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

LG Mannheim

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

A. Facts

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

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

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

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

B. Court’s Reasoning

1. Notice of Infringement

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

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

2. The SEP Owner’s Licensing Offer

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

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

3. The standard implementer’s reaction

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

C. Other Important Issues

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

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

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

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

Updated 10 四月 2019

华为诉中兴通信

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

A. 事实

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B. 法院的论理

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Updated 9 十一月 2020

夏普诉戴姆勒

慕尼黑地区法院
10 九月 2020 - Case No. 7 O 8818/19

A. 事实


原告是总部位于日本的夏普(Sharp)集团的一部分(以下称“夏普”)。夏普持有一系列的专利组合,而这些专利组合被宣告为实施欧洲电信标准协会(ETSI)所发展出的数种无线通信标准时(潜在)必要的专利(以下称“标准必要专利”或“SEP”)。

被告戴姆勒(Daimler)是是德国一家主要的汽车制造商。戴姆勒在德国生产并销售具有连网功能的汽车,而此一连网功能实施了由欧洲电信标准协会所发展出的标准。

夏普就本案涉案专利为实施4G / LTE标准时(潜在)必要向欧洲电信标准协会作出宣告。

欧洲电信标准协会要求各专利持有人承诺愿依照公平、合理且无歧视(FRAND)的条款和条件向标准实施人提供实施该标准时必要或可能成为必要的专利。 2017年,夏普加入了Avanci许可平台。Avanci依据标准化的许可协议和固定费率向汽车制造商提供实施连网标准的标准必要专利许可。Avanci自2016年9月起就一直持续在与戴姆勒联系沟通有关取得许可可能性的相关事宜,然而,双方并未达成协议的签署。

在一次初步的沟通后,夏普于2019年5月20日向戴姆勒提出了一系列说明其所持有的标准必要专利——包含本案涉案专利——与受影响标准的相关部分对应关系的权利要求对照表. 戴姆勒于2019年6月7日作出回覆,表示其原则上愿意取得其所使用专利的许可,然而却询问夏普所提供者是双边许可或是由Avanci平台进行许可。戴姆勒提出,如果该许可是以双边许可的方式提供,则其认为其供应商也可以被许可。

戴姆勒于2019年7月23日向夏普发出了另一封信函,信函中主张其认为不应该是由戴姆勒本身,而是应该由其(未个别指名的)供应商应来取得许可。戴姆勒主张,本案中夏普未向特别是供应连网功能元件的戴姆勒各供应商提供许可及其所要求获取的夏普已签署协议的相关信息,夏普因此将违反其对欧洲电信标准协会欧洲电信标准协会的FRAND承诺。

夏普在2019年8月8日作出回应,并告知其计划向戴姆勒提出一项单独的许可要约。为此,夏普要求戴姆勒提供某些相关信息,特别是与戴姆勒供应商有关的信息。

2019年9月18日,戴姆勒拒绝提供夏普所要求的信息,并且再次提出其供应商才是夏普许可要求的正确的收受人。

夏普在2019年10月22日向戴姆勒发出了一份双边FRAND许可协议要约,然而,此一许可要约并未被接受。

随后,夏普于慕尼黑地区法院(以下称“法院”)向戴姆勒提起了当前侵权诉讼。戴姆勒的几家供应商也参加了该诉讼程序以支持戴姆勒。

戴姆勒于该诉讼程序被提起后的2019年12月17日对夏普提出了许可反要约,随后并要求夏普同意中止该未决侵权诉讼程序的进行。夏普于2019年12月31日拒绝了戴姆勒所提出的许可反要约。

在诉讼程序进行的过程中,夏普与参加诉讼的其中一家戴姆勒供应商达成了许可协议。因此,夏普修改了其在诉讼中的主张。

法院在当前判决 [45] (引自https://www.gesetze-bayern.de/Content/Document/Y-300-Z-BECKRS-B-2020-N-22577?hl=true)中对对戴姆勒核发了禁令,并确认戴姆勒应承担实质性损害赔偿的责任。法院还要求戴姆勒必须召回并销毁侵权产品、开立担保帐户、并且提供计算夏普所受损失必需的相关信息。

 

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 [46] ,并且该专利遭受侵权行为 [47] 。因此,夏普有权享有包含禁令救济在内的各项诉讼上主张 [48]

戴姆勒主张了所谓的“FRAND抗辩”,基本上认为夏普提起侵权诉讼的行为构成了对其市场支配地位的滥用,从而违反了《欧洲联盟运作条约》(TFEU)第102条,因此其禁令救济主张应予否决。除此之外,戴姆勒等主张夏普未能遵守欧洲联盟法院(CJEU)在华为诉中兴案 [49] 中所确立的行为义务(以下称“华为案判决”或“华为框架”)。

法院驳回了戴姆勒提出的FRAND抗辩,并且认为戴姆勒不能通过其供应商获得FRAND抗辩 [50]

滥用市场支配地位

法院认为,当专利持有人未能做出“充分努力”来满足其因居于市场支配地位所应承担的“特殊责任”并致力促成与“原则上有取得许可意愿”的被许可人间许可协议的签署时,专利持有人因为行使其标准必要专利权而构成对市场支配地位的滥用的情况便可能产生 [51] 。然而,这需要未经权利持有人许可就已经使用了该项受保护技术的实施人愿意按照FRAND条款取得许可方可能实现 [52] 。法院进一步阐明,标准必要专利持有人不能向法院提出对任一标准实施人“强制施加”许可协议的主张 [52]

基于以上所述,法院认为,夏普提起本案诉讼的行为并未构成《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条下对市场支配地位的滥用 [53] 。法院并未确认夏普是否真实具备市场支配地位,而仅只是假设情况确实如此 [53] 。尽管如此,由于戴姆勒未能充分表达出其取得夏普所持有的标准必要专利组合的许可的意愿,夏普对其(假定的)市场支配地位的滥用并不成立 [54]
 

取得许可的意愿

法院解释到,实施人必须“清楚”且“明确”地表明其愿意依照“任何实际上符合FRAND的条款”与标准必要专利持有人达成许可协议,并且随后以一种“目的性导向”的态度来进行许可谈判(引用德国联邦法院2020年5月5日在Sisvel诉Haier案中的判决– Sisvel v Haier, Case No. KZR 36/17以及英格兰和威尔士高等法院2017年4月5日在无线星球诉华为案中所做出的判决[2017] EWHC 711(Pat)-Unwired Planet v Huawei) [52]

这意味着实施人不应拖延许可谈判的进行 [55] 。在法院看来,这尤为重要,其原因在于实施人通常在许可谈判开始之前就已经使用了该标准化技术专利,而拖延许可协议的签署直至该专利到期失效为止对他们而言可能是具备完全且优势利益的 [55]

尽管如此,法院认为,戴姆勒并未展现出一个“善意”被许可人应有的态度 [54]

从戴姆勒在向夏普提出许可反要约之前的行为来看,法院认为戴姆勒缺少了“明确”的取得许可意愿的表达 [56] 。在其于2019年6月7日对夏普做出的第一份答复中,戴姆勒并没有做出任何形式的承诺是超出如同“若其确实使用了夏普的专利就愿意讨论是否取得许可”这样概括性意愿表达的 [57] 。此外,戴姆勒在其2019年7月23日的信函中也未包含适当表达其取得许可意愿的声明,特别是当戴姆勒仅仅是将夏普转介给其(甚至未指明名称的)供应商,并且坚持认为夏普有义务对其供应商授予许可时 [58] 。此情况于戴姆勒在2019年9月18日所作出的声明中亦相同,戴姆勒在该声明中再度将夏普转介给其供应商,同时还拒绝向夏普提供草拟许可要约所必需的相关信息 [59] 。法院指出,尽管披露夏普所要求的信息的法律上义务并不存在,戴姆勒多次的各种拒绝明确显示其并非以“目的性导向的态度”来参与讨论,而只是为了拖延许可谈判的进行 [60] 。戴姆勒在夏普提出相关要求后将近六周的时间才作出回覆的这一事实更加证实了上述观点,法院认为戴姆勒不具备任何理由而需要花费这么长时间的才能作出回覆 [60]

此外,法院指出,戴姆勒在与Avanci平台谈判过程中的整体行为进一步证实了戴姆勒作为一个“恶意”被许可人的这一结论 [61] 。法院认为,在评估提出FRAND抗辩的实施人是否具备“取得许可的意愿”时,应该将实施人的整体行为纳入考量范围,而不是仅考虑实施人在收到侵权通知后时间维度上立即发生的事实 [62] 。评估实施人是否具备取得许可意愿的标准不应该取决于究竟是由专利持有人首先开始与实施人接洽抑或是相反地由实施人主动发起向专利持有人寻求许可这样相对随机的事实 [63] 。尽管华为判决中所确立的行为义务(其中一项为通过表达取得许可的“意愿”来对侵权通知做出回覆)原则上应该按照欧洲联盟法院所描绘的那样按“步骤”进行操作,然而,视具体个案情况的不同,例外应被允许,在当事方的行为存在应被允许的例外情况时,以一种存粹“形式性“的观点来看待华为框架似乎并不恰当 [64] 。法院认为,本案即是此种情况,因为戴姆勒自2016年9月以来即持续与Avanci接洽,并且从未在任何一个时间点表达其愿意取得许可 [65]

法院进一步指出,戴姆勒于2019年12月17日提出的许可反要约是在侵权诉讼已经被提起后才提出的,此无法弥补其取得许可意愿的缺失 [66] 。法院认为,戴姆勒所提出的许可反要约中附带了要求夏普同意中止正在进行的诉讼程序的条件,此一事实表明,于本案中戴姆勒唯一的目的只是在拖延许可谈判的进行;因此,此一许可反要约的提出并不能弥补戴姆勒在截至当时为止所表现出的“巨大恶意” [67] 。在一点上,法院表示,在诉讼进行过程中对瑕疵行为进行补正(例如:通过提出许可反要约)的可能原则上是被允许的,然而,随着审判进行至越后期,允许补正的条件将越来越严格 [68]

法院还强调,就内容而言,戴姆勒所提出的许可反要约并没有表达出其愿按“任何实际上符合FRAND的条款”取得许可的意愿 [69] 。通过提出一个不同的“参考点”来计算许可费,戴姆勒仅只是针对夏普要约中许可费的一小部分或Avanci从其竞争对手处收取的整体费用部分做出了反要约,如此一来对方拒绝此许可反要约就成为了一种“逻辑上的必要” [70]

于此脉络下,法院明确指出,就是否具备取得许可意愿的评估仅戴姆勒的行为是相关的 [71] 。更重要的是,戴姆勒不能以其参加诉讼的供应商“声称“有向夏普取得许可的意愿为由来避免禁令的核发 [72] 。因此,法院并没有就戴姆勒的供应商是否确实为“善意被许可人”进行审查 [72]
 

无歧视 / 许可层级

除上述几项观点外,法院进一步阐明,夏普仅对作为终端设备制造商的戴姆勒要求取得许可的行为并未构成滥用或歧视性行为 [73]

法院认为,夏普没有义务对戴姆勒的供应商授予许可 [74] 。在(德国的)汽车行业中,由供应商来取得与其出售给汽车制造商的零部件相关的许可此一作法十分常见,但这并不意味着夏普就必须尊重且接受这种作法 [75] 。相反地,随着其产品越来越广泛地使用无线通信技术,戴姆勒必须接受于该行业中盛行的作法,其中也包括向终端设备制造商进行许可 [75]

无论如何,法律上夏普都没有必须对零组件制造商授予许可的义务;其仅有义务必须许可对其所持有实施某一标准的标准必要专利的“使用” [76] 。专利持有人对欧洲电信标准协会所做出的承诺创造了一项将标准必要专利对第三方进行许可的义务 [77] 。尽管如此,法院强调,这并不意味着标准必要专利持有人有义务对价值链中各个层级的每一个参与者皆授予许可 [78] 。这种义务既不是源于竞争法,也并非由于对欧洲电信标准协会做出的FRAND承诺与专利法或合同法相结合而产生 [78]

