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

Saint Lawrence v Deutsche Telekom

OLG Karlsruhe
23 四月 2015 - Case No. 6 U 44/15

A. Background

1. Facts

The proceedings related to the defendant’s application to the Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe for a stay of execution of the decision of the District Court of Mannheim (Case No. 2 O 103/14, 10 March 2015). The background was the alleged infringement of patent EP 1.125.276.B1, which covered technology for coding broadband signals which is essential for the ETSI AMR-WB standard.

The defendant was a major German telecommunications company (Deutsche Telekom). Intervenor 1 and intervenor 2 were smartphone manufacturers (HTC and others) whose products used the AMR-WB standard. These phones were supplied to the defendant and then sold to consumers as part of the defendant’s contract plans. [1] The claimant, a German non-practicing entity, Saint Lawrence, became owner of the respective SEP in August 2014. [2] The previous owner of the SEP had declared its willingness to grant licenses on FRAND conditions several times. [3] The defendant had shown no interest in such a license. [3] After commencing infringement proceedings in the District Court of Mannheim, the claimant contacted intervenor 2 for the first time. Intervenor 2 signed a confidentiality agreement on 23 February 2015, rejected an initial offer made by the claimant, and made a counter offer. On 25 March 2015 (after the decision of the District Court of Mannheim), the claimant made another offer, which intervenor 2 also rejected.

2. Ensuing Decisions

On 10 March 2015, the District Court of Mannheim granted an injunction. Inter alia, it held that the defendant had not attempted to enter into negotiations for a license. [3] In particular, the court considered it irrelevant that intervenor 2 might have demonstrated its willingness to enter into a license on FRAND conditions. In the eyes of the court, the relevant issue was whether the claimant had a right to demand an injunction to stop the defendant using the patent. Even if an intervenor could successfully raise a competition law based defence relying on the Federal Court of Justice decision Orange Book Standard, [4] this was of no relevance for the relationship between the claimant and the defendant. [5]

The defendant and intervenor 1 applied to the Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe to stay the execution of the District Court decision. Under the German rules of civil procedure, the Higher Regional Court can grant a stay of execution only if an appeal is pending and it is probable that the challenged decision will be overturned on the basis that it appears manifestly erroneous. [6] Alternatively, the Higher Regional Court can grant a stay of execution if the defendant can prove that the execution would cause particularly severe harm beyond the usual effects of an execution. [6]

The Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe granted the defendant’s application to stay the execution regarding the smartphones manufactured by intervenor 2, but dismissed the application made by intervenor 1. [7] It held that it would be sufficient for a successful competition law based defence that an intervenor is willing to enter into a license agreement. [8] Since the District Court of Mannheim had dismissed the intervenors’ willingness as irrelevant for the case, the resulting decision was manifestly erroneous. [8] Significantly, the Higher Regional Court required the defendant to make a deposit of EUR 5 million into the court to safeguard the claimant’s financial interests.

B. Court’s Reasoning

Importantly, the decision was handed down in April 2015 and thus several months prior to the CJEU Huawei/ZTE ruling. The Higher Regional Court stated that the final opinion of Advocate General Wathelet [9] was the legal basis of its decision. [10]

The Higher Regional Court reasoned that a patent holder could seek injunction orders against any business in the supply chain of the product that infringes the respective SEP – which includes manufacturers (such as the intervenors) and distributors (such as the defendant). In principle, according to the Federal Court of Justice decision Tripp-Trapp-Stuhl,Federal Court of Justice, 14 May 2009, Case No. I ZR 98/06. the decision against whom to bring proceedings lies with the patent holder. [12] However, according to the Higher Regional Court, this was not the issue in this case. The issue was whether the patent holder was abusing its dominant market position by commencing proceedings against the defendant. The only relevant question is whether this is conduct that deviates from ‘normal’ competition behaviour, being detrimental to consumer interests. If the SEP holder has made a FRAND declaration in the past and is typically entering into license agreements with manufacturers, then the court could see no objective reason why the SEP holder would only bring proceedings against the distributor. [12] In contrast, there is a reasonable expectation that the SEP holder makes an offer to the manufacturer of the relevant product first. Bringing proceedings against distributors would put significant pressure on the manufacturer. This can distort the license negotiation because distributors will have little interest in legal arguments with patent holders. If a patent holder is a dominant undertaking, exerting such pressure constitutes an abuse of market power. [12] In addition, bringing proceedings against distributors whilst granting licenses to manufacturers in other cases is inconsistent behaviour. [12]

C. Other Important Issues

The Higher Regional Court pointed out that the claimant was a non-practising entity. Accordingly, by exercising its patent rights it is not protecting its own market share in the market for smartphones. [13] In contrast, it is in the claimant’s objective interest that as many mobile phones using its SEP from numerous manufacturers are present in this market. Moreover, it is unlikely that a stay of execution would jeopardise the claimant’s financial interests. A deposit made by the defendant into the court should be a sufficient safeguard. [13] On the other hand, an execution of the decision at first instance would cause considerable harm to the defendant. As a telecommunications company, the defendant relies on a comprehensive portfolio of mobile phones that it can offer to consumers. [14] Removing the devices manufactured by intervenor 2 from the portfolio would be a significant blow to the defendant’s core business. Moreover, a removal would also be detrimental for intervenor 2 because a major distribution channel for its smartphones would become inaccessible. [15] As a result, the defendant’s interest in staying the execution outweigh the interests of the claimant.

  • [1] OLG Karlsruhe, 23 April 2015, 6 U 44/15, para 2.
  • [2] Landgericht Mannheim, 10 March 2015, 2 O 103/14, para 27.
  • [3] OLG Karlsruhe, 23 April 2015, 6 U 44/15, para 3.
  • [4] Bundesgerichtshof, 6 May 2015, KZR 39/06.
  • [5] OLG Karlsruhe, 23 April 2015, 6 U 44/15, para 6.
  • [6] OLG Karlsruhe, 23 April 2015, 6 U 44/15, para 17.
  • [7] OLG Karlsruhe, 8 September 2016, 6 U 58/16, para 38. After lodging the application, the claimant and intervenor 1 had reached a settlement agreement. As a result, intervenor 1 had withdrawn its appeal to the Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe. Thus, in the eyes of the court, no stay of execution was required.
  • [8] OLG Karlsruhe, 23 April 2015, 6 U 44/15, para 19.
  • [9] GA Wathelet, 20 November 2014, C-170/13.
  • [10] OLG Karlsruhe, 23 April 2015, 6 U 44/15, para 20.
  • [11] Federal Court of Justice, 14 May 2009, Case No. I ZR 98/06.
  • [12] OLG Karlsruhe, 23 April 2015, 6 U 44/15, para 21.
  • [13] OLG Karlsruhe, 23 April 2015, 6 U 44/15, para 25.
  • [14] OLG Karlsruhe, 23 April 2015, 6 U 44/15, para 26.
  • [15] OLG Karlsruhe, 23 April 2015, 6 U 44/15, para 27.

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) [16] 。 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 [17]

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 [18] ,同时其也在德国等市场销售符合LTE标准的产品 [19]

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 [19] 。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 [20] 。于是,此项许可协议的要约未能达成最终协议 [20]

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 [21]

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 [22] 。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) [23] 。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 [24]

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 [25]

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 [26] 。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 [27] ,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 [28]

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 [29]

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 [30]

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” [31] 。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 [32] 。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 [33]

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” [34] 。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” [34] 。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 [35]

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 [36] 。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 [37] ,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 [38] 。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” [39]

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 [26] 。(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” [26]

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 [27] 。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 [28] 。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 [28]

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” [40]

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 [41]

 

  • [16] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 6 July 2015, 段 22。
  • [17] 同上注, 段 22。
  • [18] 同上注, 段 40。
  • [19] 同上注, 段 24。
  • [20] 同上注, 段 25。
  • [21] 同上注, 段 27。
  • [22] 同上注, 段 29 及以下。
  • [23] 同上注, 段 30 及以下。
  • [24] 同上注, 段 34 及以下。
  • [25] 同上注, 段 77。
  • [26] 同上注, 段 65。
  • [27] 同上注, 段 66。
  • [28] 同上注, 段 67。
  • [29] 同上注, 段 72及以下。
  • [30] 同上注, 段 42。
  • [31] 同上注, 段 43。
  • [32] 同上注, 段 46。
  • [33]  同上注, 段 47。
  • [34] 同上注, 段 53。
  • [35] 同上注, 段 53及以下。
  • [36] 同上注, 段 58 及以下。
  • [37] 同上注, 段 61。
  • [38] 同上注, 段 63。
  • [39] 同上注, 段 64。
  • [40] 同上注, 段 68。
  • [41] 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 [42] (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 [43] ,并且该专利遭受侵权行为 [44] 。因此,夏普有权享有包含禁令救济在内的各项诉讼上主张 [45]

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 [46] 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 [47]

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 [48] 。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 [49] 。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 [49]

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 [50] 。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 [50] 。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 [51]
 

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) [49]

这意味着实施人不应拖延许可谈判的进行 [52] 。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 [52]

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 [51]

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 [53] 。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 [54] 。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 [55] 。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 [56] 。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 [57] 。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 [57]

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 [58] 。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 [59] 。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 [60] 。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 [61] 。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 [62]

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 [63] 。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” [64] 。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 [65]

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 [66] 。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” [67]

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 [68] 。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 [69] 。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 [69]
 

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 [70]

法院认为,夏普没有义务对戴姆勒的供应商授予许可 [71] 。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 [72] 。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 [72]

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” [73] 。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 [74] 。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 [75] 。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 [75]

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 [76] 。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 [77] 。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” [77]

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 [78] 。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) [79]

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 [80] 。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 [81] 。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 [82] 。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 [84] 。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 [84] 。 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 [85]

 

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 [86] 。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 [87] 。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 [88]

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 [89] 。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 [89] 。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 [89] 。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 [89]

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 [90] 。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 [91] 。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 [92]

