交命令来促进可比协议在侵权诉讼中被引用的可能性 [221] 。侵权法院应该于当具体个案中可比协议所包含的保密条款仅在法院命令的情况下才允许对该协议进行披露时,特别考虑此种选择。法院认为,此类保密条款本身并不违反反垄断法,因此除非专利持有人无法在诉讼中确立其机密信息存在值得保护的利益,否则就应该予以尊重 [221] 。如果受保密条款约束的专利持有人愿意在审判中出示可比协议,那么侵权法院可以根据个别案件的具体情况,依德国民事诉讼法第142条的规定核发文件提交命令 [221] 。如果专利持有人拒绝遵守该命令,则法院在对各当事方于华为框架下的行为义务进行总体评估时,便可以将此行为视为恶意的象征 [221] 。如果实施人因德国民事诉讼法第142条的规定获得法院核发的命令而被允许取得可比协议,然其却不同意中止各有关诉讼程序的进行时,前述对恶意的推定则同样会适用于实施人 [221] 。。

标准必要专利实施人所提出的许可反要约

法院认为,Wiko未能履行其华为框架义务在适当的时机向西斯维尔提出许可反要约。就此问题的评估,法院着重于Wiko对2018年许可要约所作出的反应 [225] 。 法院明确指出,不论其是否认为该要约符合FR​​AND,实施人都有义务根据具体事实对标准必要专利持有人所提出的许可要约作出回应(而这也是通常会发生的情况) [221] 。此外,实施人必须在考量个具体个案事实、特定行业的行业惯例、以及诚信原则的条件下尽快做出回覆 [205] 。。

考虑到Wiko在长达三个月以上的时间都没有对2018年许可要约做出任何反应,法院裁定Wiko违反了上述义务 [201] 。在法院看来,Wiko采用了拖延战术 [201] 。法院不接受Wiko辩称的法国学校假期和/或根据Wiko自己的陈述其仅有两名雇员负责处理许可相关事宜等事由作为其反应迟延的充分理由 [225] 。作为一家从事国际商务的公司,Wiko应确保其有足够的雇员可以在适当时机处理此类问题 [225]

C. 其他重要问题

除了西斯维尔所提出的禁令救济以及将侵权产品从市场上移除并和销毁的主张外,法院还做出了一项确认之诉判决,确认Wiko应承担实质损害赔偿责任 [226]

法院认为,Wiko对本案涉案专利做出了相当严重侵权行为。 尤其是,Wiko的行为至少构成了过失行为 [226]

Wiko辩称,由于标准化技术存在高度复杂性(尤其是仅一项标准中即包含了大量个别专利),使其很难就相关知识产权的状况进行评估(因此排除了过失行为)。

然而,法院明确指出,正因为相关技术的高度复杂性,实施人更应该承担更高的注意义务 [227] 。 然而,法院明确指出,正因为相关技术的高度复杂性,实施人更应该承担更高的注意义务 [227]

  • [199] Sisvel v Wiko, District Court of Mannheim, 4 September 2019, Case-No. 7 O 115/16。
  • [200] 同上注, 页 17-31。
  • [201] 同上注, 页 46。
  • [202] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case-No. C-170/13。
  • [203] Sisvel v Wiko, District Court of Mannheim, 4 September 2019, Case-No. 7 O 115/16, 页 42。
  • [204] 同上注, 页 43 及 页 51 及以下。
  • [205] 同上注, 页 42。
  • [206] Unwired Planet v Huawei, Court of Appeal of England and Wales, judgment dated 23 October 2018, [2018] EWCA Civ 2344, 段 282。
  • [207] Philips v Asus, Court of Appeal of The Hague, 7 May 2019, Case-No. 200.221 .250/01。
  • [208] Sisvel v Wiko, District Court of Mannheim, 4 September 2019, Case-No. 7 O 115/16, 页 44。
  • [209] 同上注, 页 44。
  • [210] 同上注, 页 37。
  • [211] 同上注, 页47 及 53。
  • [212] 同上注, 页 38。
  • [213] 同上注, 页 37 及以下。
  • [214] Sisvel v Wiko, District Court of Mannheim, 4 September 2019, Case-No. 7 O 115/16, 页 39。
  • [215] 同上注, 页 39。
  • [216] 同上注, 页 40。
  • [217] 同上注, 页 53。
  • [218] 同上注, 页 54。
  • [219] 同上注, 页 55。
  • [220] 同上注, 页 40 及页 49。
  • [221] 同上注, 页 41。
  • [222] 同上注, 页 49。
  • [223] 同上注, 页 50。
  • [224] 同上注, 页 51。
  • [225] 同上注, 页 47。
  • [226] 同上注, 页 35。
  • [227] 同上注, 页 35 及以下。

Updated 12 三月 2019

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (MPEG-LA) v ZTE

LG Düsseldorf
9 十一月 2018 - Case No. 4a O 15/17

A. Facts

The Claimant, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Angewandten Forschung, holds a patent essential to the practice of the AVC/H.264 standard concerning the compression of video data (Standard Essential Patent of SEP) [228] . The patent holder committed towards the relevant standardization body to make this patent accessible to users on Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions. The Claimant contributed the SEP in question to a patent pool administered by MPEG LA LLC (MPEG LA), comprising more the 5,000 patents referring to the AVC/H.264 standard (MPEG LA pool) [229] .

The Defendant, a German subsidiary of a Chinese group of companies, sells – among other things – mobile phones manufactured by its parent company (parent company) which practise the AVC/H.264 standard in Germany [230] .

MPEG LA uses a standard licensing agreement, which is publicly available at its website [231] . It has signed licensing agreements with approx. 1,400 implementers [231] .

By e-mail dated 8 September 2011, MPEG LA sent a copy of its standard licensing agreement to the Defendant’s parent company and informed the latter that its “mobile handset and tablet products” infringe patents included in its “AVC patent portfolio” (without indicating, however, either the concrete patent numbers or the specific infringing products) [232] .

On 15 September 2011, the parent company asked MPEG LA to send any relevant documents by mail to its IPR Manager [233] . A copy of MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement reached the parent company in late September 2011 [234] .

In 2012, the parent company acquired patents included in the MPEG LA pool [229] .

Since MPEG-LA and the parent company could not reach an agreement on a licence covering the MPEG LA pool [235] , the Claimant brought an action against the Defendant before the District Court of Düsseldorf in Germany (Court), requesting for injunctive relief, information and rendering of accounts, the destruction and the recall of infringing products as well as for a declaratory judgement confirming Defendant’s liability for damages on the merits [236] .

During the proceedings, the Defendant declared its willingness to obtain a licence for the patent in suit and other SEPs of the Claimant referring to the AVC/H.264 standard [237] . Moreover, the Defendant sent to MPEG LA two signed copies of MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement, along with a statement of accounts of its past sales and a bank guarantee [238] . MPEG LA did not countersign this agreement. It insisted, instead, on a licence that would cover all companies belonging to the same group as the Defendant [239] .

With the present judgment, the Court granted Claimant’s requests.