特别是,欧盟竞争法并未规定必须在价值链的各个层级上对标准必要专利进行许可的义务 [79] 。法院认为,原则上,专利持有人有权自由选择要在价值链中的哪一个层级对其所持有的专利进行许可 [80] 。在华为案判决中,欧洲联盟法院指出,FRAND承诺为第三方创造出的是一种其可以由专利持有人处获得许可的“合法期待”。然而,法院认为,这并不构成必须对终端设备制造商的所有供应商进行许可的义务;进入市场并不一定需要取得许可,而是只要能有“合法使用的可能性”即可,这可以是例如通过对价值链最后一级参与者授予的许可,供应商便可以借此获得“代工权” [80]

法院还解释到,即使是在专利法中也未规定标准必要专利必须在价值链中的哪一个层级被许可 [81] 。特别是,并非所有包含于标准必要专利组合中的个别专利的专利权都必须在零组件制造商层级就产生穷竭的这一事实,更加支持了在终端设备层级进行许可的做法(除此之外,此种做法也可以更有效地对许可费用进行管理) [82]

最后,法院指出,合同法与对欧洲电信标准协会做出的FRAND承诺相结合并不会对专利持有人施加对每一个有兴趣的第三方进行许可的义务 [83] 。根据其所适用的法国法律,欧洲电信标准协会知识产权政策第6.1条应被理解为仅只是规定了必须本于诚信原则与有意愿取得许可的第三方进行FRAND许可协议谈判的义务 [84] 。然而,通过对“设备”的明确指称,此条款仅适用于终端设备制造商,因为并非所有的零组件都必然以某标准为一个整体的形式来实施该标准 [85] 。在法院看来,欧洲联盟委员会过去在不同场合所表达的观点也并不会得出不同的结论同上注, 段 180-183。 法院特别引用了欧盟委员会在摩托罗拉案(European Commission, Case No. AT.39985 – Motorola)中的决定,以及 the Communication on the Guidelines on the applicability of Article 101 TFEU to horizontal co-operation agreements (2011/C 11/01); 及 the Communication on ICT Standardisation Priorities for the Digital Single Market, COM(2016) 176 final。
 

供应商提出的FRAND抗辩护

法院进一步认为,戴姆勒无法从其供应商所提出的FRAND抗辩护中获益 [87] 。被告仅在当专利持有人有义务对供应商进行许可时,才可以倚仗此种抗辩;然而,此情形于在充分考量了相关价值链中可能产生的专利权穷竭问题后,被告本身仍有能力与标准必要专利持有人签署许可时,则没有其适用 [87] 。 法院认为本案即是此种情况。戴姆勒的供应商本身并没有单独作出要求获得夏普的许可的主张,而只是主张对标准化技术应享有“受法律保障的使用”,而这并不能支持戴姆勒的主张 [88]

 

C. 其他重要问题

此外,法院认为没有理由基于比例原则考量而对夏普所提出的禁令救济主张进行限制 [89] 。戴姆勒曾辩称,其认为不应根据本案涉案专利而核发禁令,因其所生产的车辆是由大量零组件组合而成的“复杂”产品,而使用夏普所持有的标准必要专利的远程控制单元对于汽车整体而言的重要性极其微小。

法院明确指出,根据德国法律,比例原则是一项具备宪法位阶的一般性原则,如果被告以此原则为由提出异议,则法院在审查禁令救济问题时也应予以考虑 [90] 。根据联邦法院的判例,禁令在实施人将遭受因专利持有人违反诚信原则行使排他性权利而产生的危害这样的特殊情况下,就可能无法立即执行 [91]

在法院看来,任何对禁令救济权的限制都应该在“极少数特殊情况下”才有其适用,因此必须受到严格的条件限制,尤其是当为了维护“法律秩序”以及“法律的确定性与可预测性”时 [92] 。在整体实质性和程序性框架下(包括例如为执行一审所核发的禁令需提供担保),就所有相关事实对具体个案逐一进行评估是必须的 [92] 。法院解释到,只有在此一危害超出执行禁令通常会产生的后果时才可能被考虑 [92] 。同时,应该可以期待侵权人会在收到侵权通知后做出努力以尽快达成许可协议的签署并且至少采取一定预防措施来防止可能对其主张的禁令 [92]

于此脉络下,法院指出,尽管在本案中受影响的可能仅只是戴姆勒所制造车辆中的单个部件,本案各争点依旧是围绕着一个复杂的专利组合(不论究竟是夏普或者Avanci的专利组合)的许可问题而产生 [93] 。此外,法院也不认同夏普专利所具有的功能对戴姆勒的车辆而言是不重要的,此原因在于,“联网汽车”这一创新发明中很大的一部分,不论是从技术层面还是经济角度出发,都与移动通信技术紧密相关 [94] 。最后,法院还批判了戴姆勒并未做出任何实际的努力以寻求与夏普或Avanci签署许可协议的事实 [95]

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  • [93] 同上注, 段 97 及以下。
  • [94] 同上注, 段 100 及以下。
  • [95] 同上注, 段 99。

Updated 26 一月 2017

NTT DoCoMo v HTC

曼海姆地区法院
29 一月 2016 - Case No. 7 O 66/15

  1. Facts
    Claimant owns the patent EP 1 914 945, declared to be essential with regard to ETSI’s UMTS standard. Defendant markets devices implementing the UMTS standard (in particular the HSUPA/EUL technology). On 19 March 2014 Claimant sent to Defendant’s group parent a detailed licensing offer and explained its conditions at several instances before filing suit in April 2015. As of 7 April 2014 and 15 July 2014, Claimant communicated to Defendant’s group parent company claim charts in order to demonstrate standard-essentiality of its patent and further explained the issue in a presentation on 8 July 2014. Defendant submitted its first counter-offer on 30 October 2015. The counter-offer envisaged a 3 year-license limited to some of the countries in which Defendant markets its products. Claimant rejected the counter-offer on 12 November 2015. Defendant did not provide security but merely promised to do so, based on a calculation including sales of relevant devices in Germany only. Claimant rejected this and demanded security based on worldwide sales.
  2. Court’s reasoning
    1. General meaning of the Huawei framework
      Prior to discussing specific conduct requirements established by the Huawei ruling, the court sketches its approach in a general manner. [96] According to the court the Huawei decision establishes a set of rules of due conduct in SEP licensing negotiations. Based on whether the parties comply with these rules the respective court can determine whether an SEP owner’s seeking of an injunction and a recall of products constitutes an abuse of a position of market dominance or a justified reaction to a standard implementer’s delaying tactics. In consequence, the respective court does not—unless it has to decide a claim for the payment of licensing fees and not claims for injunction and recall of products—have to rule on the substance of the offered licensing conditions or their being FRAND. [97] This is in line with recognized commercial practice according to which reasonable parties will not usually want courts to determine their licensing conditions. Furthermore, the ECJ has—from the perspective of the Mannheim District court—stressed that the exercise of the exclusive rights conveyed by a patent will be barred only in very exceptional circumstances. As a result, it is up to the standard implementer to show that such exceptional circumstances are present. [98]
    2. Market power and notice of infringement
      The court does not elaborate on the market power issue. As part of the notice of infringement [99] the court deems it necessary for the proprietor to identify the (allegedly) violated patent, including the patent number, and to inform that the patent has been declared standard-essential. Furthermore, the proprietor has not only to name the standard but to specify the pertinent part of the standard and the infringing element of the implementer’s products in a way that enables the standard implementer to assess whether its use of the standard infringes on the patent-in-suit. The level of detail required must be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending mainly on the expertise of – or available to – the implementer. Presenting claim charts corresponding to recognized commercial practice for licensing negotiations is, in principle, an acceptable way to give notice of the alleged infringement. In casu the court considered the proprietor’s notice as sufficient. [100] In particular, notice was given before the bringing of an action for infringement and the proprietor had submitted claim charts not only with regard to the patent-in-suit but also with regard to six other patents from the portfolio offered for license, a sample which the court deemed in accordance with recognized commercial practice. Sufficient notice having taken place, the court left open the question whether, (1) the Huawei rules applied at all in spite of the action being brought before the ECJ’s decision, and whether (2) the proprietor was obliged to submit claim charts for other patents than the patent-in-suit.
    3. The SEP proprietor’s licensing offer
      The court’s general understanding of the Huawei rules of conduct (cf. above) has a considerable impact on the way it intends to react to a SEP proprietor’s licensing offer: [101] The offer must specify the relevant conditions in a way that, in order to conclude a licensing agreement, the standard implementer has merely to state his acceptance of the offer. The calculation of the license fee, in particular, must be explained in a manner that enables the standard implementer to objectively assess its FRAND conformity. Even if the standard implementer disputes the FRAND character of the offer it is not the court’s business to determine whether the licensing conditions are actually FRAND. Neither is the SEP proprietor prohibited from offering conditions slightly above the FRAND threshold. A differing view of the parties on what constitutes FRAND is to be expected and provides no reason for cartel law-based intervention. An exploitative abuse of market power can, however, be present where the proprietor, after having made a FRAND declaration, offers conditions that are, under the circumstances of the case and without objective justification, manifestly less favorable (in an economic sense) than the conditions offered to other licensees. Correspondingly, the respective court is only required to determine, based on a summary assessment, whether the proprietor’s licensing offer evidently violates the FRAND concept. In casu the court accepted the Huawei compliance of the licensing offer, [102] in particular because the proprietor had explained its calculation of the licensing fee based on the percentage of patents in the WCMA/SIPRO and the VIA patent pools held by the proprietor. The proprietor was not required to prove its share in the patent pools. The parties disagreed over whether the smallest saleable unit forms an appropriate basis for royalty calculation and whether it is acceptable to look only at the size, not the quality of a proprietor’s share in a relevant patent pool. The court, however, considered these issues as not decisive for the Huawei-conformity of the licensing offer.
    4. The standard implementer’s reaction
      As a further consequence of the court’s general approach, the standard implementer’s duty to diligently react to the proprietor’s licensing offer is not removed only because the offer does not fully comply with FRAND. [103] . An exception applies only where it can be established by a mere summary assessment that the offer evidently violates FRAND. If a reaction of the alleged infringer is due, the “diligence”, i.e. timeliness, of this offer has to be determined cases-by-case, based on the principles of good faith and recognized commercial practice. In casu the standard implementer’s reaction was insufficient (1) because a counter-offer was made only 1.5 years after receiving the licensing offer and 0.5 years after the bringing of the proprietor’s action, (2) because security was merely promised, not provided, and (3) because the amount of security offered fell short of the court’s suggestions.
  3. Other important issues
    The court underlines that a SEP proprietor has to respect the Huawei rules of conduct only with regard to an action for prohibitory injunction or the recall of products. It is, however, free from their grip when bringing an action seeking the rendering of accounts in relation to past acts of use or an award of damages in respect of those acts of use.
  • [96] Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 53 et seq.
  • [97] Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 56
  • [98] Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 53
  • [99] Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 57
  • [100] Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 65-69
  • [101] Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 58
  • [102] Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 70-72
  • [103] Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 59 et seq