  • [42] Sharp v Daimler, District Court of Munich, judgment dated 10 September 2020, Case-No. 7 O 8818/19。
  • [43] 同上注, 段 68 及以下。
  • [44] 同上注, 段 25 及以下。
  • [45] 同上注, 段 90。
  • [46] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13。
  • [47] Sharp v Daimler, District Court of Munich, judgment dated 10 September 2020, Case-No. 7 O 8818/19, 段 121。
  • [48] 同上注, 段 124。
  • [49] 同上注, 段 125。
  • [50] 同上注, 段 128。
  • [51] 同上注, 段 130 及以下。
  • [52] 同上注, 段 126。
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  • [57] 同上注, 段 140。
  • [58] 同上注, 段 141。
  • [59] 同上注, 段 142 及以下。
  • [60] 同上注, 段 143 及以下。
  • [61] 同上注, 段 144。
  • [62] 同上注, 段 146-149。
  • [63] 同上注, 段 150。
  • [64] 同上注, 段 151 及段153。
  • [65] 同上注, 段 152。
  • [66] 同上注, 段 154。
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  • [81] 同上注, 段 177 及以下。
  • [82] 同上注, 段 178。
  • [83] 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。
  • [84] 同上注, 段 167。
  • [85] 同上注, 段 185。
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Updated 26 一月 2017

Unwired Planet v Samsung

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

  1. Facts
    Since 7 March 2014 Claimant, a non-practicing entity, is the proprietor of European patent EP D, allegedly covering a feature of the GSM standard, originally granted to the Intervener, and subsequently transferred to company “I”. Defendants, belonging to the K-group, produce and market GSM- and UMTS-based devices.
    In an agreement as of 26 October 2011, the Intervener granted a worldwide non-exclusive license to Qualcomm Inc., being, in turn, allowed to grant sub-licenses to its customers. Furthermore, by agreement as of 1 February 2014 one of the Defendants was granted a worldwide, non-exclusive license to patents owned by the Intervener.
    On 10 January 2013, the Intervener concluded a so-called “Master Sales Agreement” (MSA), concerning the exploitation of a portfolio of more than two thousand patents, with “E”, “F” and its subsidiaries. Claimant became a party to the MSA later on. After its accession to the MSA, “I”, by assuming the existing FRAND obligation of the Intervener in accordance with the MSA, made a separate FRAND commitment towards ETSI on 14 June 2013 and declared, in an agreement as of 13 February 2013, to ensure that subsequent acquirers equally assume this obligation. Accordingly, after the transfer of patent EP D to Claimant the latter made, on 6 March 2014, a separate commitment towards ETSI declaring to be willing to grant licenses on FRAND terms with regard to, inter alia, patent EP D.
    In order to implement the MSA the parties concluded three transfer agreements. Claimant argues that the Intervener validly transferred a part of its patent portfolio, including patent EP D, by agreement as of 11 February 2013 to undertaking “B”. On 13 February 2013, “B”, in turn, transferred the patent portfolio, including patent EP D, to “I”. After successfully requesting, on 3 September 2013, an amendment of the patent register, being performed on 24 October 2013, “I” transferred, on 27 February 2014, the patent portfolio, including patent EP D, to Claimant. Claimant successfully requested, on 7 March 2014, an amendment of the patent register which was performed on 3 July 2014.
    As a reaction to Claimant’s public license proposal including a royalty of USD 0.75 per mobile device Defendants allegedly submitted a counter-offer but no licensing agreement was concluded.
  2. Court’s reasoning
    1. Market power
      The court stressed that an application of Article 102 TFEU does not automatically result from SEP ownership but that it requires proof of a dominant position on the relevant market being conveyed by the SEP in question. Due to the fact that products not implementing the patent-in-suit could not effectively compete on the relevant market because of GSM being a key feature for such products market power of Claimant was affirmed. [93]
    2. Applicability of the Huawei rules to damages and the rendering of accounts
      While the Huawei rules of conduct apply to actions for injunction, recall and destruction of products they are, in principle, not directly applicable to claims for damages and the rendering of accounts. [94] Nor is it necessarily abusive for a SEP proprietor to bring an action for damages and the rendering of accounts without having notified the standard implementer of an infringement and without having offered a FRAND license beforehand. The Huawei obligations do, however, have an indirect impact on the extent to which damages and the rendering of accounts are due: Where the SEP proprietor fails to grant a FRAND license although he has made a FRAND commitment and the standard implementer has expressed its readiness to take a license, damages are limited to the FRAND royalty level but only for the period after the SEP proprietor’s abusive refusal to license. [95] Claims for information and the rendering of accounts must, in this event, be limited to what is necessary for determining FRAND-based damages. [96]
    3. Cap on damages/rendering of accounts in casu
      In casu Defendant could not show that he had complied with its Huawei obligation to sufficiently express its willingness to take a FRAND license. In consequence, no cap on Claimant’s claim for damages was deemed appropriate. [96]
  3. Other important issues
    Whether a SEP proprietor is free to enforce its patent in court or whether the proprietor is obliged to grant a FRAND license has to be determined under Art. 102 TFEU, not Art. 101 TFEU. [97] A FRAND declaration is not an unconditional offer made by the patent proprietor to enter into a licensing agreement with anyone willing to take a license, it merely expresses that the proprietor is, in principle, ready to grant a FRAND license if the patent in question conveys market dominance. As such, the FRAND commitment merely specifies a duty to license which competition law would impose anyway but it has an impact on the patent owner’s obligations under Art. 102 TFEU. [98]
    As regards the transfer of a SEP from the original patent proprietor to a non-practicing entity, registration in the patent register in accordance with § 30 (3) PatG establishes—also with regard to claims for damages and the rendering of accounts—presumption of ownership, allowing the proprietor to enforce all rights derived from the SEP as long as the presumption has not been successfully rebutted by Defendants. The non-registration of “B” as an interim owner was considered irrelevant under the circumstances of the present case (but not generally). Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. I, 1-2
    The MSA and the subsequent transfer agreements neither violate the German provisions on merger control (§§ 35-43 GWB) since, in any case, merger control thresholds are not reached.
    Nor was a violation of the European provisions on anticompetitive agreements (Article 101 TFEU) or on the abuse of a dominant position (Article 102 TFEU) found. Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. I, 4, a-c In particular, the transactions did not aim at enforcing non-FRAND royalties or at discriminating between licensees and the agreements framing the transactions ensured that the acquirers of the relevant patents were bound by (the initial) FRAND commitments. [99] The acquirer of a SEP is neither obliged to continue the transferor’s licensing practice in an unmodified manner nor to implement exactly the same conditions in all licensing agreements, provided the conditions are FRAND and no unjustified discrimination takes place. It is not abusive in itself for a (former) SEP proprietor to split its portfolio and to transfer the parts to several acquirers, thereby trying to arrive at higher overall royalties being paid for the portfolio. Nor is a resulting increase in the number of licenses a standard implementer has to take per se inacceptable. However, licensing conditions are FRAND only if the cumulative royalty level resulting from the licensing of all pertinent SEPs is not excessive. Putting it differently, where the royalty level for the entire portfolio was below or at the lower end of the FRAND range, it is not abusive to arrive, by way of splitting the portfolio and licensing its parts separately, at a higher overall royalty level within the FRAND range. Furthermore, the transaction agreements did not amount to price fixing. [100]
  • [93] Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. VII, 6, a
  • [94] Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. VII, 6, b, aa, bb
  • [95] Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. VII, 6, b, dd
  • [96] Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. VII, 6, b, ee
  • [97] Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. VII, 4
  • [98] Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. VII, 5
  • [99] Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. I, 4, b, aa
  • [100] Cf. for details LG Düsseldorf, 19 January 2016 - Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. I, 4, b, bb

Updated 24 七月 2020

西斯维尔诉海尔

德国联邦法院
5 五月 2020 - Case No. KZR 36/17

A. 事实

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

地区法院于2015年11月3日对海尔发出了禁令 [101] ,同时判令召回并销毁涉案侵权产品。地区法院更进一步的确认了海尔于本案中的损害赔偿责任,并命令海尔就其侵权产品的销售向西斯维尔提供完整和详细的资料并开立担保帐户。

海尔对该判决提起上诉,并且要求杜塞尔多夫地区高级法院(以下称“上诉法院”)判决中止对地区法院所核发的前述禁令的执行。上诉法院于2016年1月做出了相应的判决 [102]

在上诉程序进行过程中,海尔所提出的各项主张之一,即是其认为,由于该判决在西斯维尔向海尔提起侵权诉讼之后才作成,地区法院于判决之时未能就欧洲联盟法院于2015年7月在华为诉中兴案判决中(以下称“华为判决”)对标准必要专利持有人所施加的行为要求进行充分考虑 [103] 。并且在上诉法院诉讼进行的过程中,海尔于2016年1月16日进一步表示,其愿意在德国法院最终确认了涉案专利的有效性以及对涉案专利的侵权行为存在的前提下,向西斯维尔取得FRAND许可。 2016年3月23日,海尔向西斯维尔发送了另一封信函称其立场维持不变。此外,海尔还向西斯维尔提出获取有关西斯维尔所持有的所有专利的权利要求对照表以及与许可费率计算相关的更多信息的要求。 西斯维尔于2016年12月再度向海尔提出了进一步的许可要约,然而仍然遭到海尔拒绝。

在2017年3月30日的判决中,上诉法院支持了海尔于本案上诉中的部分主张 [104] ,确认了海尔于本案中的损害赔偿责任及开立担保帐户的义务。然而,上诉法院认为,海尔并没有召回并销毁侵权产品的义务,因为西斯维尔并没有遵守华为判决中所要求的义务,特别是未能向海尔提出FRAND许可要约。由于涉案专利权利已于2016年9月到期失效,当事各方同意就禁令救济部分主张达成和解,因此上诉法院不需要再就此部分主张作出裁定。西斯维尔其后又对上诉法院的本案裁决提起上诉。

2017年10月,联邦专利法院在限缩了涉案专利的部分权利要求的情况下确认了其专利有效性 [105]

于2020年3月,德国联邦法院(以下称“联邦法院”或“法院”)在二审中基本上支持了联邦专利法院的此一判决决定 [106]

联邦法院于2020年5月5日做出的当前判决 [107] 中推翻了上诉法院的判决。联邦法院维持了地区法院于一审时对西斯维尔所提出的损害赔偿请求以及关于提供相关信息和开立担保帐户的各项请求所作出的裁决。有关西斯维尔召回并销毁侵权产品的请求,则仅限于海尔有权支配或其于2016年9月涉案专利到期失效前所生产或交付的产品。西斯维尔有关禁令救济的请求则因为该请求于此前上诉法院的诉讼过程中涉案专利已经到期失效而被撤回,故不受法院裁判决定。


B. 法院的论理

法院认为,涉案专利对于GPRS标准的实施而言具备标准必要性,并且遭受侵权 [108]