B. Court’s reasoning

The Court held that the mobile phones sold by the Defendant in Germany infringe Claimant’s SEP in suit [240] . It also found that by filing the present suit the Claimant did not abuse its dominant market position in violation of Article 102 of the Treaty for the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), since it had fully complied with the conduct obligations stipulated by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) in the matter Huawei v ZTE [241] (Huawei obligations or framework) with respect to dominant undertakings [242] .

1. Dominant market position

The Court found that the Claimant holds a dominant market position in terms of Article 102 TFEU [243] .

The Court defined the relevant market for the assessment of dominance as the market for licences for any given patent [244] . A dominant market position can further also exist, when the patent holder can hinder competition in downstream markets for standard-compliant products and services [244] .

The Court made, however, clear that ownership of a SEP does not per se establish market dominance [245] . A dominant market position is given, when the use of the SEP is required for entering the market [245] . The same is true, if the patent user could not market competitive products or services, without access to the respective SEP [245] .

Based on these considerations, the Court saw no ‘reasonable’ doubt that the Claimant was a dominant undertaking: It was undisputed that almost all mobile phones available worldwide use the AVC/H.264 standard and that no “realistic” alternative to the MPEG LA pool existed in the licensing market for patents essential to this standard [246] .

2. Huawei framework

The Court found, however, that the Claimant did not abuse its dominant position by suing the Defendant in the present case, since its conduct was in line with the Huawei framework [247] . The Huawei framework establishes mutual conduct obligations for both SEP holders and SEP users, which need to be fulfilled step by step and one after another (meaning that each party’s obligation to act arises only after the other party has fulfilled its own obligation) [248] . Subject to the Huawei framework is not only the patent holder’s claim for injunctive relief, but also the claim for the destruction of infringing products [249] .

In this context, the Court pointed out that the Huawei framework applies, irrespective of whether a ‘well-established’ licensing practice concerning the asserted patents already existed before the CJEU delivered the Huawei judgment, or not [250] . The Claimant had argued that, in the present case, the Court should apply the (German) legal standard that preceded the Huawei framework (which was based on the so-called ‘Orange-Book-Standard’ ruling of the Federal Supreme Court [251] ), since with respect to the SEP in suit a ‘routine’ practice already existed prior to the Huawei judgement [252] . The Court explained that the Huawei judgment does not contain either an explicit or an implicit limitation of its scope of application [253] . Furthermore, even if a ‘well-established’ licensing practice existed, the need to apply the Huawei framework will still be given, in order to bridge the nevertheless existing information gap between patent holder and implementer concerning the (potential) infringement of SEPs [254] . Finally, it would be very challenging for courts to distinguish whether a ‘well-established’ licensing practice excluding the application of the Huawei framework is at hand, or not [255] . Notwithstanding the above, according to the Court, the actual licensing practice of the patent holder could be of ‘particular significance’ when assessing the compliance of the latter with the Huawei obligations: Such practice could, for instance, serve as an indicator of the appropriateness of SEP holder’s licensing offer to the implementer [256] .

Having said that, the Court found no flaws in Claimant’s conduct. In the Court’s view, the Claimant had met its Huawei obligation to notify the Defendant about the infringement of its patent as well as the obligation to present the Defendant with a written licensing offer covering also the patent in suit. The Defendant, on the other hand, adequately expressed its willingness to enter into a licence, failed, however, to make a FRAND counter-offer to the Claimant. Since an adequate counter-offer was missing, the Court did not take up the question whether the bank guarantee provided by the Claimant to MPEG LA constitutes an adequate security in terms of the Huawei framework [257] .

Notification of infringement

The Court ruled that the Claimant had adequately notified the Defendant about the infringement of the SEP in suit through the e-mail sent by MPEG LA to the parent company on 8 September 2011 [258] .

The fact that this e-mail was not addressed to the Defendant, but to the parent company, did not raise any concerns as to the compatibility of the notification with the Huawei framework. The Court explained that a notification of infringement addressed only to the parent company of a group of companies is sufficient, as far as it can be assumed that the notification will be forwarded to the subsidiaries con­cerned [259] . The sole fact that a company belongs to a group justifies such an assumption, unless indications to the contrary exist [259] . This was, however, not the case here.

Besides that, the Court did not consider it inappropriate that the aforementioned e-mail was not sent to the parent company by the Claimant, but by MPEG LA (which is not the holder of the SEP in suit) [260] . The Court held that MPEG LA is entitled to perform legal actions in connection with the licensing of the MPEG LA pool on behalf of the Claimant [261] . The Defendant could not contest that this was not the case, since MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement, which it is aware of, contains an indication about MPEG LA’s respective capacity [262] . In addition, the Defendant’s parent company was also aware of MPEG LA’s capacity to act on behalf of the Claimant, since it joined the MPEG LA pool as a patent holder in 2012 [263] .

The Court further ruled that, in terms of content, a notification of infringement must – at least – name the patent in suit (including the patent number) and indicate the contested embodiments as well as the (allegedly) infringing acts of use [264] . A detailed (technical and/or legal) explanation of the infringement is not required; the implementer needs just to be put in the position to assess the infringement allegations, if necessary, by seeking expert advice [265] . A notification of infringement is, therefore, not necessary, when it constitutes just a ‘pointless formality’ [265] . This is true, when according to the overall circumstances of the case, one can safely assume that the implementer is aware of the infringement, so that claiming that the SEP holder failed to provide adequate notification prior to the initiation of court proceedings would appear to be abusive [265] . The respective test is, however, subject to strict conditions [265] .

Based on the above considerations, the Court found that MPEG LA’s e-mail to the parent company dated 8 September 2011 should be considered – as an exception – to constitute a sufficient notification of infringement, although it did not contain the minimum information required (particularly the patent number and a reference to the specific infringing embodiments) [266] . The overall circumstances of the case (especially the fact that the parent company acquired patents included in the MPEG LA pool in 2012 and had also previously been in contact with MPEG LA regarding a standard licensing agreement) [267] , give rise to the assumption that the parent company had already been aware of the MPEG LA pool and the fact that AVC/H.264-compliant products need to be licensed [268] .

Willingness to obtain a FRAND-licence

The Court held that the parent company had adequately expressed its willingness to obtain a FRAND-licence through the e-mail sent to MPEG LA on 15 September 2011 [269] .

In the eyes of the Court, this e-mail indicates the parent company’s intention to deal with issues concerning the licensing of patents referring to the AVC/H.264 standard. This is sufficient under the Huawei framework [270] . The implementer is not required to refer to a specific licensing agreement [270] .

SEP holder’s licensing offer

The Court further found that the standard licensing agreement sent by MPEG LA to the parent company presents an offer accountable to the Claimant which is in line with the Huawei framework in terms of both form and content [271] .

The fact that the offer was addressed to the parent company and not to the Defendant was not relevant, since the parties were discussing about a licensing agreement on group level and the parent company had itself requested to receive the draft agreement [272] .

Furthermore, the fact that the draft agreement sent to the parent company did not directly provide for the licensing of all subsidiaries (including the Defendant) was also not considered as harmful [273] . Insofar, the Court held that under the Huawei framework it is, as a rule, acceptable that the patent holder enters into licensing negotiations only with the parent company within a group of companies [274] . Whether subsidiaries can (or should) also be licensed, will be the object of these negotiations [275] . An exception would apply only then, when it is made clear already at the beginning of the licensing negotiations that the offer made to the parent company cannot include its subsidiaries [276] . This was, however, not the case here, since the standard licensing agreement sent to the parent company indicates MPEG LA’s willingness to grant licences also to the subsidiaries of the former [277] .