Updated 26 一月 2017

Saint Lawrence v Vodafone

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

  1. Facts
    Since 28 August 2014 Claimant, a non-practicing entity, is the proprietor of the European patent EP 1 125 276 B1 “J”, originally granted to applicants “Voiceage, and allegedly covering part of the AMR-WB standard. Defendant is a company active in the telecommunications sector and which markets AMR-WB-based devices, inter alia devices produced by the Intervener in this case. After the adoption (“freeze”) of AMR-WB by ETSI on 10 April 2001, Claimant (who was not an ETSI member during the setting of the AMR-WB standard) made, on 29 May 2001, a commitment towards ETSI to grant licenses on FRAND terms inter alia for patent EP J. Claimant and its parent company “O” offer the SEP and all other patents of the same family to third parties by means of a portfolio license. Licensing conditions are accessible on the Internet and various producers in the sector have taken a license under these conditions. Prior to the submission of the patent infringement action on 23 July 2014 and to the advance payments on costs on 29 July 2014, Claimant alerted neither Defendant nor the manufacturer of the contested embodiments, who acted as an intervener in the present proceedings and became aware of the lawsuit in August 2014. By e-mails on 31 July and (as a reminder) on 9 December 2014, the first of which included a copy of the statement of claims and reached the defendant before it was formally served with the statement, Claimant notified the alleged patent violation to Defendant. After Defendant’s reply as of 12 January 2015, Claimant presented a draft licensing agreement to Defendant by letter as of 22 April 2015. On 9 December 2014, the Intervener (HTC) declared willingness to take a license for that patent, inter alia for the patent-in-suit, provided infringement was found in Mannheim’s District Court. It further declared that it would accept royalties determined by a court or arbitration tribunal. Claimant, in turn, offered a licensing agreement by letters as of 12 January 2015 and 25 March 2015 respectively. In the course of meetings taking place since 23 January 2014, [104] Claimant offered a license to the Intervener. On 23 February 2015 and on 2 April 2015 respectively, the Intervener made two licensing offers, including third party determination (arbitration panel or English court) of the amount of royalty, for the whole German patent portfolio of Claimant. An additional offer for a licensing agreement, limited to Germany and implementing a royalty of USD 0.0055 per patent by reference to the “WCDMA Patent Pools”, was made by the Intervener on 6 March 2015 and 24 September 2015 respectively, but it was finally refused by Claimant on 4 October 2015. Moreover, the Intervener provided a bank “guarantee of payment” as of 3 September 2015, being modified by letter as of 10 November 2015, and also rendered account of past and prospective sales in Germany since 2011.
  2. Court’s reasoning
    1. Market power and notice of infringement
      The court leaves open the question of whether the SEP conferred market power to Claimant since it did, in any case, find no abuse of such potential market power. [105] The court declared the Huawei rules applicable to claims for the recall of products. [106] As regards the Huawei requirement to alert the standard user of the infringement, the decision arrived at various findings of interest: Firstly, the judges found that—in “non-transitional” cases where the lawsuit was brought after the Huawei decision—the infringement notification has to take place before the action is filed, or the latest before the advance payment on costs is made. In transitional cases, such as the present case, a delayed infringement notification, taking place after the advance payment on costs as well as the submission of the court action, but before the statement of claims is served, is admissible. [107] Moreover, an infringement notification could possibly be omitted (in particular) if—as in the present case—the patent user already disposes of all necessary information and lacks willingness to license. [108] In non-transitional cases, however, the court doubts whether it is possible to rectify an omitted infringement notification without withdrawing the action. [109] Secondly, the court specified the minimum content of the infringement notification which has to indicate at least the number of the patent, the contested embodiments and the alleged acts of use performed by the standard implementer. The court did not decide whether additional information has to be provided, in particular regarding the interpretation of the patent claims or on which part of the standard the patent reads, but it stated that such additional information is not harmful to the patent proprietor. [110] Lastly, the court detailed on the particular situation of the Intervener, being Defendant’s manufacturer and supplier in the present case: Even though a FRAND defense successfully raised by the Intervener would in general also cover subsequent levels of the distribution chain, the Huawei requirements apply only indirectly to suppliers of contested embodiments which have not been sued themselves. Accordingly, the SEP proprietor is not obliged to notify the patent infringement to third parties, but as soon as a request to grant a license on FRAND terms is submitted the (adapted) Huawei procedure applies. [111] In casu, no separate infringement notice vis-à-vis the Intervener was required since the Intervener was, since August 2014, aware of the action having been brought.
    2. The SEP owner’s licensing offer
      Since the patent user did not express its willingness to conclude a licensing agreement in due time, the court found Claimant to comply with the Huawei requirement to submit a licensing offer on FRAND terms even though the offer was made in the course of the ongoing litigation. For transitional cases, as the present one, this holds true even if infringement notification and court action take place at the same time. [112] Besides, the court analyzed under which circumstances licensing conditions can be considered as FRAND according to Huawei. In the opinion of the judges, the more licensing agreements implementing comparable terms the SEP proprietor has already concluded, the stronger is the presumption that these conditions are FRAND, unless factual reasons—which are to be demonstrated by the patent user—justify modified terms. Recognized commercial practice in the relevant sector has to be considered when defining the admissible scope of the licensing agreement. If patent portfolios are usually covered by group or worldwide licenses in the relevant market, a (worldwide) portfolio license will be FRAND unless the circumstances of the specific case, e.g. the SEP proprietor’s market activity being limited to one geographic market, require a modification. [113] Accordingly, Claimant’s (worldwide) licensing offer to Defendant for the whole AMR-WB pool, demanding royalties of USD 0.26 per mobile device that implemented the standard and was produced or marketed in countries in which the SEP was in force, and complying with Claimants existing licensing practice (accessible on the Internet and already implemented in 12 licensing agreements) was declared FRAND. While the court considered that comparable licensing agreements “represent an important indicator of the adequacy of the license terms offered” it clarified that the significance of a patent pool as an indication of FRAND conformity is “limited”. Defendant and the Intervener failed to show that the portfolio comprised (non-used) non-SEPs as well. [114] They further failed to show that the pre-concluded licensing agreements provided no valid basis for comparison as they were concluded under the threat of pending litigation. [115] In order to fulfill the Huawei obligation of specifying the calculation of royalties, the SEP proprietor only has to provide the information necessary to determine the amount of royalties to be paid, e.g. the royalty per unit and the products covered by the license. While the court left undecided whether additional indications, e.g. concerning the FRAND character of the licensing offer, are necessary to comply with Huawei, it found that the SEP proprietor’s duty to inform should not be interpreted too strictly as FRAND does regularly encompass a range of values that will be fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory. [116] Claimant’s licensing offer presented to the Intervener was considered as being FRAND for the same reasons. Furthermore, the court emphasized that the contractual clause allowing for judicial review of the royalties offered could be a possible way to avoid abusive practices and to ensure that licensing offers correspond to FRAND terms. [117]
    3. The standard implementer’s reaction
      The court found that the more details the infringement notification contains, the less time remains for the standard user to examine the patent(s) at issue and to express its willingness to conclude a licensing agreement on FRAND terms. In the present case, Defendant did not comply with Huawei because it took more than five months to react and then only asked for proof of the alleged infringement. Given this excessive delay, the court did not decide whether Defendant’s reaction satisfied the Huawei requirements in terms of content. It denied the possibility to remedy a belated reaction by a subsequent declaration of willingness to license. On the contrary, and as a consequence of the patent user’s non-compliance, the SEP proprietor may continue the infringement action without violating Article 102 TFEU, but it still has to grant licenses on FRAND terms. [118] Whether the Intervener satisfied the ECJ criteria was left undecided. [119] The court made some further remarks of interest as to the Huawei requirements concerning the standard implementer: Firstly, it left undecided whether the obligation of the patent user to diligently respond is caused also by a (potentially) non-FRAND licensing offer. [120] Secondly, a standard user who has taken a license is not prevented from challenging validity and essentiality of the SEP afterwards, nor is the SEP proprietor entitled to terminate the license if such a challenge takes place. However, the standard implementer may not delay the (unconditional) conclusion of the licensing agreement until a final court decision on these issues has been rendered. While validity and standard-essentiality is litigated, the licensee remains obliged to pay royalties and it cannot request to insert into the licensing contract a clause entitling it to reclaim paid royalties in case of its success in court. [121] Thirdly, as, in the present case, no specific counter-offers satisfying FRAND terms were submitted and Defendant could not establish that Claimant had waived this requirement the court did not decide on whether a SEP proprietor is obliged to negotiate further although itself and the patent user have submitted FRAND offers. [122] None of the counter-offers of the Intervener were FRAND in terms of content. They were either inadmissibly limited to Germany, contained no precise royalty, were not submitted “promptly” because the standard user had waited until the oral pleadings in the parallel procedure, or they proposed royalties per device which the court considered as too low. [123] While it was therefore held to be irrelevant whether, in the first place, the Intervener duly declared its willingness to license, the court emphasized that the Intervener’s readiness to take a license only after the SEP infringement was determined in court did not satisfy the Huawei standard of conduct. [124] Moreover, the obligation imposed by Huawei to provide appropriate security and to render account was not fulfilled. While Defendant refrained from taking any of these actions, the Intervener waited several months after the counter-offers were refused in order to submit its bank “guarantee of payment”, which was not recognized as “appropriate security” due to its amount and its limitation to acts of use in Germany. [125] Neither was the Intervener’s initial proposal to have the security—if requested by Claimant—determined by an arbitration tribunal or by an English court accepted as an appropriate way to provide security. [126]
  3. Other important issues
    According to the court, the Huawei requirements apply to both non-practicing entities and other market participants. [127] Suing a network operator instead of the undertakings producing devices operating in the network constitutes (at least under the circumstances of this case and absent selective enforcement) no violation of competition law even though this strategy might aim at using the action against the network operator as a “lever” to obtain licensing commitments from the device suppliers. On the other hand, device manufacturers are entitled to a FRAND license as well and can raise the FRAND defense if such a license is not granted. In consequence, the court perceives a fair balance of interests as the SEP proprietor can choose on which level of the chain of production to sue while the undertakings in the chain of production can choose on which level to take a license. [128] Furthermore, no patent ambush-defense based on § 242 BGB could be raised because, firstly, Defendant and the Intervener could not substantiate the alleged patent ambush by “Y” and “C”, being the original SEP proprietors; secondly, they could not show that a different patent declaration conduct would have resulted in a different version of the standard excluding the patent-in-suit; thirdly, the alleged patent ambush would, arguably, have resulted only in a FRAND-licensing obligation and, fourthly, Claimant had declared its willingness to grant a license on FRAND terms anyway. [129]
  • [104] This is the date mentioned by the Court although “23 January 2015” may seem more plausible and the date given by the Court may result from a scrivener’s error.
  • [105] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 184
  • [106] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 187
  • [107] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 195 et seq.
  • [108] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 208-210
  • [109] Case No. 4a O 126/14, para. IV, 3, a, bb, 2, c
  • [110] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 193
  • [111] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 270 et seq.
  • [112] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 222 et seq.
  • [113] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 225 et seq.
  • [114] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 225 et seq. On the relevance of the SIPRO-pool royalty rates, cf. LG Düsseldorf, 31 March 2016 – Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 245-248. On the facts indicating that a worldwide license was appropriate LG Düsseldorf, 31 March 2016 – Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 249-255.
  • [115] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 234-242. The court argued that it is questionable in principle how much the threat of a claim for injunctive relief can (inadmissibly) affect license agreement negotiations, since the Orange Book case law of the BGH (German Federal Court of Justice), the Motorola decision of the European Commission, and now the CJEU judgment in the Huawei Technologies/ZTE Case could be and can be invoked against inappropriate demands that are in breach of antitrust law.
  • [116] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 256 et seq.
  • [117] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 279 et seq.
  • [118] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 214-220
  • [119] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 214-220; 278
  • [120] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 266
  • [121] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 185 et seq.; 262 et seq.
  • [122] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 264
  • [123] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 291 et seq.
  • [124] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 278
  • [125] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 267 et seq.; 299 et seq.
  • [126] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 304
  • [127] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 189
  • [128] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 309-313
  • [129] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 317 et seq.