此外,法院认为,西斯维尔对海尔提起侵权诉讼的行为,并未构成对《欧洲联盟运作条约》(TFEU)第102条滥用市场支配地位的违反 [109] 。 在法院看来,西斯维尔已经履行了华为判决所要求的义务,在提起侵权诉讼之前将针对其所持有的标准必要专利的侵权使用行为向海尔进行通知。另一方面,海尔则未能履行其于华为框架下充分表达与西斯维尔达成许可协议意愿的义务。尽管此一事实对于本案而言已不再具有决定性,法院仍然表示其认为西斯维尔已经按照依照华为框架的相应要求向海尔提出了FRAND许可要约。

市场支配地位

法院裁定认为,西斯维尔具备《欧洲联盟运作条约》第102条涵义下的市场支配地位 [110]

联邦法院解释到,市场支配地位并不单纯因为享有专利所授与的独占权而形成 [111] ,因此,需要将许多因素共同纳入考量 [112] 。其中一个关键因素是相关市场。当一项专利对符合标准发展组织发展出的标准(或事实上的标准)而言具备技术上的必要性,并且在下游市场提供的产品中并没有可以替代该标准的技术时,与市场支配力评估相关的就会是能够提供该涉案专利许可的(独特的)市场 [113]

在此基础上,法院认定西斯维尔处于市场支配地位:涉案专利对于GPRS标准的实施而言具备标准必要性,并且不配备GPRS功能的手机无法在(下游)市场中竞争,因为不管是此前或者其后的各代标准都无法使其具备与之相同的功能 [114]

于此脉络下,联邦法院并没有采纳西斯维尔关于标准实施人相较于市场中商品和服务的购买者而言,通常处于较强势的谈判地位,因此标准必要专利持有者的市场支配地位事实上受到了限制的这一观点 [115] 。法院同意,与商品和服务的购买者不同,标准实施人即便在没有与专利持有人达成协议的情况下,依然能够取得生产符合标准的产品所需的受保护技术而处于有利的地位 [116] 。然而,法院认为,此一事实并不足以排除市场支配地位。标准必要专利持有人在许可谈判中对个别实施人的还价能力的程度与此问题并不相关 [117] 。专利持有人的结构性优势市场支配力授与其市场支配地位,而此一结构性优势市场支配力则来自于专利持有人具备通过执行排他性权利而将任何实施者从市场中排除的法律上能力 [118]

同样地,法院指出,华为判决对行使标准必要专利专利权时所施加的限制同样不会削弱市场支配地位 [119] 。法院认为,这些限制极大程度地弱化了标准必要专利持有人的谈判地位,因其并不能全面性地运用其在平等基础上进行谈判时所需的必要手段 [119] 。然而,这并不足以构成对专利持有人市场支配地位的挑战,即便是在实施人透过拖延谈判的进行直至该专利到期失效而可能涉及“反向专利挟持“的情况下 [119]

尽管如此,法院指出,西斯维尔的市场支配地位在涉案专利到期失效时便已经终止 [120] 。一旦标准必要专利人不再具有排除侵权产品进入(下游)市场的合法权力,则其将不再具备市场支配地位 [120]

滥用市场支配地位

与上诉法院相反的是,联邦法院在检视了当事各方的行为后,认为西斯维尔并没有滥用其市场支配地位 [121]

法院明确指出,标准必要专利持有人并非原则上被禁止行使其因持有专利而产生的排他性权利 [122] 。一项专利具备标准必要性此一事实,并不意味着专利持有人有义务容忍他人对其所持有的专利技术的使用,除非是因为其具有市场支配地位而允许或有义务允许他人对该专利技术的使用 [122] 。联邦法院认为,如果实施人不愿意按照FRAND条款取得许可,则不存在所谓允许使用标准必要专利的义务。专利持有人——即便是具有市场支配地位专利持有人——并没有“强迫“任何标准实施人取得许可的义务,尤其是因为其并没有主张签署许可协议的法律上权利 [123]

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

  1. 实施人已经提出了专利持有人在不滥用其支配地位或不违反其无歧视义务的情况下便无法拒绝该条款的无条件许可要约(于此范围内,法院重申了其先前在“橙皮书标准案”中的裁决;判决日期: 2009年5月6日 – 案件号:KZR 39/06) [124]
  2. 实施人原则上有取得许可的意愿,然而标准必要专利持有人却未能遵守其支配地位所带来的“特殊责任”而做出充分的努力以促进协议的签署 [125]

侵权通知

是以,法院采纳了标准必要专利持有人有义务在提起侵权诉讼之前就针对涉案专利的侵权使用行为向实施人进行通知的观点 [126] 。联邦法院似乎认为,此项义务仅在实施人尚未意识到其构成侵权行为的情况下才会产生同上注, 段 73。 法院认为,如果专利实施人对于实施该标准即是一种未经许可而使用涉案专利说明书的行为“此一事实并不知情“,则专利持有人就必须针对专利侵权情况对其通知。

法院解释到,技术实施人原则上有义务在开展产品的制造或销售之前确保没有任何第三方的权利遭受侵害 [128] 。然而,此项工作通常具有很大的挑战性,特别是在信息和通信技术(ICT)领域中,一项产品可能会受到众多错综复杂的专利权影响 [128] 。因此,身为会定期对侵权状况进行检查的专利持有人,便有义务在发动诉讼程序之前,向实施人告知其对专利的使用情况,使实施人得以对是否需要按照FRAND条款获得许可进行评估,从而避免禁令的核发 [129]

在法院看来,通常情况下,对集团公司中的母公司发出各别的侵权通知便已经足够 [130] 。就内容而言,通知内必须指明遭到侵权的专利,并描述特定的侵权使用行为以及遭受侵害的实施例 [131] 。专利持有人不必要对侵权行为作出详细的技术与法律上分析,仅需要让实施人处于一个在专家和/或法律意见的协助下最终有能力对其被指控的侵权行为进行评估的地位即可 [131] 。一般来说,专利持有人依照实务上通常做法提出权利要求对照表就已经足够了(但不是强制性的) [131] 。 此外,联邦法院同时提到,在提供了有关被侵权的专利以及受到影响的标准等相关信息后,专利持有人可以合理期待实施人将于短时间内表明其所收到的信息并不足以对侵权行为进行评估 [132] 。这也适用于涉及多项专利和标准的情况 [132]

在考量过上述情况后,法院认为西斯维尔已经对海尔发出了适当的侵权通知。 该通知信函已于2012年12月20日发出,并且符合相关要求 [133]

取得许可的意愿

另一方面,考虑到海尔的行为,法院认为海尔并没有表现出其为愿意向西斯维尔取得FRAND许可的被许可人 [134] 。在这方面,联邦法院不同意前面上诉法院所做出的分析,并且得出了与上诉法院相反的结论。

法院认为,中国海尔对西斯维尔所发出的通知的首次回覆是迟延的,因为海尔花费了将近一年的时间(2012年12月至2013年12月)才做出回应 [135] 。一个花费数月时间才对侵权通知做出回应的实施人,其所发出的信号通常表明其对取得许可没有兴趣 [135] 。西斯维尔在2012年12月首次向海尔发出通知后才就涉案专利对欧洲电信标准协会作出FRAND承诺此一事实,并不会对评估及时性造成任何影响:在2012年12月20日所发出的信函中,西斯维尔已经表明其准备好要向海尔提供FRAND许可 [135] 。然而,有关虽然有所迟延但仍在侵权诉讼开始作出的回覆(如同本案中海尔于2013年12月所作出的答复)于评估各方是否遵守华为判决要求时是否应该被纳入考量范围中(如同本案上诉法院所推定的那样)此一问题,联邦法院并未做出决定 [136] 。在本案中,此问题并不相关,因为就海尔所做出的回覆内容而言,没有任何一项能够被视为已经充分表明其取得许可的意愿 [137]

在法院的眼中,实施人必须“清楚”且“明确”地表明其愿意依照“任何实际上符合FRAND的条款”与标准必要专利持有人达成许可协议(引用英格兰和威尔士高等法院2017年4月5日在无线星球诉华为案中所做出的判决[2017] EWHC 711(Pat)-Unwired Planet v Huawei) [138] 。实施人随后就有义务以“达成协议”为目标积极参与许可谈判 [138] 。相反地,仅仅是对侵权通知作出“表达愿意考虑签署许可协议“或”就是否以及在什么条件下取得许可提出质疑或进行谈判“的回覆是不够的 [138]

于此基础上,法院认为,海尔在2013年12月的回覆中仅表达了其希望进行“正式谈判“,并不足以表达其取得许可的意愿——该声明在上述标准下既不“清楚”也不“明确” [139]

同样地,联邦法院认为,海尔在2016年1月16日所发出的信函中也没有充分地表达其取得许可的意愿,因为海尔声明只在德国法院确认了涉案专利的有效性和侵权性的前提下才愿意签署许可协议 [140] 。尽管实施人原则上被允许在达成许可协议后保留对被许可专利的有效性进行挑战的权利,法院仍然认为,表达取得许可意愿的声明不能在带有附带条件的情况下作出 [140]

此外,联邦法院也认为,海尔于2016年3月23日发出的信函中同样没有充分地表达其取得许可的意愿。除了海尔并没有撤销上述不能被接受的条件外,法院还认为,海尔在收到侵权通知近三年以后才要求西斯维尔提供所有专利的权利要求对照表,这表明了海尔所感兴趣的只在不断拖延谈判的进行,直到涉案专利到期失效为止 [141]

由于本案中并不存在海尔明确表达其取得许可意愿的适当声明,法院并没有回答关于实施人于侵权诉讼已经被提起后是否有尚可能履行此项义务的问题 [142]

 