Besides that, the Court did not consider the fact that the standard licensing agreement sent to the parent company did not cover the sale of licensed products to wholesalers and retailers (but regarded only sales to end users) to be in conflict with the Huawei framework, although the Defendant was engaged also in this business [278] . According to the Court, sales to wholesalers and retailers would be covered by the effects of patent exhaustion, even without an express provision in a potential licensing agreement [279] .

The Court further ruled that the Huawei requirement, according to which the SEP holder’s licensing offer must specify the royalty calculation, was met, although the draft standard licensing agreement sent to the parent company does not contain detailed explanation of the way the royalties were calculated [280] . In the Court’s view, the respective explanation does not require a ‘strict mathematical derivation’ of the royalty; moreover, it will, as a rule, suffice to demonstrate that the (standard) royalty rates offered have been accepted in the market by presenting existing licensing agreements with third parties (comparable agreements) [281] . If a sufficient number of comparable licences is presented, then the SEP holder will usually not be required to provide further information regarding the appropriateness of its licensing offer [281] . It will need, however, to provide information on all essential comparable agreements, in order to rule out the risk that only agreements supporting the offered royalty level are presented [281] . In this context, the Court noted that it cannot be required from the SEP holder to present all comparable agreements along with the licensing offer to the implementer; a respective industry practice does not exist [282] .

Against this background, the Court did not consider it to be harmful that the standard licensing agreement sent to the parent company by MPEG LA did not include a detailed explanation of the royalty calculation in the above sense [283] . On the one hand, the parent company was aware that this (standard) agreement had been accepted in the market by a great number of licensees [283] . On the other hand, the parent company was also adequately aware of the way the offered royalties were calculated, since it held patents included in the MPEG LA pool itself [284] .

Apart from the above, the Court held that the standard licensing agreement offered to the parent company was FRAND also in terms of content.

According to the Court, a licensing offer cannot be considered as fair and reasonable, if the patent holder requests royalties that go significantly beyond the (hypothetical) price that would have been formed in an effectively competitive market, unless there is a commercial justification for the royalty level requested [285] . Particularly in connection with the licensing of SEPs, an offer can lie outside the FRAND-scope, if the cumulative royalty burden imposed on the implementer would not be tenable in commercial terms [285] . The Court made clear that in this context, no exact mathematical derivation of a FRAND-conform royalty rate is required; moreover, an approximate value is to be determined based on assessments and estimations [285] . In this respect, comparable agreements can serve as an ‘important indicator’ of the fair and reasonable character of the offered royalty rates [285] .

Regarding to the non-discriminatory element of FRAND, the Court pointed out that it applied only to similar situated cases; an unequal treatment is allowed, as long as it is objectively justified [286] . Limitations in this context may especially occur, when the implementation of the patent is necessary for entering a downstream market or when a product becomes competitive only when it uses the patent’s teachings [286] . As a rule, the burden of proof with respect to the discriminatory character of a licensing offer rests on the implementer. Since the latter will usually not be aware of the existence or the content of comparable agreements of the patent holder, it may seem appropriate to request the patent holder to provide the implementer with respective details, as far as this is reasonable [287] . The information to be shared should cover all existing licensees and include which (concretely designated) company with which importance in the relevant market has obtained a licence on which conditions [287] .

Looking at the standard licensing agreement sent to the parent company, the Court observed that the fact the MPEG LA sought for a licence covering all companies within the group, to which the Defendant belonged, was not violating FRAND principles [288] . In the electronics and mobile communications industries, licences covering a group of companies are in line with the industry practice [289] . Patent holder have a special interest in concluding such licences particularly in cases, in which – as in the present case – the parent company manufactures products which are sold worldwide by its subsidiaries. This is because licences at group level makes sure that patent holders can enforce their rights effectively, without having to distinguish between licenced and unlicenced products within a group of companies [290] .

In addition, the Court made clear that pool licences, as the one offered to the parent company, are appropriate under the Huawei framework [291] . An offer for a pool licence cannot per se be seen as abusive (Article 101 TFEU) [292] . On the contrary, such licences usually serve the interest of potential licensees to be granted access to the whole standard on uniform conditions under one roof, without having to seek a licence from every single patent holder separately [292] .

Implementer’s counter-offer

The Court found that the Defendant failed to make a FRAND counter-offer [293] .

Sending signed copies of MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement back to MPEG LA can be regarded as a counter-offer [294] . The fact, however, that this offer concerned a licence limited to the Defendant and, thus, not covering the parent company (and all further companies belonging to the same group) was not FRAND conform [295] . The Court accepted that licences at group level mirror the industry practice in the field in question; accordingly, no objections can be raised when a patent holder contributing its patents to a pool is willing to grant only licences covering all group companies [296] .

Since the counter-offer was not FRAND in terms of content, the Court did not have to decide, whether it was made in due time, or not [297] .

  • [228] Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (MPEG-LA) v ZTE, District Court of Düsseldorf, judgement dated 9 November 2018, cited by www.nrwe.de, para. 56.
  • [229] Ibid, para. 58
  • [230] Ibid, para. 57
  • [231] Ibid, para. 59
  • [232] Ibid, paras. 61 et seqq. and 340
  • [233] Ibid, para. 65
  • [234] Ibid, para. 66
  • [235] Ibid, para. 73
  • [236] Ibid, para. 42
  • [237] bid, para. 74
  • [238] Ibid, paras. 75 et seq
  • [239] Ibid, para. 75
  • [240] Ibid, paras. 127 – 254
  • [241] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13
  • [242] Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (MPEG-LA) v ZTE, District Court of Düsseldorf, judgement dated 9 November 2018, cited by www.nrwe.de, Ibid, para. 280
  • [243] Ibid, para. 283 and paras. 291 et seqq
  • [244] Ibid, para. 286
  • [245] Ibid, para. 287
  • [246] Ibid, paras. 291 et seqq
  • [247] Ibid, para. 296
  • [248] Ibid, para. 300
  • [249] Ibid, para. 302
  • [250] Ibid, para. 308
  • [251] Under the ‘Orange-Book-Standard’ regime, in order to avoid an injunction, the implementer was required to make a licensing offer to the patent holder, which the latter could not refuse without acting in an anticompetitive manner; see Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof), judgment dated 6 May 2009, Case No. KZR 39/06
  • [252] Ibid, para. 305
  • [253] Ibid, paras. 306 et seqq
  • [254] Ibid, para. 310
  • [255] Ibid, para. 311
  • [256] Ibid, para. 312
  • [257] Ibid, para. 421
  • [258] Ibid, para. 314
  • [259] Ibid, para. 320
  • [260] Ibid, para. 318
  • [261] Ibid, para. 329
  • [262] Ibid, paras. 336 et seq
  • [263] Ibid, para. 338
  • [264] Ibid, para. 198
  • [265] Ibid, para. 315
  • [266] Ibid, paras. 340 et seq
  • [267] Ibid, paras. 342 et seqq
  • [268] Ibid, para. 344
  • [269] Ibid, para. 346
  • [270] Ibid, para. 348
  • [271] Ibid, para. 352
  • [272] Ibid, para. 367
  • [273] Ibid, para. 369
  • [274] Ibid, para. 370
  • [275] Ibid, para. 378
  • [276] Ibid, para. 371
  • [277] Ibid, para. 374
  • [278] Ibid, para. 376
  • [279] Ibid, para. 377
  • [280] Ibid, para. 380
  • [281] Ibid, para. 381
  • [282] Ibid, para. 386
  • [283] Ibid, para. 382
  • [284] Ibid, para. 387
  • [285] Ibid, para. 391
  • [286] Ibid, para. 392
  • [287] Ibid, para. 393
  • [288] Ibid, para. 397
  • [289] Ibid, para. 398
  • [290] Ibid, para. 399
  • [291] Ibid, para. 402
  • [292] Ibid, para. 404
  • [293] Ibid, para. 410
  • [294] Ibid, para. 413
  • [295] Ibid, para. 416
  • [296] Ibid, para. 417
  • [297] Ibid, para. 411