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 [130] 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 [131] ,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) [132]
 

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 [133]

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 [134] 。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 [135] ,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 [136]

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 [137] 。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 [138]
 

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 [139] 。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 [140] 。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 [140]

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”) [141] 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 [142] 。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 [143]

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 [144] 。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 [145] 。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 [146]
 

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 [147] 。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 [148]
 

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” [149]

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 [150] 。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 [150]

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 [151] 。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 [151]

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 [152] 。否则,实施人将会缺乏及时且积极地参与谈判的动力 [153] 。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 [154] 。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 [154]

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” [152] 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 [155] 。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 [153] 。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 [156]

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 [157] 。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 [158]

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 [159] ,而戴姆勒仍然选择了采用拖延战术 [160]

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 [161] 。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 [161]

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 [162] 。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 [163]

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 [164] 。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 [165]

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 [166]

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 [167]
 

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 [168] 。更有甚者,这更像是一种“不在场证明” [159]

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 [168] 。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 [169] 。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 [170]

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” [171] 。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 [172]

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 [172] 。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) [173] 。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 [174] 。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 [174]

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 [175] 。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 [175] 。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 [175] 。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 [175] 。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 [175]
 

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 [176]

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 [177] 。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) [178] 。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 [179] 。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 [179]

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 [180]

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 [181] 。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 [181] 。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 [182]

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 [183] 。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 [184] 。 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 [185] 。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 [185] 。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 [186] 。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 [186]

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 [187] 。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 [188] 。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 [189]

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 [190] 。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 [190] 。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 [191] 。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 [192] 。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) [192]

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 [193] 。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) [193]
 

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 [194] 。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 [195] 。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 [196] 。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 [196] 。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 [196] 。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 [196]
 

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 [197] 。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 [197] 。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) [197] 。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 [197]
 

  • [130] Conversant v Daimler, District Court of Munich I, 30 October 2020, Case-No. 21 O 11384/19 (cited by juris)。
  • [131] 同上注,段122-265。
  • [132] 同上注,段285。
  • [133] 同上注,段286。
  • [134] 同上注,段288。
  • [135] 同上注,段287及以下。
  • [136] 同上注,段291及以下。
  • [137] 同上注,段295。
  • [138] 同上注,段296。
  • [139] 同上注,段299。
  • [140] 同上注,段300。
  • [141] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13。
  • [142] Conversant v Daimler, District Court of Munich I, 30 October 2020, Case-No. 21 O 11384/19, 段301。
  • [143] 同上注,段301。
  • [144] 同上注,段307。
  • [145] 同上注,段308。
  • [146] 同上注,段302及308。
  • [147] 同上注,段323及以下。
  • [148] 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。
  • [149] 同上注,段309。
  • [150] 同上注,段310。
  • [151] 同上注,段316。
  • [152] 同上注,段311。
  • [153] 同上注,段312。
  • [154] 同上注,段320。
  • [155] 同上注,段312及316。
  • [156] 同上注,段315。
  • [157] 同上注,段317及以下。
  • [158] 同上注,段321。
  • [159] 同上注,段357。
  • [160] 同上注,段322及358。
  • [161] 同上注,段328。
  • [162] 同上注,段331及336。
  • [163] 同上注,段332。
  • [164] 同上注,段334及336。
  • [165] 同上注,段335。
  • [166] 同上注,段337。
  • [167] 同上注,段338。
  • [168] 同上注,段339。
  • [169] 同上注,段340。
  • [170] 同上注,段355及以下。
  • [171] 同上注,段341及354。
  • [172] 同上注,段341。
  • [173] 同上注,段341及348。
  • [174] 同上注,段352。
  • [175] 同上注,段353。
  • [176] 同上注,段360。
  • [177] 同上注,段362。
  • [178] 同上注,段362及364。
  • [179] 同上注,段363。
  • [180] 同上注,段365。
  • [181] 同上注,段366。
  • [182] 同上注,段367。
  • [183] 同上注,段368及382。
  • [184] 同上注,段368。
  • [185] 同上注,段370。
  • [186] 同上注,段372。
  • [187] 同上注,段373及376-378。
  • [188] 同上注,段373。
  • [189] 同上注,段373及382。
  • [190] 同上注,段373及379。
  • [191] 同上注,段374。
  • [192] 同上注,段375。
  • [193] 同上注,段380。
  • [194] 同上注,段384。
  • [195] 同上注,段384及以下。
  • [196] 同上注,段385。
  • [197] 同上注,段269。

Updated 26 一月 2017

Saint Lawrence v Vodafone 2

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

  1. Facts
    Since 28 August 2014 Claimant, a non-practicing entity, is the proprietor of the European patent EP J, originally granted to applicants “Y” and “C”, and allegedly covering part of the AMR-WB standard. Defendant is a company active in the telecommunications sector and which markets AMR-WB-based devices, inter alia devices produced by the Intervener in this case. After the adoption (“freeze”) of AMR-WB by ETSI on 10 April 2001, Claimant (who was not an ETSI member during the setting of the AMR-WB standard) made, on 29 May 2001, a commitment towards ETSI to grant licenses on FRAND terms inter alia for patent EP J. Claimant and its parent company “O” offer the SEP and all other patents of the same family to third parties by means of a portfolio license. Licensing conditions are accessible on the Internet and various producers in the sector have taken a license under these conditions.
    Prior to the submission of the patent infringement action on 23 July 2014 and to the advance payments on costs on 29 July 2014, Claimant alerted neither Defendant nor the manufacturer of the contested embodiments, who acted as an intervener in the present proceedings and became aware of the lawsuit in August 2014. By e-mails on 31 July and (as a reminder) on 9 December 2014, the first of which included a copy of the statement of claims and reached the defendant before it was formally served with the statement, Claimant notified the alleged patent violation to Defendant. After Defendant’s reply as of 12 January 2015, Claimant presented a draft licensing agreement to Defendant by letter as of 22 April 2015.
    On 9 December 2014, the Intervener declared willingness to take a license, inter alia for the patent-in-suit, provided infringement was found in court. It further declared that it would accept royalties determined by a court or arbitration tribunal. Claimant, in turn, offered a licensing agreement by letters as of 12 January 2015 and 25 March 2015 respectively. In the course of meetings taking place since 23 January 2014, [198] Claimant offered a license to the Intervener. On 23 February 2015 and on 2 April 2015 respectively, the Intervener made two licensing offers, including third party determination (arbitration panel or English court) of the amount of royalty, for the whole German patent portfolio of Claimant. An additional offer for a licensing agreement, limited to Germany and implementing a royalty of USD 0.0055 per patent by reference to the “WCDMA Patent Pools”, was made by the Intervener on 6 March 2015 and 24 September 2015 respectively, but it was finally refused by Claimant on 4 October 2015. Moreover, the Intervener provided a bank “guarantee of payment” as of 3 September 2015, being modified by letter as of 10 November 2015, and also rendered account of past and prospective sales in Germany since 2011.
  2. Court’s reasoning
    The considerations of the court are almost exactly the same as those in the case LG Düsseldorf, 31 March 2016 – Case No. 4a O 73/14.
    1. Market power and notice of infringement
      The court leaves open the question of whether the SEP conferred market power to Claimant since it did, in any case, find no abuse of such potential market power. [199] The court declared the Huawei rules applicable to claims for the recall of products. [200]
      As regards the Huawei requirement to alert the standard user of the infringement, the decision arrived at various findings of interest: Firstly, the judges found that—in “non-transitional” cases where the lawsuit was brought after the Huawei decision—the infringement notification has to take place before the action is filed, or the latest before the advance payment on costs is made. In transitional cases, such as the present case, a delayed infringement notification, taking place after the advance payment on costs as well as the submission of the court action, but before the statement of claims is served, is admissible. [201] Moreover, an infringement notification could possibly be omitted (in particular) if—as in the present case—the patent user already disposes of all necessary information and lacks willingness to license. [202] In non-transitional cases, however, the court doubts whether it is possible to rectify an omitted infringement notification without withdrawing the action. [203]
      Secondly, the court specified the minimum content of the infringement notification which has to indicate at least the number of the patent, the contested embodiments and the alleged acts of use performed by the standard implementer. The court did not decide whether additional information has to be provided, in particular regarding the interpretation of the patent claims or on which part of the standard the patent reads, but it stated that such additional information is not harmful to the patent proprietor. [204]
      Lastly, the court detailed on the particular situation of the Intervener, being Defendant’s manufacturer and supplier in the present case: Even though a FRAND defense successfully raised by the Intervener would in general also cover subsequent levels of the distribution chain, the Huawei requirements apply only indirectly to suppliers of contested embodiments which have not been sued themselves. Accordingly, the SEP proprietor is not obliged to notify the patent infringement to third parties, but as soon as a request to grant a license on FRAND terms is submitted the (adapted) Huawei procedure applies. [205] In casu, no separate infringement notice vis-à-vis the Intervener was required since the Intervener was, since August 2014, aware of the action having been brought.
    2. The SEP owner’s licensing offer
      Since the patent user did not express its willingness to conclude a licensing agreement in due time, the court found Claimant to comply with the Huawei requirement to submit a licensing offer on FRAND terms even though the offer was made in the course of the ongoing litigation. For transitional cases, as the present one, this holds true even if infringement notification and court action take place at the same time. [206]
      Besides, the court analyzed under which circumstances licensing conditions can be considered as FRAND according to Huawei. In the opinion of the judges, the more licensing agreements implementing comparable terms the SEP proprietor has already concluded, the stronger is the presumption that these conditions are FRAND, unless factual reasons—which are to be demonstrated by the patent user—justify modified terms. Recognized commercial practice in the relevant sector has to be considered when defining the admissible scope of the licensing agreement. If patent portfolios are usually covered by group or worldwide licenses in the relevant market, a (worldwide) portfolio license will be FRAND unless the circumstances of the specific case, e.g. the SEP proprietor’s market activity being limited to one geographic market, require a modification. [207] Accordingly, Claimant’s (worldwide) licensing offer to Defendant for the whole AMR-WB pool, demanding royalties of USD 0.26 per mobile device that implemented the standard and was produced or marketed in countries in which the SEP was in force, and complying with Claimants existing licensing practice (accessible on the Internet and already implemented in 12 licensing agreements) was declared FRAND. While the court considered that comparable licensing agreements “represent an important indicator of the adequacy of the license terms offered” it clarified that the significance of a patent pool as an indication of FRAND conformity is “limited”. Defendant and the Intervener failed to show that the portfolio comprised (non-used) non-SEPs as well. [208] They further failed to show that the pre-concluded licensing agreements provided no valid basis for comparison as they were concluded under the threat of pending litigation. [209]
      In order to fulfill the Huawei obligation of specifying the calculation of royalties, the SEP proprietor only has to provide the information necessary to determine the amount of royalties to be paid, e.g. the royalty per unit and the products covered by the license. While the court left undecided whether additional indications, e.g. concerning the FRAND character of the licensing offer, are necessary to comply with Huawei, it found that the SEP proprietor’s duty to inform should not be interpreted too strictly as FRAND does regularly encompass a range of values that will be fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory. [210]
      Claimant’s licensing offer presented to the Intervener was considered as being FRAND for the same reasons. Furthermore, the court emphasized that the contractual clause allowing for judicial review of the royalties offered could be a possible way to avoid abusive practices and to ensure that licensing offers correspond to FRAND terms. [211]
    3. The standard implementer’s reaction
      The court found that the more details the infringement notification contains, the less time remains for the standard user to examine the patent(s) at issue and to express its willingness to conclude a licensing agreement on FRAND terms. In the present case, Defendant did not comply with Huawei because it took more than five months to react and then only asked for proof of the alleged infringement. Given this excessive delay, the court did not decide whether Defendant’s reaction satisfied the Huawei requirements in terms of content. It denied the possibility to remedy a belated reaction by a subsequent declaration of willingness to license. On the contrary, and as a consequence of the patent user’s non-compliance, the SEP proprietor may continue the infringement action without violating Article 102 TFEU, but it still has to grant licenses on FRAND terms. [212] Whether the Intervener satisfied the ECJ criteria was left undecided. [213]
      The court made some further remarks of interest as to the Huawei requirements concerning the standard implementer: Firstly, it left undecided whether the obligation of the patent user to diligently respond is caused also by a (potentially) non-FRAND licensing offer. [214] Secondly, a standard user who has taken a license is not prevented from challenging validity and essentiality of the SEP afterwards, nor is the SEP proprietor entitled to terminate the license if such a challenge takes place. However, the standard implementer may not delay the (unconditional) conclusion of the licensing agreement until a final court decision on these issues has been rendered. While validity and standard-essentiality is litigated, the licensee remains obliged to pay royalties and it cannot request to insert into the licensing contract a clause entitling it to reclaim paid royalties in case of its success in court. [215] Thirdly, as, in the present case, no specific counter-offers satisfying FRAND terms were submitted and Defendant could not establish that Claimant had waived this requirement the court did not decide on whether a SEP proprietor is obliged to negotiate further although itself and the patent user have submitted FRAND offers. [216]
      None of the counter-offers of the Intervener were FRAND in terms of content. They were either inadmissibly limited to Germany, contained no precise royalty, were not submitted “promptly” because the standard user had waited until the oral pleadings in the parallel procedure, or they proposed royalties per device which the court considered as too low. [217] While it was therefore held to be irrelevant whether, in the first place, the Intervener duly declared its willingness to license, the court emphasized that the Intervener’s readiness to take a license only after the SEP infringement was determined in court did not satisfy the Huawei standard of conduct. [218]
      Moreover, the obligation imposed by Huawei to provide appropriate security and to render account was not fulfilled. While Defendant refrained from taking any of these actions, the Intervener waited several months after the counter-offers were refused in order to submit its bank “guarantee of payment”, which was not recognized as “appropriate security” due to its amount and its limitation to acts of use in Germany. [219] Neither was the Intervener’s initial proposal to have the security—if requested by Claimant—determined by an arbitration tribunal or by an English court accepted as an appropriate way to provide security. [220]
  3. Other important issues
    According to the court, the Huawei requirements apply to both non-practicing entities and other market participants. [221]
    Suing a network operator instead of the undertakings producing devices operating in the network constitutes (at least under the circumstances of this case and absent selective enforcement) no violation of competition law even though this strategy might aim at using the action against the network operator as a “lever” to obtain licensing commitments from the device suppliers. On the other hand, device manufacturers are entitled to a FRAND license as well and can raise the FRAND defense if such a license is not granted. In consequence, the court perceives a fair balance of interests as the SEP proprietor can choose on which level of the chain of production to sue while the undertakings in the chain of production can choose on which level to take a license. [222]
    Furthermore, no patent ambush-defense based on § 242 BGB could be raised because, firstly, Defendant and the Intervener could not substantiate the alleged patent ambush by “Y” and “C”, being the original SEP proprietors; secondly, they could not show that a different patent declaration conduct would have resulted in a different version of the standard excluding the patent-in-suit; thirdly, the alleged patent ambush would, arguably, have resulted only in a FRAND-licensing obligation and, fourthly, Claimant had declared its willingness to grant a license on FRAND terms anyway. [223]
  • [198] This is the date mentioned by the court although “23 January 2015” may seem more plausible and the date given by the court may result from a scrivener’s error.
  • [199] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 184
  • [200] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 187
  • [201] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 195 et seq.
  • [202] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 208-210
  • [203] Case No. 4a O 126/14, para. IV, 3, a, bb, 2, c
  • [204] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 193
  • [205] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 270 et seq.
  • [206] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 222 et seq.
  • [207] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 225 et seq.
  • [208] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 225 et seq. On the relevance of the SIPRO-pool royalty rates, cf. LG Düsseldorf, 31 March 2016 – Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 245-248. On the facts indicating that a worldwide license was appropriate LG Düsseldorf, 31 March 2016 – Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 249-255.
  • [209] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 234-242. The court argued that it is questionable in principle how much the threat of a claim for injunctive relief can (inadmissibly) affect license agreement negotiations, since the Orange Book case law of the BGH (German Federal Court of Justice), the Motorola decision of the European Commission, and now the CJEU judgment in the Huawei Technologies/ZTE Case could be and can be invoked against inappropriate demands that are in breach of antitrust law.
  • [210] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 256 et seq.
  • [211] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 279 et seq.
  • [212] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 214-220
  • [213] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 214-220; 278
  • [214] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 266
  • [215] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 185 et seq.; 262 et seq.
  • [216] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 264.
  • [217] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 291 et seq.
  • [218] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 278
  • [219] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 267 et seq.; 299 et seq.
  • [220] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 304
  • [221] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 189
  • [222] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 309-313
  • [223] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 317 et seq.