  • [101] Sisvel v Haier, District Court of Duesseldorf, judgment dated 3 November 2015, Case No. 4a O 93/14。
  • [102] Sisvel v Haier, Higher District Court of Duesseldorf, judgment dated 13 January 2016, Case No. I-15 U 66/15。
  • [103] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13。
  • [104] Sisvel v Haier, Higher District Court of Duesseldorf, judgment dated 30 March 2017, Case No. I-15 U 66/15。
  • [105] Federal Patent Court, judgment dated 6 October 2017, Case No. 6 Ni 10/15 (EP)。
  • [106] Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 10 March 2020, Case No. X ZR 44/18。
  • [107] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 5 May 2020, Case No. KZR 36/17。(引自:https://juris.bundesgerichtshof.de/cgi-bin/rechtsprechung/document.py? Gericht=bgh&Art=en&sid=3abd1ba29fc1a5b129c0360985553448&nr=107755&pos=0&anz=1)。
  • [108] 同上注, 段 9以下及段59。
  • [109] 同上注, 段 52。
  • [110] 同上注, 段 54。
  • [111] 同上注, 段 56。
  • [112] 同上注, 段 57 及以下。
  • [113] 同上注, 段 58。
  • [114] 同上注, 段 59 及以下。
  • [115] 同上注, 段 61。
  • [116] 同上注, 段 63。
  • [117] 同上注, 段 62。
  • [118] 同上注, 段 61 及以下。联邦法院认为,进入市场的障碍已经因为法律上相应的阻碍使任何公司在没有获得许可的情况下进入市场都是不合理的此项事实而形成,请参见段 63。
  • [119] 同上注, 段 64。
  • [120] 同上注, 段 65。
  • [121] 同上注, 段 67 及以下。
  • [122] 同上注, 段 69。
  • [123] 同上注, 段 70。
  • [124] 同上注, 段 71。
  • [125] 同上注, 段 72。
  • [126] 同上注, 段 73 及以下。
  • [127] 同上注, 段 73。 法院认为,如果专利实施人对于实施该标准即是一种未经许可而使用涉案专利说明书的行为“此一事实并不知情“,则专利持有人就必须针对专利侵权情况对其通知。
  • [128] 同上注, 段 74。
  • [129] 同上注, 段 74 及段 85。
  • [130] 同上注, 段 89。
  • [131] 同上注, 段 85。
  • [132] 同上注, 段 87。
  • [133] 同上注, 段 86 及以下。
  • [134] 同上注, 段 91 及以下。
  • [135] 同上注, 段 92。
  • [136] 同上注, 段 93及以下。
  • [137] 同上注, 段 94。
  • [138] 同上注, 段 83。
  • [139] 同上注, 段 95。
  • [140] 同上注, 段 96。
  • [141] 同上注, 段 98。
  • [142] 同上注, 段 97。

Updated 23 一月 2018

Unwired Planet v Huawei, [2017] EWHC 711 (Pat)

英国法院判决
5 四月 2017 - Case No. HP-2014-000005

A. Facts

The claimant is a company that grants licenses for patented technologies in the telecommunications industry. The patents at issue (EP (UK) 2 229 744, EP (UK) 2 119 287, EP (UK) 2 485 514, EP (UK) 1 230 818, EP (UK) 1 105 991, EP (UK) 0 989 712) relate to telecommunication network coding and procedures. [143] Most were part of a large patent portfolio that the claimant had acquired from a major telecommunications company in 2013. [144] In 2014, the claimant made a declaration under the ETSI IPR Policy that it was willing to grant licenses on FRAND terms. There were five technical trials relating to the validity, infringement and essentiality of these patents. This summary focuses on the non-technical trial addressed competition law issues, FRAND issues, injunctive relief and damages for past infringements. [145]

In April 2014 the claimant made an open offer to the defendant, a major international smartphone manufacturer, to grant a license in respect of the claimant’s entire global patent portfolio (containing SEPs and non-SEPs). The defendant refused the offer, contending that there was no patent infringement, that the patents were not essential, and that they were invalid. The defendant also argued that the offer was not FRAND and thus did not constitute an abuse of a dominant market position under Art. 102 TFEU. In July 2014 the claimant made a further offer, limited to the claimant’s SEPs. Again, the defendant refused, arguing that the license conditions were not FRAND. [146] In June 2015 both parties made further offers. These offers were the result of directions from the court. The claimant offered a worldwide portfolio license while the defendant wanted to limit the territorial scope to the United Kingdom. [147] Between August and October 2016 the parties exchanged further offers without reaching an agreement. [148]

The Patents Court (Birrs J) held that the claimant was in a dominant position, but did not abuse this position. [149] The defendant was not prepared to take a license on FRAND conditions and the claimant was not in breach of competition law. Thus, the court held that a final injunction to restrain patent infringements should be granted. An injunction for infringements of patents EP (UK) 2 229 744 and EP (UK) 1 230 818 was granted on 7 June 2017. [150]

B. Court’s Reasoning

1. Market Power

The court defined the relevant market for assessing dominance as a distinct market for licensing each SEP individually. [151] European case law indicated that owning an SEP could be a rebuttable presumption for the existence of a dominant position. [152] The claimant’s pleaded position was a non-admission of dominance rather than a denial coupled with a positive case to the contrary. It was the view of the court that this was insufficient to rebut the presumption. In particular, the claimant’s argument of countervailing buyer power was unconvincing because it had not been supported by a proper economic analysis. [153]

2. SEP Proprietor’s Licensing Offer

a. FRAND Declaration as Conceptual Basis

The court pointed out that that the FRAND undertaking also applied in the case that the SEP proprietor was not in a dominant position. It held that the FRAND undertaking operated as a practical constraint on a SEP owner’s market power. [154] The ETSI declaration made by the SEP proprietor is also the starting point for determining the FRAND rate. The underlying issue, which is discussed at length by the court, [155] is if such a declaration forms a contract and whether that contract can benefit third parties. The court acknowledged that the legal effect of this declaration, in particular its enforceability, is a controversial issue under French law. [156] However, the court reasoned that the FRAND declaration is an important aspect of technology standardisation. Holders of SEPs are not compelled to give a FRAND declaration. If they do, the undertaking would be enforceable and irrevocable due to public interest. [156]

The court applied a procedural approach to FRAND. It emphasised that FRAND describes not only a set of license terms, but also the process by which a set of terms are agreed. [157] It applies to both the SEP-holder and the implementer/defendant. In particular, this approach allows for starting offers that leave room for negotiation. On the other hand, making extreme offers and taking an uncompromising approach which prejudices fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory negotiation is not a FRAND approach. [158] This approach also means that the SEP proprietor is under an obligation to make a FRAND offer and to enter into FRAND license agreements. [159]

b. ‘True FRAND Rate’

The court considered that there is only a single set of terms for a given set of circumstances that would meet FRAND conditions (‘true FRAND rate’). [160] This eliminates the so-called Vringo-problem, [161] i.e. if FRAND were a range there would be two different but equally FRAND offers. Thus, if the court would grant or not an injunction, it would be unfair for the alleged infringer or SEP holder respectively. [162]

The court was of the opinion that the true FRAND rate approach does not cause problems under competition law. Theoretically, if only one set of terms is truly FRAND, and if FRAND also represents the line between abusive and non-abusive conduct under Art. 102 TFEU, then every agreed SEP-licence could be at serious risk of being abusive. [163] However, the court took the view that FRAND-compliance and compliance with Art. 102 TFEU are not the same thing (the court pointed out that the CJEU in the Huawei ruling appears to equate an obligation to make a FRAND offer with compliance with Art 102 TFEU).Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 154./span> Since Art. 102 TFEU condemns excessive pricing, [165] a royalty rate can be somewhat higher than the true FRAND rate and still not be contrary to competition law. Conversely, for a breach of competition law, it will be necessary but not sufficient that the rate is not the true FRAND rate. [165]

c. Discrimination

The court held that the correct approach is to start from a global rate as a benchmark and to then adjust this rate as appropriate. [166] It distinguished between two concepts of discrimination. First, the ‘general’ concept of non-discrimination describes an overall assessment of FRAND which can be used to derive the benchmark mentioned above. [167] It is based on the intrinsic value of the patent portfolio, but it does not depend on the licensee. The court held that this benchmark should be applied to all licensees seeking the same kind of license. [168]

Second, the ‘hard-edged’ non-discrimination obligation, which takes into account the nature of the potential licensee, [167] is a distinct concept that could be used to adjust license terms. However, the court held that the FRAND declaration does not introduce such a hard-edged non-discrimination concept. [169] If, contrary to the view taken by the court, the FRAND undertaking did include hard-edged non-discrimination, a licensee could only have the right to a lower rate granted to another licensee (i.e. a specific non-discrimination obligation resulting from the FRAND declaration) if the difference would otherwise distort competition between the two licensees. [168]

d. Territorial Scope of License

The court held that the defendant’s offer that was limited to UK licenses was not FRAND. In the court’s opinion country by country licensing is inefficient for goods such as mobile telecommunications devices that are distributed across borders. [170] It would also be inefficient to negotiate many different licenses and then to keep track of so many different royalty calculations and payments. No rational business would do this, if it could be avoided. [170] This was illustrated by the fact that the vast majority of licenses introduced in the trial were worldwide licenses. [171] Further, it is common ground that the industry assesses patent families rather than individual patents within the family. Assessing portfolios on a family basis inevitably involved tying a patent in one jurisdiction with a patent in another. [172] Thus, according to the court, a worldwide license would not be contrary to competition law. As willing and reasonable parties would agree on a worldwide licence, the insistence by the defendant on a license which was limited to the UK was not FRAND. [173]

C. Other Important Issues

1. Comparable agreements and reasonable aggregate royalty rate

The court held that for determining the royalty rate, the evidence of the parties would be relevant, including evidence of how negotiations actually work in the industry. [174] Other freely-negotiated license agreements might be used as comparables. [175] This may be compared with a top down approach [176] can also be used in which the rate is set by determining the patentee’s share of relevant SEPs and applying that to the total aggregate royalty for a standard, but this may be more useful as a cross-check. [177] Royalty rates determined by other courts might be useful as persuasive precedents. However, in the eyes of the court, a license rate determined at a binding arbitration does not carry much weight as to what parties are usually paying. [174] License agreements must meet certain criteria to be comparable. [178] First, the licensor is the claimant. Second, the license agreement is recent. However, it is not necessary that the licensee is the defendant or a comparable company because different market participants have different bargaining powers, which is reflected in the negotiations and the resulting royalty rates. [178] Finally the court confirmed that a royalty based on the handset price was appropriate and implied a reasonable aggregate royalty rate of 8.8%of the handset price. The court found that the 8.8% was reasonable, in part, because the aggregate implied by either party’s case was higher (10.4% and 13.3%). [179]

2. Principles derived from Huawei v. ZTE

The court also provided a compiled overview of its interpretation of the Huawei v. ZTE ruling. [180] In the eyes of the court, the ‘willingness to conclude a licence on FRAND terms’ refers to a willingness in general. The fact that concrete proposals are also required does not mean it is relevant to ask whether the proposals are actually FRAND or not. If the patentee complies with the procedure as set out by the CJEU, then bringing a claim for injunction is not abusive under Art 102. But even if sufficient notice is given, bringing a claim can constitute an abuse because complying with the procedure does not mean that a patentee can behave with impunity. In other words, there might be other aspects that make the claim abusive. Conversely, bringing such a claim without prior notice will necessarily be abusive.