Updated 4 六月 2020

Sisvel v Xiaomi, Court of Appeal of The Hague

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

A. Facts

Sisvel International S.A. (Sisvel) is the parent company of the Sisvel group [298] . In 2012, Sisvel acquired EP 1 129 536 B1 (EP 536) [299] . EP 536 relates to the EGPRS technology, which forms part of a GSM telecommunications standard that implements EDGE [300] .

Xiaomi is a manufacturer of mobile phones with headquarters in China [301] .

On 10 April 2013, Sisvel submitted to the European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI) a declaration under which it committed to make a list of patents, including EP 536, accessible to standard users under Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions (FRAND commitment) [302] .

On 15 October 2013, Sisvel notified Xiaomi about its Wireless Patent Portfolio [300] . On 16 July 2014, Sisvel sent a letter to Xiaomi, inviting Xiaomi to contact Sisvel regarding to the conclusion of a licence [300] . Further e-mails were sent to Xiaomi on 3 December 2014, 4 December 2014 and 5 March 2015 [300] .

In an article dated 29 March 2019 published on nu.nl [303] and ad.nl [303] , Xiaomi announced that it would enter the Dutch market with online shops and physical stores [304] .

On 23 April 2019, Sisvel initiated legal proceedings against Xiaomi before the English High Court of Justice in London (English proceedings) [305] . Sisvel requested the court to declare that the terms and conditions of the MCP Pool Licence, under which EP 536 as part of the Wireless Patent Portfolio is licensed [306] , are FRAND or alternatively, to determine FRAND licensing terms and conditions and find three patents (including EP 536) to be valid and infringed [305] .

On 30 August 2019, Xiaomi filed two legal actions against Sisvel in Beijing [307] . Xiaomi asked, in one of the cases, the court to determine FRAND terms and conditions for a licence limited to China and, in the other case, to declare that Sisvel had abused its dominant position [300] .

In the Netherlands, Sisvel requested a preliminary injunction against Xiaomi, until Xiaomi accepts Sisvel’s offer to go to arbitration, as well as the recall and destruction of products, information over profit made and additional documentation with respect to resellers, a penalty fee, and – as a subsidiary motion – the removal of the EGPRS/EDGE extension of the GSM functionality [308] . With judgment dated 1 August 2019, the Court of The Hague rejected Sisvel’s claims in first instance and sentenced Sisvel to the process costs, in view of the balance of interests between the parties and the complexity of the case [309] .

Sisvel appealed the first instance decision on 29 August 2019 [310] . During the course of the appeal proceedings, on 22 January 2020, Xiaomi deposited funds [311] on an escrow account held by Intertrust [312] . With the present judgment, the Court of Appeal of The Hague (Court) rejected Sisvel’s appeal and sentenced Sisvel to higher process costs [313] .

B. Court’s reasoning

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

Injunction

The Court considered that the harm caused to Sisvel by the infringement of EP 536 was limited, taking into account only infringing uses in the Netherlands, as well as the fact that EP 536 is only one out of many patents held by Sisvel, and almost expired [314] . Considering that Sisvel’s business model is to conclude licences, Sisvel did not have to fear damages caused by free riding on the cellphone market, but only damages resulting from denied profits under a license [315] . Therefore, only financial damages could incur which the Court considers to be relatively simply compensated at a later point in time [316] . Additionally, Xiaomi had provided security [316] . The security addresses the problem raised by Sisvel, i.e. Xiaomi becoming insolvent and unable to pay damages for patent infringement [300] .

With respect to Xiaomi’s interest, the Court noted that an injunction would force Xiaomi to stop sales, close shops in the Netherlands and stop its distribution contracts with customers [317] . The consequences would thus be severe and could hardly be undone, even if Xiaomi could resume sales again after the expiration of EP 536 [300] . The only way for Xiaomi to avoid those consequences would be to take a license, which also brings important consequences. Indeed, the MCP license offered by Sisvel is not only for EP 536 but for more than 1000 patents in all countries worldwide [318] . By accepting a licence Xiaomi would be irrevocably bound to comply with it, including with its rate [319] . The stop of sales in the Netherlands would create loss of profits for Xiaomi and worsen its relationships with its customers [300] . The Court highlighted such damages are difficult to evaluate as Xiaomi is still building its market position and there are many other players on the market [300] .

The Court further argued that the case was complex for a preliminary decision, because it required an opinion on the validity and scope of a patent protecting a complex technology as well as an assessment of Xiaomi’s FRAND defence, for which parties have arguments over many facts and the principles to determine a FRAND rate [320] . Additionally, the court that would be entrusted with the main proceedings could have a different opinion on the validity of the technology and the FRAND defence [300] . Therefore, the Court concluded there was no reason, even if the patent was valid and the FRAND defence had to be rejected, to force Xiaomi to leave the Dutch market or to take a licence from Sisvel [300] . The Court found that Xiaomi’s interest to reject the request for a preliminary injunction was stronger than Sisvel’s interest to stop the continuation of the infringement [320] .

The Court also rejected Sisvel’s claim that Xiaomi was an unwilling licensee [321] . Such claim could be used to invalidate Xiaomi’s FRAND defence, but the Court stated that the examination of Xiaomi’s FRAND defence had to be separated from the balance of interests’ assessment in preliminary proceedings [300] .

Reviewing Sisvel’s request based on the EU enforcement directive 2004/48 and Article 9 of such directive did not lead the Court to another conclusion: in light of the enforcement directive, the injunction would not be proportionate in this case, therefore the Court had no obligation to use Article 9 of the EU enforcement directive [322] .

Even in combining the application of Article 3 of the EU enforcement directive, Article 5, 17 and 47 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights the Court came to the same interpretation: an injunction for the limited remaining time of EP 536 would not help [323] . The lack of an injunction would not unreasonably delay the case as the Court argued that the effective remedy would be compensation for the damages in main proceedings [300] . Additionally, the Court found this conclusion to be supported by the fact that Sisvel had only initiated main proceedings against other parties in the Netherlands and abroad [300] .