Updated 6 五月 2021

Sisvel v Haier

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

A. Facts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On 3 November 2015, the District Court decided in favour of Sisvel in both cases [224] . It granted injunctions against Haier and ordered the recall and destruction of infringing products. The District Court further recognised Haier's liability for damages on the merits and ordered Haier to render full and detailed account of the sales of infringing products to Sisvel. Haier appealed both decisions.

In the subsequent proceedings before the Higher District Court of Duesseldorf (Appeal Court), Haier argued –among other things– that the District Court had not adequately taken into account the conduct requirements imposed on SEP holders by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) in the Huawei v ZTE ruling [225] (Huawei judgment) rendered after Sisvel had filed the infringement actions.

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

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

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

By two judgments dated 30 March 2017, the Appeal Court partially granted Haier's appeals in both parallel proceedings [226] . The claims for injunctive relief as well as the recall and destruction of infringing products were dismissed on the grounds that Sisvel had not complied with its obligations under the Huawei judgment, especially by failing to make a FRAND licensing offer to Haier.

Sisvel appealed the decisions of the Appeal Court.

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

On 5 May 2020, FCJ rendered a judgment in the parallel proceedings pending between the parties concerning the patent reading on the GPRS standard [228] . The Court decided in favour of Sisvel and reversed the judgment of the Appeal Court. With the present judgmentSisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17 (cited by )., the Court reversed the decision of the Appeal Court also in the case involving the patent in suit.
 

B. Court's reasoning

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

Contrary to the view previously taken by the Appeal Court, FCJ found that by initiating infringement proceedings against Haier, Sisvel had not abused a dominant market position in violation of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) [231] .
 

Dominant market position

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

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

Abuse of market dominance

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

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

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

Notification of infringement

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

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

Willingness

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

In the Court's eyes, the implementer must 'clearly' and 'unambiguously' declare willingness to conclude a licence agreement with the SEP holder on FRAND terms and, subsequently, engage in negotiations in a 'target-oriented' manner [240] . By contrast, it is not sufficient, in response to a notification of infringement, to just demonstrate willingness to consider signing a licensing agreement or to enter into negotiations about whether and under which conditions taking a licence comes into question [240] .

The Court reasoned that the willingness of the implementer to legitimise the unauthorized use of the patent for the future by creating a respective contractual base is a prerequisite for placing the burden on the SEP holder to negotiate a FRAND licence with the implementer. [241] What is more, willingness (on both sides) is essential, because an adequate solution balancing the opposing interests of the parties results, as a rule, from an interest-based negotiation. [242] The fact that a party fails to contribute in negotiations towards a FRAND agreement will regularly be considered to its detriment. [243] An implementer, who has not shown interest in a FRAND-licence over a longer period after receipt of an infringement notification will have to undertake 'additional efforts' to make sure, that despite the delay caused a licence can be signed as soon as possible. [244]

The Court highlighted particularly that implementers should not engage in 'patent hold-out' by exploiting the 'structural disadvantage', which SEP holders face due to the limitation of their right to assert patents in court. [245] Otherwise, competition could be distorted, because the infringer would gain unfair advantages over implementers that have taken a licence in a timely manner. [245]

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

The Court observed that the Huawei judgment supports the notion that the implementer should remain willing to obtain a licence throughout the course of negotiations.Ibid, para. 65. The 'continuous' willingness is an 'indispensable condition' for successful negotiations or, in case negotiations fail, for a finding of abuse of market dominance on the side of the SEP holder.Ibid, para. 68. The refusal of SEP holder to grant a FRAND licence would, indeed, have no relevance in antitrust terms, when the implementer is not objectively willing and able to obtain such licence. [249]

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

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

Having said that, FCJ noted that for the assessment of the willingness of the implementer its entire conduct (including its reaction to the SEP holder's licensing offer) must be taken into account.Ibid, para. 77. Consequently, willingness can change in the course of time: a court action filed by the SEP holder could become abusive at a later point in time, if the implementer adequately raises a request for a FRAND-licence.Ibid, paras. 79 et seqq. However, the longer the implementer waits with asserting such request, the higher the threshold for considering it as a willing licensee will be. [260] The Court again noted that the above inter­pretation is in line with the Huawei judgment, so that no additional referral to the CJEU is needed, as Haier had requested.Ibid, para. 77.

Against this background, the Court observed that the first response of Haier China to Sisvel's notification almost one year after receipt of the infringement notification was belated [261] . An implementer taking several months to respond to a notification of infringement, typically, sends a signal that there is no interest in taking a licence [261] . Besides that, FCJ found that Haier's response in December 2013, in which only the 'hope' to have a 'formal negotiation' was expressed, was not a sufficient declaration of willing­ness, in terms of content [262] . Since it had reacted belatedly to the notification of infringement, Haier should have undertaken 'additional efforts' to demonstrate willingness, which had been, however, not the case. [263]

Similarly, Haier's letter dated 16 January 2016 did not contain a sufficient declaration of willingness, since Haier had made the signing of a licence subject to the prior confirmation of the validity and infringement of the patent in suit by German courts [264] . Although the implementer is, in principle, allowed to preserve the right to contest the validity of a licensed patent after conclusion of an agreement, the Court held that a declaration of willingness cannot be placed under a respective conditionIbid, para. 95.. Besides that, requesting the production of claim charts for all patents of Sisvel's portfolio almost three years after the receipt of the notification of infringement was, according to the Court, an indication that Haier was only interested in delaying the negotiations until the expiration of the patent in suit [266] .

Furthermore, FCJ found that Haier's willingness to enter into a FRAND licence could also not be extracted from the counteroffers made during the infringement proceedings.Ibid, paras. 102 et seqq. The fact that these counteroffers were, in terms of scope, limited only to the patents asserted by Sisvel in court indicated that Haier had not seriously addressed Sisvel's request for a worldwide portfolio licence. [268] Given that it had more than sufficient time to examine Sisvel's portfolio, one could expect from Haier to provide substantive grounds for such 'selective licensing'. [268]

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

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

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

SEP holder's licensing offer

Having found that Haier had not sufficiently demonstrated willingness to obtain a FRAND licence, the Court did not examine the FRAND-conformity of Sisvel's licensing offers to Haier in the present case [276] . According to FCJ, this question is not relevant, when the implementer has not adequately expressed willingness to sign a FRAND licence.Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17, para. 107.

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

C. Other important issues

Patent ambush

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

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

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

Damages

Finally, the Court found that Sisvel's damage claims were given on the merits. Negligence establishing Haier's liability for damages was given: The implementer is, in principle, obliged to make sure that no third party rights are infringed, before starting manufacturing or selling products, which Haier had not done. [283]

What is more, Sisvel's claim for damages was not limited to the amount of a FRAND licensing rate ('licensing analogy'). [284] The SEP holder is entitled to full damages, unless the implementer can assert an own counterclaim, requesting to be placed in the position, in which it would have been, in case that the SEP holder had fulfilled the obligations arising from its dominant market position. [283] An implementer is, however, entitled to such (counter)claim, only when it adequately expressed its willingness to enter into a licence, which had not been the case here.77

  • [224] Sisvel v Haier, District Court of Duesseldorf, judgment dated 3 November 2015, Case No. 4a O 144/14 (UMTS-related patent) and Case No. 4a O 93/14 (GPRS-related patent).
  • [225] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [226] Sisvel v Haier, Higher District Court of Duesseldorf, judgment dated 30 March 2017, Case No. I-15 U 65/15 (UMTS-related patent) and Case No. I-15 U 66/15 (GPRS-related patent).
  • [227] Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 28 April 2020, Case No. X ZR 35/18.
  • [228] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 5 May 2020, Case No. KZR 36/17.
  • [229] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17 (cited by ).
  • [230] Ibid, paras. 10-43.
  • [231] Ibid, para. 44.
  • [232] Ibid, paras. 48 et seqq.
  • [233] Ibid, para. 49.
  • [234] Ibid, para. 52.
  • [235] Ibid, para. 53.
  • [236] Ibid, para. 54.
  • [237] Ibid, para. 55.
  • [238] Ibid, para. 84.
  • [239] Ibid, paras. 86 et seqq.
  • [240] Ibid, para. 57.
  • [241] Ibid, para. 58.
  • [242] Ibid, para. 59.
  • [243] Ibid, para. 60.
  • [244] Ibid, para. 62.
  • [245] Ibid, para. 61.
  • [246] Ibid, para. 63.
  • [247] Ibid, para. 65.
  • [248] Ibid, para. 68.
  • [249] Ibid, paras. 66 and 68.
  • [250] Ibid, para. 69.
  • [251] Ibid, para. 69. See Nokia v Daimler, District Court of Duesseldorf, order dated 26 November 2020, Case No. 4c O 17/19.
  • [252] Ibid, paras. 70 and 71.
  • [253] Ibid, para. 71.
  • [254] Ibid, para. 72.
  • [255] Ibid, para. 73.
  • [256] Ibid, para. 74.
  • [257] Ibid, para. 76.
  • [258] Ibid, para. 77.
  • [259] Ibid, paras. 79 et seqq.
  • [260] Ibid, para. 83.
  • [261] Ibid, para. 87.
  • [262] Ibid, paras. 88 et seqq.
  • [263] Ibid, para. 89.
  • [264] Ibid, paras. 93 et seqq.
  • [265] Ibid, para. 95.
  • [266] Ibid, paras. 96-99.
  • [267] Ibid, paras. 102 et seqq.
  • [268] Ibid, para. 102.
  • [269] Ibid, paras. 108 et seqq.
  • [270] Ibid, para. 116.
  • [271] Ibid, para. 118.
  • [272] Ibid, paras. 124 et seqq.
  • [273] Ibid, para. 124.
  • [274] Ibid, para. 125.
  • [275] Ibid, para. 126.
  • [276] The Court had, however, undertaken such analysis in its earlier decision between the same parties dated May 2020. See Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 5 May 2020, Case No. KZR 36/17, especially paras. 76-81 and 101 et seqq.
  • [277] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17, para. 107.
  • [278] Ibid, para. 56.
  • [279] Ibid, paras. 127 et seqq.
  • [280] Ibid, para. 130.
  • [281] Ibid, para. 131.
  • [282] Ibid, paras. 131 et seq.
  • [283] Ibid, para. 135.
  • [284] Ibid, paras. 134 et seqq.