Significantly, the court held, the legal circumstances of this case differ from the circumstances assumed by the CJEU in a crucial respect. A FRAND undertaking can be effectively enforced irrespective of Art 102. The defendant does not need Art 102 TFEU to have a defence to the injunction claim.
  • [143] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 2.
  • [144] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), paras 54 et seqq.
  • [145] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 3.
  • [146] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 5.
  • [147] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), paras 7-8.
  • [148] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), paras 11-14.
  • [149] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 807.
  • [150] Unwired Planet v Huawei, EWHC 1304 (Pat).
  • [151] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 631.
  • [152] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 634.
  • [153] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), paras 636-646.
  • [154] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 656.
  • [155] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), paras 108-145.
  • [156] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 146.
  • [157] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 162.
  • [158] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 163.
  • [159] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 159.
  • [160] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 164.
  • [161] See Vringo v ZTE [2013] EWHC 1591 (Pat) and [2015] EWHC 214 (Pat).
  • [162] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 158.
  • [163] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 152.
  • [164] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 154./span> Since Art. 102 TFEU condemns excessive pricing,Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 153. a royalty rate can be somewhat higher than the true FRAND rate and still not be contrary to competition law. Conversely, for a breach of competition law, it will be necessary but not sufficient that the rate is not the true FRAND rate.Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 153.
  • [165] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 153.
  • [166] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 176.
  • [167] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 177.
  • [168] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 503.
  • [169] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 501.
  • [170] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 544.
  • [171] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 534.
  • [172] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 546.
  • [173] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 572.
  • [174] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 171.
  • [175] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 170
  • [176] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 178
  • [177] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 806 (10)
  • [178] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 175.
  • [179] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 476.
  • [180] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), 744.

Updated 3 二月 2020

Philips v Wiko

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

A. Facts

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

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

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

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

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

By judgment dated 25 November 2016 [181] , the District Court of Mannheim granted Philips’ claims almost to the full extent. Wiko appealed the District Court’s judgement. In addition, by way of a counterclaim, Wiko requested disclosure of existing licensing agreements signed by Philips with similarly situated licensees (comparable agreements).

With the present judgment [182] , the Higher District Court of Karlsruhe (Court) overturned the ruling of the District Court in part. In detail, the Court confirmed Philips’ claims for information and the rendering of accounts as well as Wiko’s liability for damages on the merits. The Court, however, rejected Philips’ claims for injunctive relief, destruction and recall of infringing products from the market.

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


B. Court’s reasoning

The Court confirmed that Wiko’s products infringe the patent in suit [183] .

Contrary to the view taken previously by the District Court, the Court found, however, that Article 102 of the Treaty for the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) prevents Philips from enforcing the claims for injunctive relief as well as the recall and destruction of infringing products asserted in the infringement proceedings for the time being [184] . In the Court’s eyes, Philips had failed to meet the conduct obligations established by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) in the matter Huawei v ZTE [185] (Huawei framework or obligations) [186] .

Huawei framework

The Court explained that SEP holder’s failure to meet its Huawei obligations will – as a rule – render an infringement action resulting in an exclusion of the implementer from a downstream market (action for injunctive relief and/or recall and destruction of products) abusive in terms of Article 102 TFEU [187] . This will, however, not be the case, when the implementer himself fails to fulfil its duties under the Huawei framework; if the implementer acts in bad faith as an ‘unwilling’ licensee, then SEP holder’s Huawei obligations are ‘suspended’ [187] . As a result, asserting the rights to injunctive relief and/or the destruction and recall of infringing products in court could then be considered as a justified reaction of the SEP holder to the implementer’s unwillingness to enter into a FRAND licence [187] .

Having said that, the Court expressed the view that the parties can remedy potential flaws in their conduct under the Huawei judgment and/or even fulfil their Huawei obligations for the first time during the course of pending infringement proceedings [188] . The Court noted that in Huawei v ZTE, the CJEU did not require that the parties fulfil all conduct obligations established prior to the initiation of court proceedings [189] . In the Court’s eyes, denying the parties such possibility is not compatible either with the general principle of proportionality known to European law, nor with the German civil procedural law, according to which courts need to consider all facts relevant for their decision-making raised in the proceedings until the end of the oral arguments [190] .

Accordingly, an infringement action that did not give rise to any antitrust concerns at the time it was filed, can be considered as abusive at a later point in time, if the situation significantly changed, e.g. the implementer fulfilled its Huawei obligations in the meantime [191] . Vice versa, an action of an abusive nature can later on be ‘corrected’, if the patent holder performs its duties under the Huawei framework during the course of the pending proceedings [191] .

In the Court’s view, a SEP holder seeking to remedy (or fulfil for the first time) obligations under the Huawei framework after the initiation of infringement proceedings must make sure that pressure-free licensing negotiations between the parties are enabled, as required by the CJEU in Huawei v ZTE [192] . For this, the patent holder must use procedural tools available under German law, particularly a motion for suspension of the trial [192] . The SEP holder can also propose a consensual stay of the proceedings, especially when a parallel nullity action against the patent in suit is pending before the Federal Patent Court [192] . In case such a motion is filed, the Court expects that a ‘willing’ implementer will consent to a suspension of the proceedings [192] .

On the other hand, the Court pointed out that fulfilment of Huawei obligations by the implementer after the beginning of infringement proceedings does not necessarily lead to a dismissal of the claims asserted by the SEP holder [193] . Indeed, if the implementer meets its Huawei duties at a very late point in time in the proceedings (e.g. shortly before the closing of the oral arguments), the Court could eventually neglect this fact in its decision [194] . This way, delays can be avoided. In this context, the Court also made clear that the implementer is not in a position to cause a unilateral suspension of the proceedings; in contrast to the opposite case (that is cases, in which a stay of the proceedings is suggested by the claimant), the SEP holder will usually not be required to agree to a suspension of the proceedings proposed by the implementer, in order to allow pressure-free negotiations to take place [194] . Insofar, the implementer bears the risk that the fulfilment of its obligations under the Huawei framework in the course of a pending infringement trial will have no impact [194] .

Notification of infringement

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

The Court confirmed that a notification addressed to the parent company within a group of companies will usually be sufficient under the Huawei framework [195] . In terms of content, the Court was satisfied by the fact that Philips’ letter from July 2015 named the patent in suit as well as the relevant part of standard document implementing the technical teachings of this patent [196] . The Court explained that the notification does not have to contain (further) information required for a final assessment of the validity and essentiality of the patent in suit [196] . Accordingly, the SEP holder is not obliged to share claims charts customarily used in SEP licensing negotiations with the implementer along with the notification of infringement [196] .

Willingness to enter into a licence

The Court further found that Wiko had sufficiently met its obligation to express its willingness to negotiate a licence with Philips [197] .

The Court agreed with the assessment of the District Court that Wiko’s initial reaction to Philips’ notification in July 2015 by letter dated 20 October 2015 was belated. According to the Court, the time available to the implementer for expressing its willingness to enter into negotiations for a licence will – as a rule – not exceed two months [198] . This period of time will usually be sufficient: since by declaring its willingness to enter into negotiations the implementer does not waive any rights (especially the right to contest the validity and/or infringement of the patents in question), it shall not be given more time than the time needed for an ‘initial overview’ of the SEP holder’s claims [198] . Delaying tactics potentially applied by the implementer must be prevented [198] . Against this background, Wiko’s letter dated 20 October 2015 was sent to Philips too late.

Nevertheless, the Court found that Wiko had remedied the belated response after the beginning of the infringement proceedings. On the one hand, Wiko’s letter dated 20 October 2015 had reached Philips at a very early stage of the proceedings, namely just some days after the action was filed [199] . In addition, Wiko had confirmed its willingness to enter into negotiations with Philips expressed in said letter during the course of the proceedings, by making a counteroffer, rendering accounts and providing security to Philips [199] .

SEP holder’s offer

On the other hand, the Court held that Philips had failed to comply with its obligation to make a FRAND licensing offer to Wiko. In particular, the Court took the view that Philips did not provide sufficient information to Wiko with respect to its licensing offer dated July 2015 [200] .

The Court argued that the ‘fairness’ element of the FRAND commitment establishes an ‘information duty’ (‘Informationspflicht’) of the SEP holder with respect to the content of its licensing offer to the implementer [201] . This duty exists besides the patent holder’s duty to make a FRAND licensing offer to the implementer [202] .

In terms of scope, the Court found that the information duty is, basically, not limited to the calculation of the offered royalty but also covers (objective) facts showing that the ‘contractual compensation factors’ (‘vertragliche Vergütungsfaktoren’) are not discriminatory [203] . The extent of the information to be shared depends on the circumstances of the specific ‘licensing situation’ [203] .

In case that the patent holder has already granted licences to third parties, the information duty will extend also towards its ‘licensing practice’, including comparable agreements [204] .

If the SEP holder uses exclusively a standard licensing programme, then it will be sufficient to show that said programme has been accepted in the market and that the offer made to the implementer corresponds with the standard licensing agreement used [204] .

On the other hand, if the SEP holder has concluded individual licensing agreements with third licensees, then it would be obliged to disclose – at least – the content of the key contractual terms in a way that would allow the implementer to identify whether (respectively why) the offer it received is subject to dissimilar conditions [204] . The Court made, however, clear that – contrary to the approach adopted by the Duesseldorf courts – the SEP holder is not obliged in any case to disclose the full content of all existing comparable agreements [204] . In the eyes of the Court, the information duty serves only the purpose of facilitating good will licensing negotiations. A full disclosure of comparable agreement is, however, uncommon in practice [204] .

In this context, the Court pointed out that the patent holder will have to adequately substantiate the content of ‘justified confidentiality interests’ that might hinder the disclosure of comparable agreements [204] . Furthermore, the SEP holder would need to facilitate the conclusion of a Non-Disclosure Agreement which would allow sharing further information with the implementer [204] .

Based on the above considerations, the Court found that Philips had not fulfilled its information duty at any time [205] . In particular, the Court criticized that Philips did not adequately explain the reasons for choosing to agree on a lump sum payment (instead of a running royalty) in an existing agreement with a third licensee [206] . The fact that companies of different size were affected did not relieve Philips from its information duty; according to the Court, the mere fact that two competitors in a downstream market are of different size does not per se offer sufficient ground for different treatment [207] .