Sisvel’s claim that the lack of an injunction would create an unfair playing field between market participants was also rejected by the Court [324] . The Court stated that Xiaomi’s security and the possibility for Sisvel to get compensation for damages in main proceedings created an equal playing field [300] . Sisvel had relied on a decision of the Dutch Supreme Court, according to which a patent can only be effectively protected if there is a quick stop to further infringement [325] . The Court explained that this is the case only when the damages for patent infringement are difficult to determine; this was, however, not the case here [300] .

Security

The Court rejected Sisvel’s claim that the deposit on the escrow account had been made in such a way that it would be impossible for Sisvel to get paid [326] . Indeed, the Court underlined that Sisvel can unilaterally reclaim payment, especially if a FRAND rate is determined in the English proceedings [300] . Moreover, Xiaomi declared itself to be ready to adapt the amount placed on the escrow account in close cooperation with Sisvel, if Sisvel wishes to do so or has requests about the escrow account [300] . The Court noted it did not seem Sisvel made use of this possibility to adapt the amount [300] .

The amount deposited for fees under Sisvel’s MCP Patent Licence was considered as sufficient by the Court for the products sold in the Netherlands for the lifetime of EP 536 [327] . The Court added that this would still be the case even in the event that Sisvel wanted to increase the licensing rate for non-compliant users or to account for profits based on the infringement [300] . The Court underlined that in the Huawei v. ZTE decision of the CJEU [328] , the security had to be “appropriate”, which depends on the context of the FRAND defence [300] .

Recall and destruction of products

Sisvel’s request to have infringing products recalled and destroyed, as well as all mentions about those products removed, resellers informed and profits provided was rejected by the Court [329] . Sisvel had asserted the same urgent interest as for the preliminary injunction to support this request: stopping and preventing infringement of EP 536. Since the request for a preliminary injunction failed, the further claims asserted by Sisvel had to follow the same fate [300] . The Court stated that there was no urgent interest to have Xiaomi disclosing its profits, or at least that was more important than having Xiaomi keeping this information confidential [300] . Sisvel did also not explain why profits data should be disclosed in advance of the main proceedings [300] .

C. Other important issues

The Court also denied Sisvel’s request to grant a preliminary injunction, as long as Xiaomi did not agree to initiating arbitration procedures [330] . The Court argued that if Xiaomi would be forced to have an arbitration tribunal determining the terms and conditions for all patents of the MCP Patent Licence for the whole world, this would deprive Xiaomi of its fundamental right of access to a court [300] . The acceptance of such arbitration proposal without conditions would have drastic consequences on Xiaomi’s position [300] .

  • [298] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 2, par.2.2.
  • [299] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 2, par.2.4.
  • [300] Ibidem
  • [301] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 2, par.2.8.
  • [302] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 2, par.2.5.
  • [303] Dutch newspaper.
  • [304] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 4, par.2.11.
  • [305] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 4, par.2.12.
  • [306] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, pages 3 and 4, par.2.7 and 2.12.
  • [307] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 4, par.2.13.
  • [308] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 4, par.2.14.
  • [309] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, pages 4 and 5, par.3.3.
  • [310] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 2, par.1.
  • [311] Amount has been redacted.
  • [312] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 5, par.3.5.
  • [313] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, pages 10 and 11, par. 4.24 and following.
  • [314] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 5, par.4.3.
  • [315] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, pages 5 and 6, par.4.3.
  • [316] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 6, par.4.3.
  • [317] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 6, par.4.7.
  • [318] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, pages 6 and 7, par.4.8.
  • [319] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 7, par.4.9.
  • [320] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 7, par.4.11.
  • [321] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 7, par.2.12.
  • [322] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 8, par.4.14.
  • [323] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 8, par.4.15.
  • [324] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 8, par.4.16.
  • [325] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, pages 8 and 9, par.4.17.
  • [326] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 6, par. 4.5.
  • [327] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 6, par. 4.6.
  • [328] Court of Justice of the European Union, Huawei Technologies Co.Ltd. v. ZTE Corp. and ZTE Deutschland GmbH, 16 July 2015.
  • [329] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 9, par. 4.2.1.
  • [330] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 9, par.4.18.

Updated 2 八月 2019

Tagivan (MPEG-LA) v Huawei

LG Düsseldorf
15 十一月 2018 - Case No. 4a O 17/17

A. Facts

The Claimant, Tagivan II LLC, holds a patent essential to the practice of the AVC/H.264 standard concerning the compression of video data (Standard Essential Patent, or SEP). The patent in question is subject to a FRAND commitment (FRAND stands for Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory terms and conditions) made towards the relevant standardisation body. It was included into a patent pool administered by MPEG LA LLC (MPEG LA), comprising more the 5,000 patents referring to the AVC/H.264 standard (MPEG LA pool) [331] .

The Defendant, a German subsidiary of a Chinese group of companies, sells – among other things – mobile phones in Germany that practise the AVC/H.264 standard [332] .

MPEG LA uses a standard licensing agreement, which is publicly available at its website [333] . Since 2004, MPEG-LA has signed approx. 2,000 agreements with implementers [334] , 1,400 of which are still in force [333] .

In 2009, MPEG LA and the Defendant’s parent company (parent company) started discussions about a potential licence covering other standards, especially the MPEG-2 standard. On 6 September 2011, MPEG LA informed the parent company about the possibility to obtain a licence also regarding the AVC/H.264 standard, by sending PDF-copies of its standard licensing agreement to the parent company via email [335] . On 15 September 2011, the parent company suggested to arrange a call on this issue [336] . In February 2012, MPEG LA sent the pool’s standard licensing agreement for the AVC/H.264 standard to the parent company also by mail [337] .

In November 2013, the discussions between MPEG LA and the parent company ended without success [338] . The parties resumed negotiations in July 2016; again, no agreement was reached [338] .

The Claimant then brought an action against the Defendant before the District Court of Düsseldorf in Germany (Court), requesting for injunctive relief, information and rendering of accounts, the destruction and the recall of infringing products as well as for a declaratory judgement confirming Defendant’s liability for damages on the merits [339] .

In November 2017, during the course of the present proceedings, the Defendant made a counteroffer to the Claimant for a licence, which – in contrast to MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement – was limited to the Claimant’s patent portfolio and established different royalty rates for different regions, in which the Defendant sold products [340] .

In March and September 2018 (again during the proceedings), the Defendant provided bank guarantees to the Claimant covering past and future sales of (allegedly) infringing products. The security amounts were calculated based on the Defendant’s counteroffer dated November 2017 [341] . Furthermore, the Defendant made a second counteroffer to the Claimant shortly after the last oral hearing before the Court [342] .

With the present judgment, the Court granted Claimant’s requests.

B. Court’s reasoning

The Court found that the patent in suit was valid [343] , standard essential [344] and infringed by the products sold by the Defendant in Germany [345] . Furthermore, the Court held that by filing the present suit the Claimant did not abuse its dominant market position in violation of Article 102 of the Treaty for the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), since it had fully complied with the conduct obligations stipulated by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) in the matter Huawei v ZTE [346] (Huawei obligations or framework) with respect to dominant undertakings [347] .

Dominant market position

The Court found that the Claimant holds a dominant market position in terms of Article 102 TFEU [348] .

The Court defined the relevant market for the assessment of dominance as the market, in which licences for any given patent are offered [349] . A dominant market position can further also exist, when the patent holder can hinder competition in downstream markets for standard-compliant products and services [349] .