Updated 6 六月 2019

飞利浦诉华硕

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

A. 事实

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

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

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

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

在荷兰,飞利浦于海牙地区法院(以下称“地区法院”)向华硕提起诉讼,请求包含核发禁令在内的多项主张。地区法院驳回了飞利浦针对EP 511专利核发禁令的请求 [285] 。飞利浦于是向海牙上诉法院(以下称“上诉法院”)提起上诉。

根据当前判决,上诉法院确认了EP 511的有效性和标准必要性,驳回了华硕基于《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条所提出的FRAND抗辩,并就华硕相关产品侵害涉案专利权的行为对其发出了禁令 [286]


B. 法院的论理

上诉法院驳回了华硕的专利无效性抗辩,确认了EP 511专利新颖性及创造性的存在 [287] 。此外,上诉法院认为该专利具备标准必要性,并且遭受侵权 [288]

上诉法院继续审查了华硕所提出的主张,即飞利浦提起侵权诉讼要求禁令救济的行为,违反了其对欧洲电信标准协会FRAND承诺的合同义务,并且因其行为未能符合欧洲联盟法院于华为诉中兴案裁决中的要求(即“华为框架义务”)而违反了《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条 [289] 。特别是,华硕主张飞利浦(a)没有按照欧洲电信标准协会知识产权政策的要求适当且及时地揭露关于EP 511专利的信息,并且(b)飞利浦并未遵守华为框架的要求,因其并没有针对其所提出的许可要约条款为何符合FRAND进行说明。

关于前项主张(a),上诉法院认为,飞利浦在EP 511专利获得核准的两年后才对其潜在标准必要性进行声明的行为,并未违反欧洲电信标准协会知识产权政策第4.1条所要求的对标准必要专利进行“及时披露”的合同义务。 从欧洲电信标准协会规范披露义务的一般目的出发,上诉法院认为,此义务存在的目的并非如华硕所主张的那样是为了赋予欧洲电信标准协会的参与者自由选择采纳成本最低的技术方案的权利,因为欧洲电信标准协会于发展各项标准时均是力求将最佳可行技术纳入标准的 [290] 。相反的,此项披露义务存在的目的其实在于降低标准实施人事后无法取得标准必要专利的风险 [291]

尽管如此,上诉法院认为,飞利浦所作出的概括性承诺已经足以履行其于欧洲电信标准协会知识产权政策下所应承担的义务。由此角度出发,上诉法院驳回了华硕所提出的关于飞利浦针对某些特定标准必要专利的延迟声明可能会导致过度宣告的论点,相反地,上诉法院认为,过早的披露才更有可能将事实上不具备标准必要性的专利错误地纳入欧洲电信标准协会的标准中 [292] 。此外,上诉法院指出,飞利浦所作出的概括性承诺并未违反《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条的规定,因为根据欧洲联盟委员会所发行的《关于横向限制的指南》指出,概括性的承诺也是一种在欧盟竞争法下可以被接受的对标准必要专利进行宣告的形式 [293]

在驳回了华硕第一个关于FRAND抗辩的主张后,上诉法院评估了双方在谈判过程中对华为框架要求的遵循状况。作为一个初步的观点,上诉法院指出,欧洲联盟法院对华为案所做出的判决并没有创造出一套一旦专利持有人没有逐一遵守就会自动构成对《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条违反的严格规范 [294] 。因此,对案件的具体情况以及当事各方的行为进行全面性的评估是有必要的。

接下来,上诉法院审查了飞利浦对华为框架中第一个要求——对侵权人进行适当通知——的遵守情况。上诉法院认为,飞利浦很显然已经践行了其对华硕进行通知的义务,因为根据该案各项记录显示,飞利浦在谈判过程中已经对华硕提交了可能涉及侵权的各项专利清单,说明了这些专利对哪些标准而言具备标准必要性,并且表达了其按照FRAND条款进行许可的意愿 [295] 。此外,在接下来的技术协商中,飞利浦更进一步提供了有关其专利组合和许可计划的多项技术性细节,其中包括了权利要求对照表以及其授与许可的标准费率 [296] 。然而,华硕却未能表现出其按照FRAND条款取得许可的意愿。上诉法院发现,双方的谈判总是由飞利浦发起,而华硕在这些谈判中并未由有能力对飞利浦的专利组合进行评估的技术专家代表进行谈判 [297] 。华硕在谈判中提出的技术性问题只是为了拖延谈判进行的借口,换句话说,正如上诉法院所称的那样,是“一种也被称为“反向专利挟持“的行为” [298]

尽管上诉法院认为截至目前为止华硕已经违反了其在华为框架下的义务,因此飞利浦有权寻求禁令救济,法院仍然继续就华为框架中其他义务的遵循状况进行进一步的讨论。上诉法院认为,飞利浦所提出的许可协议模板完全符合欧洲联盟法院的要求,因为它非常具体,并且清楚地解释了建议的费率以及该费率是如何计算得出的 [299] 。此外,上诉法院认为,华硕在飞利浦于德国提起诉讼后才提出许可反要约的行为本身并不会改变飞利浦已经践行了华为框架义务的结论,因此飞利浦有权寻求禁令救济 [300] 。最后,法院拒绝了华硕检阅飞利浦所签署的其他类似许可协议,以评估飞利浦是否遵守FRAND的要求。法院认为,无论是根据欧洲电信标准协会知识产权政策,或者《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条,又或者是华为框架,均未对此类请求提供依据 [301]

  • [285] Koninklijke Philips N.V. v. Asustek Computers INC, District Court of the Hague, 2017, Case No. C 09 512839 /HA ZA 16-712。
  • [286] Koninklijke Philips N.V. v. Asustek Computers INC, Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgment 7 May 2019, dated Case No. 200.221.250/01。
  • [287] 同上注, 段4.63, 4.68, 4.75, 4.80, 4.82, 4.93, 4.100, 及 4.117。
  • [288] 同上注, 段4.118及以下。
  • [289] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case-No. C-170/13。
  • [290] Koninklijke Philips N.V. v. Asustek Computers INC, Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgment 7 May 2019, dated Case No. 200.221.250/01, 段4.153及以下。
  • [291] 同上注, 段4.155及4.157。
  • [292] 同上注, 段 4.159。
  • [293] 同上注, 段 4.164。
  • [294] 同上注, 段 4.171。
  • [295] 同上注, 段 4.172。
  • [296] 同上注。
  • [297] 同上注, 段4.172-4.179。
  • [298] 同上注, 段 4.179。
  • [299] 同上注, 段 4.183。
  • [300] 同上注, 段 4.185。
  • [301] 同上注, 段4.202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) [302] . 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) [303] .

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 [304] .

MPEG LA uses a standard licensing agreement, which is publicly available at its website [305] . It has signed licensing agreements with approx. 1,400 implementers [305] .

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) [306] .

On 15 September 2011, the parent company asked MPEG LA to send any relevant documents by mail to its IPR Manager [307] . A copy of MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement reached the parent company in late September 2011 [308] .

In 2012, the parent company acquired patents included in the MPEG LA pool [303] .

Since MPEG-LA and the parent company could not reach an agreement on a licence covering the MPEG LA pool [309] , 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 [310] .

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 [311] . 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 [312] . 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 [313] .

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 [314] . 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 [315] (Huawei obligations or framework) with respect to dominant undertakings [316] .

1. Dominant market position

The Court found that the Claimant holds a dominant market position in terms of Article 102 TFEU [317] .

The Court defined the relevant market for the assessment of dominance as the market for licences for any given patent [318] . A dominant market position can further also exist, when the patent holder can hinder competition in downstream markets for standard-compliant products and services [318] .

The Court made, however, clear that ownership of a SEP does not per se establish market dominance [319] . A dominant market position is given, when the use of the SEP is required for entering the market [319] . The same is true, if the patent user could not market competitive products or services, without access to the respective SEP [319] .

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 [320] .

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 [321] . 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) [322] . 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 [323] .

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 [324] . 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 [325] ), since with respect to the SEP in suit a ‘routine’ practice already existed prior to the Huawei judgement [326] . The Court explained that the Huawei judgment does not contain either an explicit or an implicit limitation of its scope of application [327] . 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 [328] . 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 [329] . 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 [330] .

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 [331] .

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 [332] .

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 [333] . The sole fact that a company belongs to a group justifies such an assumption, unless indications to the contrary exist [333] . 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) [334] . 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 [335] . 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 [336] . 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 [337] .

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 [338] . 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 [339] . A notification of infringement is, therefore, not necessary, when it constitutes just a ‘pointless formality’ [339] . 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 [339] . The respective test is, however, subject to strict conditions [339] .

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) [340] . 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) [341] , 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 [342] .

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 [343] .

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 [344] . The implementer is not required to refer to a specific licensing agreement [344] .

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 [345] .

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 [346] .

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 [347] . 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 [348] . Whether subsidiaries can (or should) also be licensed, will be the object of these negotiations [349] . 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 [350] . 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 [351] .

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 [352] . 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 [353] .

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 [354] . 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) [355] . 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 [355] . 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 [355] . 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 [356] .

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 [357] . 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 [357] . 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 [358] .

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 [359] . 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 [359] . 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 [359] . In this respect, comparable agreements can serve as an ‘important indicator’ of the fair and reasonable character of the offered royalty rates [359] .

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 [360] . 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 [360] . 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 [361] . 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 [361] .

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 [362] . In the electronics and mobile communications industries, licences covering a group of companies are in line with the industry practice [363] . 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 [364] .

In addition, the Court made clear that pool licences, as the one offered to the parent company, are appropriate under the Huawei framework [365] . An offer for a pool licence cannot per se be seen as abusive (Article 101 TFEU) [366] . 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 [366] .

Implementer’s counter-offer

The Court found that the Defendant failed to make a FRAND counter-offer [367] .

Sending signed copies of MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement back to MPEG LA can be regarded as a counter-offer [368] . 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 [369] . 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 [370] .

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 [371] .