Since the Court assumed that Philips had failed to meet its information duties, it did not examine whether Philips’ licensing offer to Wiko was FRAND in terms of content [208] . In this respect, the Court seemed to agree, however, with the notion that FRAND is a range providing parties with a degree of flexibility [209] .

Implementer’s claim for disclosure of comparable agreements

Referring to the counterclaim for full disclosure of Philips’ comparable agreements raised by Wiko in the appeal proceedings, the Court clarified that a respective right of Wiko does not exist [210] .

Such a right does not arise either from German civil law (Articles 809 and 810 German Civil Code) [210] or Article 102 TFEU [211] . Furthermore, a right for disclosure of comparable agreement can neither be extracted by the SEP holder’s FRAND commitment to ETSI [212] . The Court saw no indication that French law (which is applicable to the ETSI FRAND undertaking) establishes such a right in favour of standards implementers [213] .

C. Other important issues

The Court pointed out that the claims for damages as well as information and rendering of accounts also asserted by Philips in the present proceedings are not subject to the Huawei framework [214] . Moreover, the Court explained that the non-fulfilment of the Huawei obligations by the patent holder poses no limitations on these rights in terms of content [215] . This is particularly true with respect to SEP holder’s claim to request information about expenses and profits from the implementer5 [216] .

  • [181] Philips v Wiko, District Court (Landgericht) of Mannheim, judgment dated 25 November 2016, Case No. 7 O 44/16.
  • [182] Philips v Wiko, Higher District Court of Mannheim, judgment dated 25 November 2016, Case No. 7 O 44/16, cited by http://lrbw.juris.de.
  • [183] Ibid, paras. 37-87.
  • [184] Ibid, para. 88.
  • [185] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C 170/13.
  • [186] Philips v Wiko, Higher District Court of Mannheim, judgment dated 25 November 2016, para. 108.
  • [187] Ibid, para. 107.
  • [188] Ibid, paras. 117 et seqq.
  • [189] Ibid, para. 119.
  • [190] Ibid, paras. 120 et seq.
  • [191] Ibid, para. 120.
  • [192] Ibid, para. 125.
  • [193] Ibid, para. 126.
  • [194] Ibid, para. 127.
  • [195] Ibid, para. 111.
  • [196] Ibid, para. 112.
  • [197] Ibid, paras. 115 and 117.
  • [198] Ibid, para. 115.
  • [199] Ibid, para. 129.
  • [200] Ibid, paras. 131 et seqq.
  • [201] Ibid, paras. 132 et seq.
  • [202] Ibid, para. 135.
  • [203] Ibid, para. 133.
  • [204] Ibid, para. 134.
  • [205] Ibid, paras. 136 et seqq.
  • [206] Ibid, para. 136.
  • [207] Ibid, para. 138.
  • [208] Ibid, para. 131.
  • [209] Ibid, para. 106.
  • [210] Ibid, paras. 157 et seqq.
  • [211] Ibid, paras. 162 et seqq.
  • [212] Ibid, paras. 160 et seq.
  • [213] Ibid, para. 161.
  • [214] Ibid, para. 143.
  • [215] Ibid, para. 144.
  • [216] Ibid, paras. 145 et seqq.

Updated 3 十二月 2018

IP Bridge v HTC

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

A. Facts

The Claimant, IP Bridge, is a non-practising entity holding a European patent (German part) which was declared essential to the wireless telecommunications standard LTE (Standard Essential Patent or SEP) developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) [217] . The previous holder of the SEP in question had made an undertaking towards ETSI according to Article 6.1 of ETSI IPR Policy to make the patent accessible to users on Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions [218] .

The Defendant is a German subsidiary of HTC, a company which manufactures and sells electronic devices worldwide, including mobile phones complying with the LTE standard [219] . The Defendant filed an action for invalidity against the Claimant’s SEP in Germany [219] .

In December 2014, the Claimant contacted the Defendant’s parent company (parent company) suggesting that the parties entered into negotiations regarding a licence for Claimant’s patent portfolio which also included the aforementioned SEP [219] . Subsequently, several licensing offers and counter-offers were made by the Claimant and the parent company respectively [219] . On 29 February 2016, the Claimant sent a letter to the parent company explaining how the LTE standard made use of the technology covered by its SEP inter alia under reference to an attached claims chart [220] . In response, the parent company confirmed that it is willing to obtain a licence, among others, by letter dated 7 September 2016 [221] . However, no licensing agreement was concluded.

On 27 September 2016, the Claimant brought an infringement action against the Defendant before the District Court of Mannheim (Court) requesting for a declaratory judgment confirming Defendant’s liability for damages arising from the use of its SEP as well as for information and rendering of accounts [222] .

On 16 February 2018, during the course of the pending proceedings against the Defendant, the Claimant made a further licensing offer to the parent company [223] . On 11 April 2018, after the parent company had signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement, the Claimant presented existing licensing agreements with third parties concerning its relevant patent portfolio (comparable agreements) to the parent company and requested the latter to respond to its last licensing offer of 16 February 2018 within one week (that is until 18 April 2018) [223] . This deadline was extended for almost three weeks until 7 May 2018 [223] .

On 15 May 2018, the Claimant extended its claims in the ongoing proceedings; in addition to its already pending claims, it sought for injunctive relief and also requested the recall and the destruction of products infringing its SEP (claims for injunction) [223] .

With the present judgment the Court ruled that the Defendant is liable for damages arising from the infringement of the SEP in suit [224] . The Court also ordered the Defendant to render accounts and to provide relevant information to the Claimant [224] . On the other hand, the Court dismissed the claim for injunctive relief and the recall and destruction of infringing products as being unenforceable for the time being [225] .


B. Court’s reasoning

The Court held that the products sold by the Defendant in Germany infringe Claimant’s SEP [226] . Thus, the Defendant is obliged to compensate the damages suffered by the Claimant and the previous holder of the patent in suit [224] . Since the Claimant has no knowledge of the details required for the quantification of the damages suffered, the Defendant is obliged to provide information on relevant uses (starting from the publication of the patent grant) and render accounts for such uses (starting from one month after the publication of the patent grant) [224] .

In the Court’s view, the Defendant cannot raise a defence based on a so-called “patent ambush” against these claims [227] . A “patent ambush” requires that the patent holder deliberately – in terms of a willful fraudulent misconduct – misled the participants in the standardisation process and intentionally prevented the adoption of an alternative technology into the standard [228] . Insofar, it needs to be established (by the defendant) that the disclosure of the patent during the standardisation process would have led to an alternative structure of the standard, which would have avoided making use of the teaching of the patent in suit; the mere theoretical possibility of an alternative technical solution does not suffice for supporting the allegation of a “patent ambush” [228] . The Court held that the Defendant failed to establish such fact [227] . Accordingly, the Court left the question regarding the legal consequences of a “patent ambush” open (obligation to licence royalty-free or just an obligation to offer FRAND licences?) [227] .

Furthermore, the Court stressed out that the FRAND undertaking given by the previous holder of the SEP in suit has no impact on both the scope and the enforceability of the above claims [229] .

In the Court’s eyes, the Claimant is bound to the FRAND undertaking made by the previous holder of the SEP in suit towards ETSI [230] . The wording of Article 6.1. ETSI IPR Policy establishes a respective assumption [230] . In any case, the assignee of a SEP abuses its market power, if it is aware of the FRAND-undertaking of its predecessor, but, nevertheless, refuses to fulfil the obligations arising from it [220] . The assignee of an SEP cannot draw benefits from the inclusion of its patent into a standard, without being bound to the FRAND commitment of its predecessor, since the latter enabled the inclusion of the SEP in the standard in the first place [220] . Indeed, antitrust law and particularly Article 101 of the Treaty for the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) obliges standard development organisations to make the inclusion of patented technology into a standard subject to a FRAND commitment of the patent holder, in order to secure that essential technology will be accessible to users [231] .

Having said that, the Court made clear that SEP holder’s claims for information and rendering of accounts are not limited by the FRAND undertaking [229] . Even if one would assume that such undertaking limits the SEP holder’s claims for damages to the amount of the FRAND royalty (which the Court left undecided), the patent holder would, nevertheless, be entitled, in principle, to information regarding the use of its SEP [229] .

In addition, the Court explained that a FRAND undertaking has also no influence on the enforceability of the claims for damages (on the merits), information and rendering of accounts asserted by the Claimant [229] . In particular, these claims are not subject to the conduct requirements set forth by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in the matter Huawei v ZTEHuawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgement dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-130/13. (Huawei requirements or framework) with respect to dominant undertakings in terms of Article 102 TFEU [233] .

The opposite is, on the other hand, the case with respect to the claims for injunction asserted by the Claimant. These claims are not enforceable for the time being, since the Claimant failed to fully comply with the Huawei requirements [234] .

Regarding to the SEP in suit, the Court ruled that the Claimant has a dominant market position in terms of Article 102 TFEU: The patent is essential to the LTE standard, which, in turn, cannot be substituted by an alternative standard (from the users’ point of view) [235] .

Looking at the negotiations between the parties involved, the Court did not see any flaws in the parties’ conduct with respect to the first two steps of the framework; the Claimant had effectively notified the Defendant about the infringing use of its SEP and the Defendant (in fact, its parent company) had effectively declared its willingness to obtain a licence covering also the SEP in suit [220] . In this context, the Court pointed out that the SEP holder’s obligation to notify the user of the infringing use of its SEP is also met, when the respective notification is addressed to the parent company of the (alleged) infringer (as is was the case here, especially with the Claimant’s letter to the parent company dated 29 February 2016) [220] .

However, the Court held that the Claimant failed to fulfil its consequent obligation under the Huawei framework, namely to make a FRAND licensing offer to the Defendant (respectively its parent company) [236] .

The Court considered only two offers made by the Claimant to the Defendant’s parent company prior to the extension of its claims in the pending proceedings on 15 May 2018 (since the other offers made were either indisputably not FRAND or were not produced by the Claimant in trial) [221] .

An offer made in February 2016 was found not to be FRAND in terms of content, since it contained a clause, according to which the licensee was obliged to pay the full amount of the royalties agreed, even if only one patent of the licensed portfolio was valid and used by the Defendant [221] .