The Court made clear that ownership of a SEP does not per se establish market dominance [350] . A dominant market position is given, when the use of the SEP is required for entering the market [351] . The same is true, if the patent user could not market competitive products or services, without access to the respective SEP [352] .

Based on these considerations, the Court saw no ‘reasonable’ doubt that the Claimant was a dominant undertaking: It was undisputed that almost all mobile phones available worldwide use the AVC/H.264 standard and that no ‘realistic’ alternative to the MPEG LA pool existed in the licensing market for patents essential to this standard [353] .

Huawei framework

The Court found, however, that the Claimant did not abuse its dominant position by suing the Defendant in the present case, since its conduct was in line with the Huawei framework [354] . The Huawei framework establishes mutual conduct obligations for both SEP holders and SEP users, which need to be fulfilled step by step and one after another (meaning that each party’s obligation to act arises only after the other party has fulfilled its own obligation) [355] . Subject to the Huawei framework is not only the patent holder’s claim for injunctive relief, but also the claim for the destruction of infringing products [356] .

In this context, the Court pointed out that the Huawei framework applies, irrespective of whether a ‘well-established’ licensing practice concerning the asserted patents already existed before the CJEU delivered the Huawei judgment, or not [357] . The Claimant had argued that, in the present case, the Court should apply the (German) legal standard that preceded the Huawei framework (which was based on the so-called ‘Orange-Book-Standard’ ruling of the Federal Supreme Court [358] ), since with respect to the SEP in suit a ‘routine’ practice already existed prior to the Huawei judgement. The Court explained that the Huawei judgment does not contain either an explicit or an implicit limitation of its scope of application [359] . Furthermore, even if a ‘well-established’ licensing practice existed, the need to apply the Huawei framework will still be given, in order to bridge the, nevertheless, existing information gap between patent holder and implementer concerning the (potential) infringement of SEPs [360] . Finally, it would be very challenging for courts to distinguish whether a ‘well-established’ licensing practice excluding the application of the Huawei framework is at hand, or not [360] . Notwithstanding the above, according to the Court, the actual licensing practice of the patent holder could be of ‘particular significance’ when assessing the compliance of the latter with the Huawei obligations: Such practice could, for instance, serve as an indicator of the appropriateness of SEP holder’s licensing offer to the implementer [361] .

Having said that, the Court found no flaws in Claimant’s conduct. In the Court’s view, the Claimant had met its Huawei obligation to notify the Defendant about the infringement of its patent as well as the obligation to present the Defendant with a written FRAND licensing offer covering also the patent in suit. The Defendant, on the other hand, adequately expressed its willingness to enter into a licence, failed, however, to make a FRAND counteroffer to the Claimant. Since an adequate counteroffer was missing, the Court did not take up the question whether the bank guarantees provided by the Defendant constitute an adequate security in terms of the Huawei framework.

Notification of infringement

The Court ruled that the Claimant had adequately notified the Defendant about the infringement of the SEP in suit through the email sent by MPEG LA to the parent company on 6 September 2011 [362] .

The fact that this email was not addressed to the Defendant, but to the parent company, did not raise any concerns as to the compatibility of the notification with the Huawei framework. The Court explained that a notification of infringement addressed only to the parent company of a group of companies is sufficient, as far as it can be assumed that the notification will be forwarded to the subsidiaries concerned [363] . The sole fact that a company belongs to a group justifies such an assumption, unless indications to the contrary exist [364] . This was, however, not the case here.

Besides that, the Court did not consider it inappropriate that the aforementioned e-mail was not sent to the parent company by the Claimant, but by MPEG LA (which is not the holder of the SEP in suit) [365] . The Court held that MPEG LA is entitled to perform legal actions in connection with the licensing of the MPEG LA pool on behalf of the Claimant. The Defendant could not contest that this was not the case, since MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement, which it is aware of, contains an indication about MPEG LA’s respective capacity [366] . In addition, the Defendant’s parent company was most likely aware of MPEG LA’s capacity to act on behalf of the Claimant, since it had entered into direct negotiation with MPEG LA already in 2009, that is almost two years prior to the notification of infringement [367] .

The Court further ruled that, in terms of content, a notification of infringement must – at least – name the infringed patent (including the patent number) and indicate the contested embodiments as well as the (allegedly) infringing acts of use [368] . A detailed (technical and/or legal) explanation of the infringement is not required; the implementer needs just to be put in the position to assess the infringement allegations, if necessary, by seeking expert advice [368] . A notification of infringement is, therefore, not necessary, when it constitutes just a ‘pointless formality’ [368] . This is true, when according to the overall circumstances of the case, one can safely assume that the implementer is aware of the infringement, so that claiming that the SEP holder failed to provide adequate notification prior to the initiation of court proceedings would appear to be abusive [368] . The respective test is, however, subject to strict conditions [368] .

Based on the above considerations, the Court found that MPEG LA’s email to the parent company dated 6 September 2011 should be considered – as an exception – to constitute a sufficient notification of infringement, although it did not contain the minimum information required (particularly the patent number and a reference to the specific infringing embodiments) [369] . The overall circumstances of the case (especially the fact that the parent company had been in negotiations with MPEG LA already since 2009 and, therefore, should have been aware that MPEG LA has granted licences for the AVC/H.264 standard to the implementers mentioned at its website), give rise to the assumption that the parent company had been conscious of the fact that AVC/H.264-compliant products need to be licensed [370] .

Willingness to obtain a licence

The Court held that the parent company had adequately expressed its willingness to obtain a FRAND-licence through the email sent to MPEG LA on 15 September 2011 [371] .

In the eyes of the Court, this email indicates the parent company’s intention to deal with issues concerning the licensing of patents referring to the AVC/H.264 standard, especially if it is seen in the context of the negotiations between MPEG LA and the parent company that had commenced in 2009 [371] . This is sufficient under the Huawei framework: A general, informal statement suffices [372] . The implementer is not required to refer to a specific licensing agreement (on the contrary, this could be considered harmful under certain circumstances) [372] .

SEP holder’s offer

The Court further found that the standard licensing agreement sent by MPEG LA to the parent company in February 2012 presents an offer accountable to the Claimant which is in line with the Huawei framework in terms of both form and content [373] .

The fact that the standard licensing agreement was not tailored to the parent company but was designed for use towards a large number of (potential) licensees (the name of the licensee ought to be added in each case separately), was not criticized by the Court. MPEG-LA had made clear that the documents sent by mail in February 2012 would serve as the basis for negotiations and a future agreement with the parent company [374] .

In addition, the Court did not take an issue with the fact that the offer was addressed to the parent company and not to the Defendant, since the parties were discussing about a licensing agreement on group level and the parent company had been involved in the communications from the beginning [375] .