  • [302] Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (MPEG-LA) v ZTE, District Court of Düsseldorf, judgement dated 9 November 2018, cited by www.nrwe.de, para. 56.
  • [303] Ibid, para. 58
  • [304] Ibid, para. 57
  • [305] Ibid, para. 59
  • [306] Ibid, paras. 61 et seqq. and 340
  • [307] Ibid, para. 65
  • [308] Ibid, para. 66
  • [309] Ibid, para. 73
  • [310] Ibid, para. 42
  • [311] bid, para. 74
  • [312] Ibid, paras. 75 et seq
  • [313] Ibid, para. 75
  • [314] Ibid, paras. 127 – 254
  • [315] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13
  • [316] Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (MPEG-LA) v ZTE, District Court of Düsseldorf, judgement dated 9 November 2018, cited by www.nrwe.de, Ibid, para. 280
  • [317] Ibid, para. 283 and paras. 291 et seqq
  • [318] Ibid, para. 286
  • [319] Ibid, para. 287
  • [320] Ibid, paras. 291 et seqq
  • [321] Ibid, para. 296
  • [322] Ibid, para. 300
  • [323] Ibid, para. 302
  • [324] Ibid, para. 308
  • [325] 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
  • [326] Ibid, para. 305
  • [327] Ibid, paras. 306 et seqq
  • [328] Ibid, para. 310
  • [329] Ibid, para. 311
  • [330] Ibid, para. 312
  • [331] Ibid, para. 421
  • [332] Ibid, para. 314
  • [333] Ibid, para. 320
  • [334] Ibid, para. 318
  • [335] Ibid, para. 329
  • [336] Ibid, paras. 336 et seq
  • [337] Ibid, para. 338
  • [338] Ibid, para. 198
  • [339] Ibid, para. 315
  • [340] Ibid, paras. 340 et seq
  • [341] Ibid, paras. 342 et seqq
  • [342] Ibid, para. 344
  • [343] Ibid, para. 346
  • [344] Ibid, para. 348
  • [345] Ibid, para. 352
  • [346] Ibid, para. 367
  • [347] Ibid, para. 369
  • [348] Ibid, para. 370
  • [349] Ibid, para. 378
  • [350] Ibid, para. 371
  • [351] Ibid, para. 374
  • [352] Ibid, para. 376
  • [353] Ibid, para. 377
  • [354] Ibid, para. 380
  • [355] Ibid, para. 381
  • [356] Ibid, para. 386
  • [357] Ibid, para. 382
  • [358] Ibid, para. 387
  • [359] Ibid, para. 391
  • [360] Ibid, para. 392
  • [361] Ibid, para. 393
  • [362] Ibid, para. 397
  • [363] Ibid, para. 398
  • [364] Ibid, para. 399
  • [365] Ibid, para. 402
  • [366] Ibid, para. 404
  • [367] Ibid, para. 410
  • [368] Ibid, para. 413
  • [369] Ibid, para. 416
  • [370] Ibid, para. 417
  • [371] Ibid, para. 411

Updated 9 十一月 2020

诺基亚诉戴姆勒

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

A. 事实

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

法院在当前判决 [372] (引自https://www.juris.de)中对对戴姆勒核发了禁令,并确认戴姆勒应承担实质性损害赔偿的责任。法院还要求戴姆勒必须开立担保帐户并且提供计算诺基亚所受损失必需的相关信息。

 

B. 法院的论理

法院裁定戴姆勒對本案涉案专利構成侵權 [373] 。因此,诺基亚有权获得包含禁令救濟及其它訴訟主張的支持 [374] 。 戴姆勒及其参加诉讼的所屬供应商主張了所谓的“FRAND抗辯”,認為诺基亚提起侵权诉讼的行為構成了對其市場支配地位的滥用,從而违反了《欧洲聯盟運作条约》(TFEU)第102条,因此其禁令救济主张应予否决。特別是,戴姆勒等主張诺基亚未能遵守歐洲聯盟法院(CJEU)在华为诉中兴案中所確立的行為義務(以下稱“华为案判決”或“華為框架”) [375]

法院認為戴姆勒及其供应商所提出的主張無理由,因此驳回了其所提出的FRAND抗辩 [376]

 

华为框架

法院明确指出,标准必要专利持有人并不当然被禁止行使其因持有专利而享有的专属权利 [377] 。其所持有的专利属于标准必要的这一事实,并不意味着专利持有人有义务容忍第三人对其技术的使用,除非是其已经许可了该使用,或者因其处于市场支配地位而有义务必须许可该使用 [377]

当专利持有人已经遵守了其于华为框架下的义务时,则其因为行使专利权而构成对市场支配地位的滥用的情况便不会发生了 [378] 。然而,这些义务是以在未经权利持有人许可的情况下就已经使用了该项受保护技术的实施人愿意按照FRAND条款取得许可为前提条件的 [379] 。法院解释到,专利持有人并不能向法院提出对任一标准实施人“强制施加”许可协议的主张,很大部分的原因在于其并没有主张签署许可协议的法律上权利 [379] 。此外,因处于市场支配地位而衍生的“特殊责任”对标准必要专利持有人的要求在于其付出了“充分的努力”来促进与原则上有意愿取得许可的被许可人间协议的签署 [380]

 

侵权通知

法院认为,这些“努力”包括在提起侵权诉讼之前,就对涉案专利的侵权行为,以及取得许可的可能与需求,向实施人进行通知的义务 [381] 。法院在对本案进行审理后认为,诺基亚已经履行了上述义务 [382] [11]。

就内容而言,侵权通知内必须指明遭受侵权的专利,并描述具体的侵权使用行为与受侵害的实施例 [381] 。对该项侵权行为进行详细的技术上和法律上分析并不是必要的——实施人仅需要被置于一个最终能够在专家和/或法律建议的协助下对其被指控的侵权行为进行评估的地位即可 [381] 。通常情况下,提出权利要求对照表便已经足够(但不是强制性的) [381] 。法院还指出,专利持有人无需向每一个侵害其专利权的终端设备制造商的供应商个别提出单独的侵权通知 [383]

在法院看来,诺基亚于2016年6月21日、2016年11月9日、以及2016年12月7日所发出的电子邮件符合了上述要求 [384] 。诺基亚(至少在最初)没有指出涉案专利具体涉及标准文书中的哪个特定部分这一事实并不被认为是有害的,因为侵权通知的内容并不需要能够促进对侵权行为的最终评估 [385]

此外,法院认为,诺基亚没有必要在其侵权通知中明确指出根据相关标准而产生连网功能的特定组件是哪些(例如:戴姆勒汽车中内建的车载信息控制单元) [386] 。由于戴姆勒购买并在其产品中使用了这些组件,信息不足的情况是不可能发生的 [386]

 

取得许可的意愿

此外,法院认为,戴姆勒并没有充分表达其与诺基亚签订FRAND许可协议的意愿,因此不能主张FRAND抗辩来避免禁令的颁发 [387]

在法院看来,实施人必须“清楚”且“明确”地表明其愿意依照“任何实际上符合FRAND的条款”与标准必要专利持有人达成许可协议,并且随后以一种“目的性导向”的态度来进行许可谈判(引用德国联邦法院2020年5月5日在Sisvel诉Haier案中的判决– Sisvel v Haier, Case No. KZR 36/17以及英格兰和威尔士高等法院2017年4月5日在无线星球诉华为案中所做出的判决[2017] EWHC 711(Pat)-Unwired Planet v Huawei) [388] 。实施人在许可谈判中“目的性导向”的参与具有决定性的重要性,由于实施人通常在许可谈判开始之前就已经使用了该标准化技术专利,拖延许可协议的签署直至该专利到期失效为止对他们而言可能是有利的,然而,这与华为案判决的精神是背道而驰的 [389] 。因此,仅对侵权通知做出表示愿意考虑签署许可协议或就是否以及在何种条件下应该考虑取得许可进行谈判这样的回覆是不足够的 [388]

法院进一步指出,做出附带条件的许可意愿声明是不可接受的 [388] 。并且,拒绝讨论其对专利持有人发出的许可反要约有否存在任何改进的空间也可以被视为实施人一方不具备取得许可意愿的象征 [388]

基于以上所述,法院认为,戴姆勒最初以在其产品确实侵害了诺基亚的专利专利的前提下为签署许可协议的条件,并未能充分表达出其签署FRAND许可协议的意愿 [390] 。法院更表示,戴姆勒所提出的许可反要约同样不能够被认为是取得许可意愿的充分表示,特别是戴姆勒在第二次提出的许可反要约中赋予其对诺基亚单方面设定的许可费率进行挑战的权利,如此一来只会导致当事方间有关许可费率的确定的实质争议再度被拖延至将来的法律诉讼程序 [391]

法院还认为,由于戴姆勒不但没有与诺基亚进行谈判,反而是坚持要求由其供应商直接向诺基亚取得许可,戴姆勒并未扮演出一个“善意”的被许可人的角色 [392] 。此外,戴姆勒坚持以其向供应商购买车载信息控制单元组件的平均销售价格为基准计算诺基亚所持有的标准必要专利组合许可费也再度证明了戴姆勒缺乏取得许可的意愿 [393]

 

FRAND许可费的计算

法院认为,使用车载信息控制单元作为“参考价值”来为诺基亚所持有的标准必要专利组合计算许可费是不恰当的 [394]

一般来说,符合FRAND的条款和条件往往不仅只有一套,通常会存在一系列的许可条款和费用都能符合FRAND [395] 。此外,可以被认为符合FRAND的条款和条件也可能在各个行业之间以及不同的时间下有所差异 [395]

然而,法院指出,专利持有人原则上必须能够在价值链的最后阶段就其技术在可销售终端产品中的经济利益获得一定份额 [396] 。其原因在于,对该项受保护发明的实施“创造“了通过终端产品获取”经济利益“的”机会“ [396] 。法院不认同关于以最终产品的价值作为对专利技术价值的考量将使标准必要专利持有人得以从发生于价值链中其他阶段的创新发明中获益此一观点 [397] 。法院指出,有数种手段可以确保这种情况不会发生 [397]

因此,法院不赞同使用所谓的“最小可销售专利实施单元(SSPPU)“——即某一项产品中所包含的最小技术单元——作为计算FRAND许可费率的基准这一观点 [397] 。专利权穷竭所产生的影响将使得标准必要专利持有人被排除于共享在价值链的最后阶段才创造出的价值的行列之外 [397] 。除此之外,此种做法也将使的对”双重获利“行为的确认与避免变得更加复杂,而这意味着在价值链中的数个不同阶段得以对同一项专利多次进行许可 [397]

尽管如此,法院进一步阐明,上述原则并不全然意味着所有的许可协议都应该仅与终端设备制造商签署 [398] 。法院认为,即使是在供应链的其他阶段,也有多种可能可以就专利技术对可销售终端产品的价值进行评估 [398]

在这种背景下,法院认为,车载信息控制单元的销售价格并不能充分反映诺基亚所持有的标准必要专利对戴姆勒所生产的汽车——即本案中相关终端设备——的价值 [399] 。 车载信息控制单元的销售价格仅仅能够反应出戴姆勒本身的相应成本 [400] 。另一方面,连网功能使戴姆勒得以从为其客户提供其他额外服务中获得收益,节省成本并优化研发费用 [401] 。连网功能确保了创造此一价值的机会 [402] 。此外,法院指出,戴姆勒的几个主要竞争对手均接受了Avanci平台的许可模式(即专门向汽车制造商授予许可)这一事实更进一步展现出着重于受保护技术对终端产品的价值在汽车行业中也是合理的 [403]

 

无歧视

此外,法院认为,诺基亚对戴姆勒所提出的专利权主张并不具有歧视性,是以戴姆勒坚持许可必须由其供应商取得的主张无理由 [404]

法院进一步阐明,专利持有人原则上有权自由选择于供应链中的哪一个阶段主张其权利 [405] 。而这对处于市场支配地位的专利持有人而言亦无不同,因为竞争法本身并不当然限制此种可能性 [405] 。并且,处于市场支配地为的专利持有人也没有义务向所有潜在的被许可人提供一个“标准费率” [405]

《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条所规定的无歧视义务旨在防止对上游或下游市场竞争的妨碍,然而,其并不排除当有充分的理由存在时给予被许可人不同的待遇 [406]

在本案中,法院认为没有迹象表明诺基亚主张使用终端产品作为计算其专利许可费的基础将会对竞争产生影响 [407] 。特别是,尽管在汽车行业中存在通常由供应商取得出售给汽车制造商的零部件的使用许可这一事实,也不意味着诺基亚需要改变其通常惯例,尤其是通过Avanci平台授予戴姆勒竞争对手许可的实例已经表明,该于通信行业盛行的相应惯例已经在汽车行业中获得采纳 [408] 。此外,法院也不认为对终端设备制造商主张标准必要专利权可能会导致对其生产、销售和技术发展层面的限制从而损害消费者权益 [409] 。在这方面,法院引用了所谓的“委托制造权”,根据ETSI知识产权政策,该权利应被包含在FRAND许可协议中,并允许零组件制造商生产、销售和开发其产品 [410]

 

标准必要专利持有人所提出的许可要约 / 信息披露义务

此外,法院认为,戴姆勒无法通过主张诺基亚拒绝提供与其所提出的许可要约相关的充分信息来合理化自身不愿意取得许可的意愿 [411]

法院指出,标准必要专利持有人有义务证明其所提出的许可要约具备FRAND符合性 [412] 。如果专利持有人已经与第三方被许可人签订了非标准条款的许可协议,则专利持有人通常有义务以某种使实施人得以对其是否被提供了不同的商业条款进行评估的方式披露并呈现(至少包含)关键合同条款在内的协议内容 [412] 。关于此项义务所包含的范围与详细程度应依个案具体情况决定 [412]