The Court reached the same conclusion also with respect to the further offer made by the Claimant on 11 April 2018 (that is short before the Claimant extended its claims in the proceedings, adding the claims for injunction) [237] . The Court held that this offer did not comply with the Huawei requirements, since the Defendant was not given sufficient time to assess the offer and eventually make a counter-offer to the Claimant, before the latter asserted the claims for injunction against him in the proceedings [221] .

In the Court’s eyes, a licensing offer complying with the Huawei requirements is only given, when the SEP holder provides the SEP user with all information required from assessing the FRAND conformity of the offer [238] . Only then, the SEP user’s consequent obligation under the Huawei framework to make a FRAND counter-offer to the SEP holder is triggered [238] . In particular, the SEP holder must make the requested royalty amount transparent with reference to a standard licensing programme implemented in the market or to rates actually paid by third parties to a patent pool, covering also patents relevant to the standard [238] . For the assessment of the non-discriminatory character of the offer, information on comparable agreements is needed [238] .

Based on the above considerations, the Court held that the period of 22 workdays between the presentation of the comparable agreements to the parent company (11 April 2018) and the assertion of the injunction claims in the proceedings by the Defendant (15 May 2018) was too short for a competent assessment of the Claimant’s licensing offer [239] . The fact that the Defendant (and/or its parent company) would have had sufficient time to react to the Claimant’s offer until the end of the oral hearings in mid-July 2018 was considered irrelevant by the Court in this respect [239] . The Huawei framework aims at preventing the situation, in which the SEP user agrees to unfavourable licensing conditions under the pressure of pending infringement proceedings (defined by the Court as “patent hold-up”) [239] . In case that the SEP holder has not fulfilled the Huawei requirements prior to the initiation of proceedings (as it was the case here), it has to make sure that the parties can again negotiated without the pressure of an ongoing trial, for instance by asking the court to stay its proceedings pursuant to Article 251 of the German Court of Civil Procedure [240] . Otherwise, the initiation of the infringement proceedings shall be considered as abusive in terms of antitrust law [240] . In the present case, the Claimant chose to not ask for a stay in the proceedings, ignoring the Court’s respective indication [240] .


C. Other issues

The Court explained that the registration in the patent register allows the registered patent holder to assert the patent rights in court [241] . On the other hand, it does not define the ownership of the patent in material legal terms [242] . Nevertheless, the patent registration establishes an assumption of ownership which must be rebutted by the defendant in infringement proceedings based on concrete indications [243] .

Besides that, the Court pointed out that a stay in the infringement proceedings (pursuant to Article 148 of the German Code of Civil Procedure) until the end of parallel invalidation proceedings concerning the patent(s) in suit can be considered only under special circumstances [244] . As a rule, it must be expected with a sufficient degree of probability that the patent(s) in suit will be invalidated [244] . The Defendant failed convince the Court that this was the case with the SEP in suit [244] .

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

Updated 3 十二月 2018

District Court, LG Düsseldorf

LG Düsseldorf
11 七月 2018 - Case No. 4c O 81/17

A. Facts

The Claimant holds a patent essential to the data communication standards ADSL2+ and VDSL2 (Standard Essential Patent or SEP) [245] . The previous holder of the patent in question had declared towards the standardization organisation International Telecommunication Union (ITU) its willingness to make the patent accessible to users on Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions [246] .

The Defendant offers communication services in Germany to retail and wholesale clients, including DSL connections using the standards ADSL2+ and VDSL2 [247] .

The Intervener supplies the Defendant with equipment (especially DSL transceivers and DSL Boards), allowing network services based on the above standards [247] .

In January 2016, the Claimant brought an action against the Defendant before the District Court (Landgericht) of Düsseldorf (Court) requesting for a declaratory judgement recognizing Defendant’s liability for damages arising from the infringement of its SEP as well as the provision of information and the rendering of accounts (liability proceedings) [248] . During the course of these proceedings, the Claimant made two offers for a licensing agreement to the Defendant. The Defendant made a counter-offer to the Claimant and provided security for the use of the SEP [249] . The parties failed to reach an agreement.

In June 2016, the Defendant filed an action for a declaratory judgement against the Claimant before the Dublin High Court in Ireland, requesting the High Court to declare that both Claimant’s offers were not FRAND and that Defendant’s counter-offer was FRAND [250] . Taking the ongoing liability proceedings in Germany into account, the Dublin High Court stayed its proceedings [250] .

In September 2017, the Claimant brought a second action against the Defendant before the District Court of Düsseldorf, requesting for injunctive relief (injunction proceedings) [251] . In February 2018, the Claimant made another licensing offer to the Defendant in the pending injunction proceedings [249] .

With the present judgment, the Court dismissed Claimant’s action in the injunction proceedings [252] .


B. Court’s reasoning

Although the Court held that the services offered by the Defendant infringe the SEP in suit [253] , it found that the Claimant cannot enforce its patent rights for the time being [254] , since it failed to fully comply with the obligations stipulated by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) in the matter Huawei v ZTEHuaweiv ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13. (Huawei obligations or framework) with respect to dominant undertakings in terms of Article 102 of the Treaty for the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) [252] .

1. Dominant market position

The Court found that the Claimant holds a dominant market position in terms of Article 102 TFEU [256] .

In the Court’s eyes, the relevant market for assessing dominance with regards to SEPs is, as a rule, the (downstream) market for products or services implementing the standard, to which the SEP refers [257] . Each SEP outlines an own relevant (licensing) market, unless – from the SEP users’ perspective – equivalent alternative technologies for the same technical problem exist [258] . Since the Court held that, in the present case, none of the existing technological alternatives to the standards ADSL2+ and VDSL2 (e.g. HFC networks, LTE, HDSL, SHDSL, ADSL, SDSL, VDSL, fibre optic networks, radio relay technology or internet services via satellite) offers an equivalent solution to users [259] , it defined the relevant market as the market for products and services allowing for internet connections through DSL technology [260] .

Regarding to the subsequent question of whether the Claimant has a dominant position in the above market, the Court first made clear that ownership of a SEP does not per se establish such condition [261] . The fact that a patent is essential to a standard does neither give rise to the (rebuttable) presumption that the SEP holder can distort competition in downstream markets, because products complying with the standard need to use the SEP [261] . Since a high number of patents is usually declared as standard essential, not every SEP can actually (significantly) affect the competitiveness of products or services in downstream markets; the effect of each SEP on a downstream market has, therefore, to be established on a case-by-case basis by taking into account the circumstances of each individual case [261] .

The Court explained that a dominant market position is given, when the use of the SEP is required for entering the market, particularly for securing the general technical interoperability and compatibility of products or services under a standard [261] . The same is true, if the patent user could not market competitive products or services without a licence (for instance, because only a niche market exists for non-compliant products) [261] . No market dominance exists, however, when the SEP covers a technology which is only of little importance to the majority of the buyers in the relevant market [261] .

According to the Court, the latter was not the case here; on the contrary, the Defendant cannot offer competitive products or services in the market for DSL internet connections, without using the SEP in suit [262] .

2. Huawei framework

In the Court’s view, the parties to SEP licensing negotiations need to fulfill the mutual conduct obligations under the Huawei framework step by step and one after another [263] . The Court did not see any flaws in the parties’ conduct with respect to the first two steps of the Huawei framework (SEP holder’s notification of infringement and SEP user’s declaration of willingness to obtain a licence), held, however, that the Claimant did not meet its consequent obligation to make a FRAND licensing offer to the Defendant [264] .

Notification of infringement

The Court found that the Claimant had fulfilled its obligation to notify the Defendant about the infringing use of the SEP in suit prior to the commencement of the injunction proceedings [265] .

First, the Court pointed out that a respective notification (as well as a later licensing offer) can be made by the SEP holder itself, or by any other affiliated company within the same group of companies, especially by the patent holder’s parent company [266] . On the other hand, it is not required that the infringement notification is addressed to the company that will later be party to the infringement proceedings; in general, it is sufficient to address the notification to the parent company within a group of companies [266] .

In terms of content, the notification of infringement must name the patent in suit (including the patent number) and indicate the contested embodiments as well as the (allegedly) infringing acts of use [267] . A detailed (technical and/or legal) explanation of the infringement (particularly an analysis of how the individual features of the patent claims are infringed) is not required; the addressee needs just to be put in the position to assess the infringement allegations, if necessary by seeking expert advice [267] . In this context, the Court disagreed with the District Court of Mannheim which had requested the SEP holder to inform the user about the essentiality of the patent to the standard and/or attach claim charts to the notification of infringement [267] .

In terms of timeliness, the Court took the view that the notification of infringement can be made alongside with SEP holder’s offer for a FRAND licence to the user (prior to the initiation of court proceedings) [268] . In this case, the second step under the Huawei framework will be skipped (that is the SEP user’s declaration of its willingness to obtain a licence). According to the Court, this fact does not, however, have an impact on the SEP holder’s position: If the SEP user is willing to enter into a licence, this approach would safe time (although the SEP user should be granted more time than usual to assess and react to both the notification of infringement and the FRAND offer) [268] . If, on the other hand, the SEP user is unwilling to obtain a FRAND licence, then the SEP holder will just have made a licensing offer absent a respective obligation under the Huawei framework [268] .

In the present case, the fact that the Claimant did not make a separate notification of infringement prior to the initiation of the injunction proceedings, was not considered problematic. The Court pointed out that the Defendant was fully informed about the infringement allegation by the action for damages raised by the Claimant long before the injunction proceedings, so that a separate notification was not required [269] .

Willingness to obtain a FRAND licence

The Court further found that the Defendant had fulfilled its Huawei obligation to express its willingness to obtain a FRAND licence [270] .

In terms of content, no high demands should be placed on the SEP user’s respective declaration; it is not subject to formal requirements and can be of a general nature, as long as the willingness to obtain a licence is clearly stated [271] . Given the circumstances of the specific case, even an implicit behaviour can suffice [271] .

In terms of timeliness, the Court held that a strict deadline, within which the SEP user ought to make its declaration, cannot be set [272] . The respective time frame must be determined on a case-by-case basis under consideration of the circumstances of each case [272] . If the SEP holder’s notification of infringement contains only the minimum required information, a reaction within a period of five or even three months at the most could be expected [272] . In case that the infringement notification contains information going beyond the required minimum, an even quicker reaction could be required from the SEP user under certain circumstances [272] .

In the present case, the Court held that the Defendant has implicitly declared its willingness to enter into a FRAND licence with the Claimant at the latest at the point in time, in which the injunction proceedings were initiated [273] . At that time, the Defendant had already made a counter-offer for a FRAND licence to the Claimant and had also provided security for the use of Claimant’s patents [274] .