The Court further ruled that the Huawei requirement, according to which the SEP holder’s licensing offer must specify the royalty calculation, was met, although the draft standard licensing agreement sent to the parent company did not contain a detailed explanation of the way the royalties were calculated [376] . The Court found that, in the present case, it was sufficient that the parent company was aware that the (standard) agreement presented to her had been accepted in the market by a great number of licensees [377] . In the Court’s view, the explanation of the royalty calculation does not require a ‘strict mathematical derivation’ of the royalty; moreover, it will, as a rule, suffice to demonstrate that the (standard) royalty rates offered have been accepted in the market by presenting existing licensing agreements with third parties (comparable agreements) [378] . If a sufficient number of comparable licences is presented, then the SEP holder will usually not be required to provide further information regarding the appropriateness of its licensing offer [378] . It will need, however, to provide information on all essential comparable agreements, in order to rule out the risk that only agreements supporting the offered royalty level are presented [378] . In this context, the Court noted that it cannot be required from the SEP holder to present all comparable agreements along with the licensing offer to the implementer; a respective industry practice does not exist [379] .

Apart from the above, the Court held that the standard licensing agreement offered to the parent company was FRAND also in terms of content [380] .

According to the Court, a licensing offer cannot be considered as fair and reasonable, if the patent holder requests royalties that go significantly beyond the (hypothetical) price that would have been formed in an effectively competitive market, unless there is a commercial justification for the royalty level requested [381] . Particularly in connection with the licensing of SEPs, an offer can lie outside the FRAND-scope, if the cumulative royalty burden imposed on the implementer would not be tenable in commercial terms [381] . The Court made clear that, in this context, no exact mathematical derivation of a FRAND-conform royalty rate is required; moreover, an approximate value is to be determined based on assessments and estimations [381] . In this respect, comparable agreements can serve as an ‘important indicator’ of the fair and reasonable character of the offered royalty rates [381] .

Non-discrimination

Regarding to the non-discriminatory element of FRAND, the Court pointed out that it applied only to similar situated cases [382] . Even then, an unequal treatment is allowed, as long as it is objectively justified [382] . Limitations may, nevertheless, occur, especially when the implementation of the patent is necessary for entering a downstream market or when a product becomes competitive, only when it uses the patent’s teachings [382] . As a rule, the burden of proof with respect to the discriminatory character of a licensing offer rests on the implementer. Since the latter will usually not be aware of the existence or the content of comparable agreements of the patent holder, it may, however, seem appropriate to request the patent holder to provide the implementer with respective details, as far as this is reasonable [383] . The information to be shared should cover all existing licensees and include which (concretely designated) company with which importance in the relevant market has obtained a licence on which conditions [383] .

Against this background, the Court found that the offer made by MPEG LA to the parent company was not discriminatory. The Defendant had argued that seeking a licence also covering sales in China violated FRAND, since not every other competitor in the Chinese market was licensed by MPEG LA [384] . The Court observed that the selective assertion of patents against only a part of the competitors in a downstream market might, in principle, be discriminatory [385] . This was, however, not the case here, because the Claimant had already sued another company active in China and was attempting to persuade other companies to obtain a licence [386] . Due to the high cost risk associated with court proceedings, the patent holder is not obliged to sue all potential infringers at once; choosing to assert its patents against larger implementers first was considered by the Court as reasonable, since a win over a large market player could motivate smaller competitors to also obtain a licence (without litigation) [387] .

Furthermore, the Court did not consider the fact that the offered standard licensing agreement contained a cap for the annual licensing fees payable to the MPEG LA pool to be discriminatory [388] . The Defendant had argued that the respective cap disproportionally favoured licensees with high volume sales which offered not only mobile phones, but also other standard compliant products in the market. The Court made, however, clear that Art. 102 TFEU does not establish a ‘most-favoured-licensee’ principle (meaning that the patent holder must offer the same conditions to all licensees) [389] . It is not per se discriminatory to use sale volumes as a criterion for discounts, especially if a company has managed to open up a larger market than its competitors [390] . Discounts can further hardly be discriminatory, if they are offered to every (potential) licensee under the same conditions [390] .

Besides that, the Court dismissed the Defendant’s argument that MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement is discriminatory, because it is offered to both MPEG LA pool members and third licensees. The Court found that the share of the licensing income paid to pool members, who have also signed a MPEG LA licence, reflects their contribution to the pool and, therefore, does not discriminate the latter against third licensees (who have not contributed any patents to the pool) [391] . In this context, the Court also pointed out that the clauses contained in MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement, providing for deductions or instalment payments are not discriminatory, particularly because they are offered to all licensees [392] .

The Court was further not convinced that the parent company was discriminated by MPEG LA’s offer, because the MPEG LA pool had refrained from requesting a licence at group level from a competitor, but had only granted a licence to a subsidiary within the respective group, instead. In the Court’s eyes, the Claimant had managed to establish that this exception was objectively justified, since only the subsidiary granted a licence had activities concerning the patents included in the pool [393] .

Fair and reasonable terms

With respect to the assessment of whether MPEG LA’s offer to the parent company was also fair and reasonable, the Court placed particular emphasis on the existing licensing agreements between the MPEG-LA pool and third licensees. The Court took the view, that existing licences can establish the actual presumption that the terms offered (as well as the scope of the licence) are fair and reasonable [394] . Moreover, the fact that licences regarding the same patent portfolio have already been granted for similar products prima facie suggests that the selection of the patents included in the pool was adequate [394] .

Based on these premises, the Court found that the approx. 2,000 standard licensing agreements concluded by the MPEG LA pool provide a ‘strong indication’ (‘erhebliche Indizwirkung’) that the underlying licensing terms are fair and reasonable [395] . In the Court’s view, the Defendant had failed to show sufficient facts that could rebut this indication.

In particular, the Court did not accept Defendant’s claim that, as a rule, licences for products sold in the Chinese market are subject to special conditions. On the contrary, the Court found that the existing MPEG LA pool licences allow the assumption that setting worldwide uniform licence fees corresponds to industry practice [396] . Accordingly, the Court rejected Defendant’s argument, that the royalties offered by MPEG LA to the parent company would hinder the Defendant from making profits with its sales in China, since the overall licensing burden (including licences needed from third parties) would be too high. The Court noted that the price level for Defendant’s sales in China does not significantly differ from the price level in other regions [397] . What is more, the Defendant did not show that further licences are needed with respect to the AVC/H.264 standard [398] . The Court further did not recognise a need to apply special conditions for the Chinese market, because – compared to patents from other regions – a lower number of Chinese patents is contained in the MPEG LA pool. According to the Court, the number of patents in a specific market should not be ‘overestimated’ as a factor for assessing the FRAND conformity of an offer, since even a single patent can block an implementer from a market, generating, therefore, the need for obtaining a licence [399] .

Apart from the above, the Court did not criticise that MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement did not contain an adjustment clause. Such clauses can secure that the agreed licensing fees remain reasonable, in case that the number of patents contained in the pool changes during the term of the licensing agreement. They are, however, in the Court’s view, not the only mean to reach this goal: Moreover, the clause contained in MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement, according to which the agreed royalties will not be adjusted either when more patents are added to the pool or when patents are withdrawn from the pool, offers an adequate balance of risk and is, therefore, FRAND compliant [400] . This assumption is also confirmed by the fact that all existing licensees have accepted this clause [401] .

In addition, the Court made clear that pool licences, as the one offered to the parent company, are, in general, appropriate under the Huawei framework. An offer for a pool licence cannot per se be seen as abusive (Article 101 TFEU) [402] . On the contrary, such licences usually serve the interest of potential licensees to be granted access to the whole standard on uniform conditions under one roof, without having to seek a licence from every single patent holder separately [402] .