考虑到这一点,法院认为,通过提交包含一项有关连网汽车价值的研究以及其与另一家主要汽车制造商间签署的许可协议在内的各项信息,诺基亚已经向戴姆勒提供了足够的信息 [413] 。于此脉络下,法院否认了诺基亚有向戴姆勒披露其与智能手机制造商间签署的许可协议的义务。法院拒绝了有关标准必要专利持有人的信息披露义务应延伸至涵盖此前签署的每一个许可协议的全部内容,并且标准必要专利持有人有义务披露所有现存许可协议的观点 [414] 。此外,法院更指出,通信行业中的许可协议对于评估汽车行业中的许可协议是否符合FRAND而言并无关联 [414]

 

供应商提出的FRAND抗辩

除上述几点外,法院还强调,戴姆勒无法从其参加本诉讼程序的供应商所提出的FRAND抗辩中获益 [415]

法院并未就关于被起诉的终端设备制造商原则上是否可以倚仗其供应商之一所提出的FRAND抗辩这一问题作出明确答覆。然而,法院认为,这将取决于该供应商在任何情况下均愿意由专利持有人处取得以终端产品为标准计算涉案专利价值(而非该产品的组件)的许可 [416] 。而在当前诉讼中情况并非如此 [417]

法院并没有忽略供应商可能将其向标准必要专利持有人支付的许可费转嫁在其客户身上这一问题 [418] 。然而,与第三方之间的合同约定(此处为供应商与终端设备制造商之间的协议),在法院看来,不应导致一个不允许标准必要专利持有人共享其专利技术为终端产品创造出的价值的许可协议的结果 [418]
 

C. 其他重要问题

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

法院并未就此问题做出答覆,因为不论是戴姆勒还是其供应商均不愿意以该受保护技术为戴姆勒制造的汽车所创造出的价值为基准向诺基亚取得符合FRAND条款的许可 [419] 。法院还指出,就本案涉案专利将于从现在开始起算的几年后到期失效这一事实而言,也不应该中止本诉讼程序 [420]
 

  • [372] Nokia v Daimler, District Court of Mannheim, judgment dated 18 August 2020, Case-No. 2 O 34/19。
  • [373] 同上注, 段 49-136。
  • [374] 同上注, 段 138。
  • [375] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13。
  • [376] Nokia v Daimler, District Court of Mannheim, judgment dated 18 August 2020, Case-No. 2 O 34/19, 段 144。
  • [377] 同上注, 段 146。
  • [378] 同上注, 段 147。
  • [379] 同上注, 段 148。
  • [380] 同上注, 段 149。
  • [381] 同上注, 段 152。
  • [382] 同上注, 段 151-156。
  • [383] 同上注, 段 248。
  • [384] 同上注, 段 153 及以下。
  • [385] 同上注, 段 154。
  • [386] 同上注, 段 155。
  • [387] 同上注, 段 157-231。
  • [388] 同上注, 段 158。
  • [389] 同上注, 段 159。
  • [390] 同上注, 段 161。
  • [391] 同上注, 段 197-199。
  • [392] 同上注, 段 157, 160 及 162-164。
  • [393] 同上注, 段 160 及 165-168。
  • [394] 同上注, 段 169。
  • [395] 同上注, 段 170。
  • [396] 同上注, 段 171。
  • [397] 同上注, 段 172。
  • [398] 同上注, 段 173。
  • [399] 同上注, 段 174 及以下。
  • [400] 同上注, 段 174。
  • [401] 同上注, 段 177。
  • [402] 同上注, 段 180。
  • [403] 同上注, 段 187 及以下。
  • [404] 同上注, 段 201-212。
  • [405] 同上注, 段 202。
  • [406] 同上注, 段 203。
  • [407] 同上注, 段 205。
  • [408] 同上注, 段 210。
  • [409] 同上注, 段 213。
  • [410] 同上注, 段 215。
  • [411] 同上注, 段 216 及以下。
  • [412] 同上注, 段 217。
  • [413] 同上注, 段 218。
  • [414] 同上注, 段 230。
  • [415] 同上注, 段 232 及以下。
  • [416] 同上注, 段 234, 236 及以下。
  • [417] 同上注, 段 240 及以下。
  • [418] 同上注, 段 239。
  • [419] 同上注, 段 253 及 291。
  • [420] 同上注, 段 291。

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) [421] .

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 [422] .

MPEG LA uses a standard licensing agreement, which is publicly available at its website [423] . Since 2004, MPEG-LA has signed approx. 2,000 agreements with implementers [424] , 1,400 of which are still in force [423] .

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 [425] . On 15 September 2011, the parent company suggested to arrange a call on this issue [426] . 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 [427] .

In November 2013, the discussions between MPEG LA and the parent company ended without success [428] . The parties resumed negotiations in July 2016; again, no agreement was reached [428] .

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 [429] .

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 [430] .

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 [431] . Furthermore, the Defendant made a second counteroffer to the Claimant shortly after the last oral hearing before the Court [432] .

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

B. Court’s reasoning

The Court found that the patent in suit was valid [433] , standard essential [434] and infringed by the products sold by the Defendant in Germany [435] . 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 [436] (Huawei obligations or framework) with respect to dominant undertakings [437] .

Dominant market position

The Court found that the Claimant holds a dominant market position in terms of Article 102 TFEU [438] .

The Court defined the relevant market for the assessment of dominance as the market, in which licences for any given patent are offered [439] . A dominant market position can further also exist, when the patent holder can hinder competition in downstream markets for standard-compliant products and services [439] .

The Court made clear that ownership of a SEP does not per se establish market dominance [440] . A dominant market position is given, when the use of the SEP is required for entering the market [441] . The same is true, if the patent user could not market competitive products or services, without access to the respective SEP [442] .

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 [443] .

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 [444] . 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) [445] . 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 [446] .

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 [447] . 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 [448] ), 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 [449] . 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 [450] . 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 [450] . 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 [451] .

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 [452] .

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 [453] . The sole fact that a company belongs to a group justifies such an assumption, unless indications to the contrary exist [454] . 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) [455] . 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 [456] . 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 [457] .

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 [458] . 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 [458] . A notification of infringement is, therefore, not necessary, when it constitutes just a ‘pointless formality’ [458] . 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 [458] . The respective test is, however, subject to strict conditions [458] .

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) [459] . 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 [460] .

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 [461] .

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 [461] . This is sufficient under the Huawei framework: A general, informal statement suffices [462] . The implementer is not required to refer to a specific licensing agreement (on the contrary, this could be considered harmful under certain circumstances) [462] .

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 [463] .

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 [464] .

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 [465] .

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 [466] . 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 [467] . 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) [468] . 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 [468] . 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 [468] . 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 [469] .

Apart from the above, the Court held that the standard licensing agreement offered to the parent company was FRAND also in terms of content [470] .

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 [471] . 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 [471] . 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 [471] . In this respect, comparable agreements can serve as an ‘important indicator’ of the fair and reasonable character of the offered royalty rates [471] .

Non-discrimination

Regarding to the non-discriminatory element of FRAND, the Court pointed out that it applied only to similar situated cases [472] . Even then, an unequal treatment is allowed, as long as it is objectively justified [472] . 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 [472] . 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 [473] . 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 [473] .

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 [474] . 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 [475] . 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 [476] . 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) [477] .

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 [478] . 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) [479] . 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 [480] . Discounts can further hardly be discriminatory, if they are offered to every (potential) licensee under the same conditions [480] .

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) [481] . 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 [482] .

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 [483] .

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 [484] . 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 [484] .

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 [485] . 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 [486] . 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 [487] . What is more, the Defendant did not show that further licences are needed with respect to the AVC/H.264 standard [488] . 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 [489] .

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 [490] . This assumption is also confirmed by the fact that all existing licensees have accepted this clause [491] .

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) [492] . 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 [492] .

An offer for a pool licence can, nevertheless, violate FRAND in ‘special circumstances’ [493] , for instance, if not all patents included in the pool are used by the licensee [494] . 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 [495] . 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 [496] . 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) [496] .

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 [497] . The Defendant failed, however, to present any reliable evidence that this was the case with the MPEG-LA pool [498] .

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’) [499] . 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 [500] .

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 [501] . In the electronics and mobile communications industries, licences on a group level are in line with the industry practice and, therefore, FRAND-compliant [502] .

Implementer’s counteroffer

Having said that, the Court found that the Defendant failed to make a FRAND counteroffer [503] .

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 [504] . Furthermore, the counteroffer established different licensing rates for different regions (especially for China) without factual justification [505] .

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 [432] . On the contrary, the Court expressed the view that the purpose of this counteroffer was most likely to delay the infringement proceedings [432] .

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 [506] .

  • [421] Tagivan (MPEG-LA) v Huawei, District Court of Düsseldorf, 9 November 2018, para. 36.
  • [422] Ibid, para. 35.
  • [423] Ibid, para. 37.
  • [424] Ibid, para. 453.
  • [425] Ibid, para. 39.
  • [426] Ibid, para. 43.
  • [427] Ibid, para. 44.
  • [428] Ibid, para. 53.
  • [429] Ibid, para. 2.
  • [430] Ibid, para. 54.
  • [431] Ibid, para. 65.
  • [432] Ibid, para. 716.
  • [433] Ibid, paras. 143-208.
  • [434] Ibid, paras. 209-293.
  • [435] Ibid, paras. 295-302.
  • [436] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [437] Tagivan (MPEG-LA) v Huawei, District Court of Düsseldorf, 9 November 2018, paras. 304 et seqq.
  • [438] Ibid, para. 307.
  • [439] Ibid, para. 310.
  • [440] 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.
  • [441] Ibid, paras. 310 et seq.
  • [442] Ibid, para. 311.
  • [443] Ibid, paras. 315 et seqq.
  • [444] Ibid, para. 321.
  • [445] Ibid, para. 326.
  • [446] Ibid, para. 327.
  • [447] Ibid, para. 330.
  • [448] 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.
  • [449] Ibid, paras. 331 et seqq.
  • [450] Ibid, para. 335.
  • [451] Ibid, para. 337.
  • [452] Ibid, para. 339.
  • [453] Ibid, para. 343.
  • [454] Ibid, para. 345.
  • [455] Ibid, para. 356.
  • [456] Ibid, paras. 357 et seqq.
  • [457] Ibid, paras. 366 et seqq.
  • [458] Ibid, para. 340.
  • [459] Ibid, para. 341.
  • [460] Ibid, paras. 395 et seqq.
  • [461] Ibid, paras. 400 et seqq.
  • [462] Ibid, para. 399.
  • [463] Ibid, para. 405.
  • [464] Ibid, paras. 411-417.
  • [465] Ibid, para. 419.
  • [466] Ibid, para. 421.
  • [467] Ibid, para. 425.
  • [468] Ibid, para. 422.
  • [469] Ibid, paras. 426 et seqq.
  • [470] Ibid, para. 429.
  • [471] Ibid, para. 431.
  • [472] Ibid, para. 432.
  • [473] Ibid, para. 433.
  • [474] Ibid, para. 438.
  • [475] Ibid, para. 443.
  • [476] Ibid, para. 444.
  • [477] Ibid, para. 445.
  • [478] Ibid, para. 579.
  • [479] Ibid, para. 582.
  • [480] Ibid, paras. 583 et seqq.
  • [481] Ibid, para. 564.
  • [482] Ibid, paras. 568 et seqq.
  • [483] Ibid, paras. 573 et seqq.
  • [484] Ibid, para. 451.
  • [485] Ibid, para. 449.
  • [486] Ibid, para. 454.
  • [487] Ibid, paras. 487 et seqq.
  • [488] Ibid, para. 491.
  • [489] Ibid, para. 495.
  • [490] Ibid, paras. 591 et seqq., particularly para. 596.
  • [491] Ibid. para. 597.
  • [492] Ibid. para. 504.
  • [493] Ibid. para. 508.
  • [494] Ibid. para. 514.
  • [495] Ibid. paras. 511 et seqq.
  • [496] Ibid. para. 524.
  • [497] Ibid, para. 528.
  • [498] Ibid, paras. 531-543.
  • [499] Ibid, paras. 545 et seqq.
  • [500] Ibid, para. 546.
  • [501] Ibid, para. 599.
  • [502] Ibid, para. 600.
  • [503] Ibid, para. 603.
  • [504] Ibid, paras. 605 et seqq.
  • [505] Ibid, paras. 617 et seqq.
  • [506] Ibid, para. 625.