An offer for a pool licence can, nevertheless, violate FRAND in ‘special circumstances’ [403] , for instance, if not all patents included in the pool are used by the licensee [404] . According to the Court, the fact that the Defendant – as well as mobile phone manufacturers in general – usually use only one of four available profiles of the AVC-Standard does not, however, render the standard licensing agreement offered by MPEG LA unreasonable [405] . This is particularly the case, since Defendant’s products – and especially its latest smartphones – have the technical capability to implement more than one available profile [406] . Besides that, it is reasonable to offer one single licence covering all profiles, since modern products incorporate functionalities of several types of devices (e.g. smartphones offer also digital television functionalities) [406] .

In this context, the Court dismissed Defendant’s arguments that the licence offered by MPEG LA was not FRAND, because it allegedly covered both standard-essential and non-essential patents. The Court recognised that the ‘bundling’ of essential and non-essential patents in a patent pool could, in principle, be incompatible with FRAND, if it is done with the intention to extract higher royalties from licensees by increasing the number of patents contained in the pool [407] . The Defendant failed, however, to present any reliable evidence that this was the case with the MPEG-LA pool [408] .

In the Court’s eyes, the Defendant also failed to establish that the rates offered by MPEG LA would lead to an unreasonably high total burden of licensing costs (‘royalty stacking’) [409] . The theoretical possibility that the Defendant might need to obtain licences also for patents not included in a pool does not per se lead to royalty stacking; the Defendant would have been obliged to establish that the total amount of royalties actually paid does not allow to extract any margin from the sale of its products [410] .

The Court further pointed out that MPEG-LA’s offer did not violate FRAND principles, because it referred to a licence covering all companies within the group, to which the Defendant belonged [411] . In the electronics and mobile communications industries, licences on a group level are in line with the industry practice and, therefore, FRAND-compliant [412] .

Implementer’s counteroffer

Having said that, the Court found that the Defendant failed to make a FRAND counteroffer [413] .

In particular, the counteroffer made in November 2017 after the commencement of the present proceedings violated the FRAND principles in terms of content, because it was limited to a licence covering solely the Claimant’s patent portfolio and not all patents included in the MPEG LA pool [414] . Furthermore, the counteroffer established different licensing rates for different regions (especially for China) without factual justification [415] .

Furthermore, the second counteroffer made by the Defendant after the end of the last oral hearing was belated and, therefore, not FRAND. The Court held that the Claimant was not given sufficient time to respond to that counteroffer, so that there was no need for any further assessment of its content [342] . On the contrary, the Court expressed the view that the purpose of this counteroffer was most likely to delay the infringement proceedings [342] .

Provision of security

Since Defendant’s counter-offers were not FRAND in terms of content, the Court did not have to decide, whether the security provided in form of bank guarantees was FRAND or not. The Court noted, however, that the amounts provided were insufficient, since they were calculated on basis of Defendant’s counteroffer from November 2017, which itself failed to meet the FRAND requirements [416] .

  • [331] Tagivan (MPEG-LA) v Huawei, District Court of Düsseldorf, 9 November 2018, para. 36.
  • [332] Ibid, para. 35.
  • [333] Ibid, para. 37.
  • [334] Ibid, para. 453.
  • [335] Ibid, para. 39.
  • [336] Ibid, para. 43.
  • [337] Ibid, para. 44.
  • [338] Ibid, para. 53.
  • [339] Ibid, para. 2.
  • [340] Ibid, para. 54.
  • [341] Ibid, para. 65.
  • [342] Ibid, para. 716.
  • [343] Ibid, paras. 143-208.
  • [344] Ibid, paras. 209-293.
  • [345] Ibid, paras. 295-302.
  • [346] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [347] Tagivan (MPEG-LA) v Huawei, District Court of Düsseldorf, 9 November 2018, paras. 304 et seqq.
  • [348] Ibid, para. 307.
  • [349] Ibid, para. 310.
  • [350] Ibid, para. 310. In this respect, the Court pointed out that – vice versa – also a non-essential patent might confer a dominant position, if the patented invention is superior in terms of technological merit and/or economical value, para. 312.
  • [351] Ibid, paras. 310 et seq.
  • [352] Ibid, para. 311.
  • [353] Ibid, paras. 315 et seqq.
  • [354] Ibid, para. 321.
  • [355] Ibid, para. 326.
  • [356] Ibid, para. 327.
  • [357] Ibid, para. 330.
  • [358] Under the ‘Orange-Book-Standard’ regime, in order to avoid an injunction, the implementer was required to make a licensing offer to the patent holder, which the latter could not refuse without acting in an anticompetitive manner; see Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof), judgment dated 6 May 2009, Case No. KZR 39/06.
  • [359] Ibid, paras. 331 et seqq.
  • [360] Ibid, para. 335.
  • [361] Ibid, para. 337.
  • [362] Ibid, para. 339.
  • [363] Ibid, para. 343.
  • [364] Ibid, para. 345.
  • [365] Ibid, para. 356.
  • [366] Ibid, paras. 357 et seqq.
  • [367] Ibid, paras. 366 et seqq.
  • [368] Ibid, para. 340.
  • [369] Ibid, para. 341.
  • [370] Ibid, paras. 395 et seqq.
  • [371] Ibid, paras. 400 et seqq.
  • [372] Ibid, para. 399.
  • [373] Ibid, para. 405.
  • [374] Ibid, paras. 411-417.
  • [375] Ibid, para. 419.
  • [376] Ibid, para. 421.
  • [377] Ibid, para. 425.
  • [378] Ibid, para. 422.
  • [379] Ibid, paras. 426 et seqq.
  • [380] Ibid, para. 429.
  • [381] Ibid, para. 431.
  • [382] Ibid, para. 432.
  • [383] Ibid, para. 433.
  • [384] Ibid, para. 438.
  • [385] Ibid, para. 443.
  • [386] Ibid, para. 444.
  • [387] Ibid, para. 445.
  • [388] Ibid, para. 579.
  • [389] Ibid, para. 582.
  • [390] Ibid, paras. 583 et seqq.
  • [391] Ibid, para. 564.
  • [392] Ibid, paras. 568 et seqq.
  • [393] Ibid, paras. 573 et seqq.
  • [394] Ibid, para. 451.
  • [395] Ibid, para. 449.
  • [396] Ibid, para. 454.
  • [397] Ibid, paras. 487 et seqq.
  • [398] Ibid, para. 491.
  • [399] Ibid, para. 495.
  • [400] Ibid, paras. 591 et seqq., particularly para. 596.
  • [401] Ibid. para. 597.
  • [402] Ibid. para. 504.
  • [403] Ibid. para. 508.
  • [404] Ibid. para. 514.
  • [405] Ibid. paras. 511 et seqq.
  • [406] Ibid. para. 524.
  • [407] Ibid, para. 528.
  • [408] Ibid, paras. 531-543.
  • [409] Ibid, paras. 545 et seqq.
  • [410] Ibid, para. 546.
  • [411] Ibid, para. 599.
  • [412] Ibid, para. 600.
  • [413] Ibid, para. 603.
  • [414] Ibid, paras. 605 et seqq.
  • [415] Ibid, paras. 617 et seqq.
  • [416] Ibid, para. 625.