In this context, the Court noted that neither the fact that the Defendant contested Claimant’s claims in the parallel liability proceedings not the fact that it raised an action for declaratory judgement against the Claimant before the Dublin High Court can support the argument that the Defendant has deviated from its previous declaration of willingness [275] .

SEP holder’s licensing offer

The Court held that the offer which the Claimant made to the Defendant in course of the injunction proceedings was not FRAND [276] . Since the Claimant expressly relied only on this offer to establish its compliance with the Huawei framework, the Court did not assess the FRAND conformity of the two previous offers of the Claimant to the Defendant [249] .

In terms of timeliness, the Court stressed out that the SEP holder must make a FRAND licensing offer to the user before the initiation of infringement proceedings [277] . Under German procedural law, proceedings are initiated after the claimant has made the required advance payment on costs, even if the statement of claims has not been served to the defendant, yet [278] .

The Court did not rule out that SEP holder’s failure to fulfil its Huawei obligations prior to the commencement of infringement proceedings can be remedied during the course of the proceedings [279] . Depending on the circumstances of each case, the SEP holder should be given the opportunity – within the limits of procedural deadlines – to react to (justified) objections of the SEP user and eventually modify its offer [279] . Denying the SEP holder this opportunity without exceptions would be contrary to the principle of procedural economy; the patent holder would be forced to withdraw its pending action, make a modified licensing offer to the patent user and, subsequently, sue the latter again [279] . In this context, the Court explained that failure to meet the Huawei obligations does not permanently impair SEP holder’s rights [280] . Notwithstanding the above, the Court made, however, clear that the possibility of remedying a flawed licensing offer is subject to narrow limits; the CJEU intended to relieve licensing negotiations between SEP holder and SEP user from the burden imposed on parties by ongoing infringement proceedings, and particularly the potential undue pressure to enter into a licensing agreement which such proceedings can put on the SEP user [281] .

Against this background, the Court expressed doubts that the Claimant’s licensing offer, which was made in the course of the pending injunction proceedings could be considered as timely [251] . Nevertheless, the Court left this question open, because, in its eyes, the Claimant’s offer was not FRAND in terms of content [282] .

The Court did not deem necessary to decide whether the FRAND conformity of the SEP holder’s offer must be fully assessed in infringement proceedings, or whether only a summary assessment of its compatibility with FRAND suffices [283] . In the Court’s view, Claimant’s offer was anyway both not fair and discriminatory [284] .

Fair and reasonable terms

The Court held that the licensing terms offered by the Claimant to the Defendant were not fair and reasonable [285] .

First, the terms did not adequately consider the effects of patent exhaustion [286] . As a rule, FRAND requires licensing offers to contain respective provisions [287] . The clause contained in Claimant’s offer, establishing the possibility of a reduction of the royalties owed by the Defendant in case of the exhaustion of licensed patents, is not fair, because it puts the burden of proof regarding to the amount of the reasonable reduction of the royalties on the Defendant’s shoulders [288] .

Second, the clause, according to which Defendant’s payment obligations regarding to past uses of the SEP in suit should be finally settled without exceptions and/or the possibility to claim reimbursement, was also considered not fair [289] . The Defendant would be obliged to pay royalties for past uses, although it is not clear whether the Claimant is entitled to such payments [290] .

Third, the Court found that the exclusion of the Defendant’s wholesale business from Claimant’s licensing offer was also not fair [291] . According to the principle of contractual autonomy, patent holders are free to choose to which stage of the distribution chain they offer licences [292] . In the present case, however, excluding a significant part of the Defendant’s overall business, namely the wholesale business, from the licensing offer, hinders a fair market access [292] .

Non-discrimination

Besides from the above, the Court ruled that the Claimant’s offer was discriminatory [293] .

To begin with, the Court stressed out that FRAND refers to a range of acceptable royalty rates: As a rule, there is not only a single FRAND-compliant royalty rate [283] . Furthermore, as far as a corresponding commercial/industry practice exists, offers for worldwide portfolio licences are, in general, in line with the Huawei framework, unless the circumstances of the individual case require a different approach (for instance a limitation of the geographical scope of the licence, in case that the user is active only in a single market) [294] .

Furthermore, the Court explained that the non-discriminatory element of FRAND does not oblige the SEP holder to treat all users uniformly [295] . The respective obligation applies only to similarly situated users, whereas exceptions are allowed, provided that a different treatment is justified [295] . In any case, SEP holders are obliged to specify the royalty calculation in a manner that allows the user to assess whether the offered conditions are non-discriminatory or not. The respective information needs to be shared along with the licensing offer; only when the SEP user has obtained this information a licensing offer triggering an obligation of the latter to react is given [296] .

In the Court’s view, presenting all existing essential licensing agreements concluded with third parties, covering the SEPs in suit or a patent portfolio including said SEPs (comparable agreements), has priority over other means for fulfilling this obligation [297] . In addition, SEP holders have to produce also court decisions rendered on the FRAND-conformity of the rates agreed upon in the comparable agreements, if such decisions exist [298] .

Whether presenting comparable agreements (and relevant case law) suffices for establishing the non-discriminatory character of the offered royalty rates depends on the number and the scope of the available agreementsI [299] . In case that no or not enough comparable agreements exist, SEP holders must (additionally) present decisions referring to the validity and/or the infringement of the patents in question and agreements concluded between other parties in the same or a comparable technical field, which they are aware of [300] . If the SEP in suit is part of a patent portfolio, SEP holders must also substantiate the content of the portfolio and its impact on the offered royalty rates [301] .

Having said that, the Court pointed out that an unequal treatment resulting in a discrimination in antitrust terms is not only at hand, when a dominant patent holder grants preferential terms to specific licensees, but also when it chooses to enforce its exclusion rights under a SEP in a selective manner [302] . The latter is the case, when the SEP holder brings infringement actions only against certain competitors and, at the same time, allows other competitors to use its patent(s) without a licence [302] . However, such a conduct is discriminatory only if, depending on the overall circumstances of each case (for instance, the extend of the infringing use and the legal remedies available in the country, in which claims need to be asserted), it would have been possible for the SEP holder with reasonable efforts to enforce its patent rights against other infringers (which it was or should have been aware of) [302] . In favour of an equal treatment of competitors, the level of action which must be taken by the SEP holder in this respect should not be defined narrowly [302] . However, it has to be taken into account, that – especially in the early stages of the implementation of a standard – the SEP holder will usually not have the means required to enforce its rights against a large number of infringers; in this case, the choice to enforce its rights only against infringers with market strength first appears reasonable [303] .

Based on the above considerations, the Court ruled that the Claimant’s choice to sue only the Defendant and its two main competitors, without asserting the SEP in suit against the rest of their competitors, respectively against their suppliers, was discriminatory [304] . The Claimant should have already, at least, requested the companies, against which no action was filed, to obtain a licence, particularly since the remaining period of validity of the SEP in suit is limited [305] . Furthermore, the Court found that the Claimant’s refusal to make a licensing offer to the Intervener, although the latter had requested for a licence, was also discriminatory; in the Court’s view, the Claimant failed to provide an explanation justifying this choice [306] .

Since the Claimant’s offer was found to be non-compliant with FRAND, the Court refrained from ruling on the conformity of Defendant’s counter-offer and the security provided with the Huawei framework [307] .


C. Other issues

The Court ruled that in accordance with Article 30 para. 3 of the German Patent Law (PatG) the registration in the patent register establishes the presumption of ownership, allowing the entity which is registered as patent holder to assert the rights arising from the patent before court [308] .

  • [245] District Court of Düsseldorf, 11 July 2018, Case-No. 4c O 81/17Ibid, paras. 3 and 82.
  • [246] Ibid, para. 13.
  • [247] Ibid, para. 12.
  • [248] Ibid, paras. 14 and 211.
  • [249] Ibid, para. 15.
  • [250] Ibid, para. 16.
  • [251] Ibid, para. 236.
  • [252] Ibid, paras. 140 and 313 et seqq.
  • [253] Ibid, paras. 114 et seqq.
  • [254] Ibid, paras. 60 and 140.
  • [255] Huaweiv ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [256] Ibid, para. 142.
  • [257] Ibid, para. 148.
  • [258] Ibid, paras. 153 and 146.
  • [259] Ibid, paras. 159 - 181.
  • [260] Ibid, para. 158.
  • [261] Ibid, para. 147.
  • [262] Ibid, paras. 183 et seqq.
  • [263] Ibid, para. 191.
  • [264] Ibid, para. 188.
  • [265] Ibid, paras. 195 et seqq.
  • [266] Ibid, para. 199.
  • [267] Ibid, para. 198.
  • [268] Ibid, para. 200.
  • [269] Ibid, para. 203.
  • [270] Ibid, para. 205.
  • [271] Ibid, para. 208.
  • [272] Ibid, para. 207.
  • [273] Ibid, para. 210.
  • [274] Ibid, para. 212.
  • [275] Ibid, paras. 215 et seq.
  • [276] Ibid, para. 220.
  • [277] Ibid, paras. 222 et seqq.
  • [278] Ibid, para. 225.
  • [279] Ibid, para. 233.
  • [280] Ibid, para. 228.
  • [281] Ibid, para. 230.
  • [282] Ibid, para. 237.
  • [283] Ibid. para. 241.
  • [284] Ibid, para. 242.
  • [285] Ibid, paras. 283 et seqq.
  • [286] Ibid, para. 285.
  • [287] Ibid, para. 288.
  • [288] Ibid, paras. 292 et seq.
  • [289] Ibid, paras. 298 et seqq.
  • [290] Ibid, para. 301.
  • [291] Ibid, para. 306.
  • [292] Ibid, para. 311.
  • [293] Ibid, para. 271.
  • [294] Ibid, para. 250.
  • [295] Ibid, para. 248.
  • [296] Ibid, para. 267.
  • [297] Ibid, paras. 256 and 259 et seq.
  • [298] Ibid, para. 262.
  • [299] bid, paras. 258 and 264.
  • [300] Ibid, paras. 263 and 265.
  • [301] Ibid, para. 265.
  • [302] Ibid, para. 273.
  • [303] Ibid, para. 274.
  • [304] Ibid, para. 276.
  • [305] Ibid, para. 277.
  • [306] Ibid, para. 281.
  • [307] Ibid, para. 315.
  • [308] Ibid, paras. 75 et seq.

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 [309] 。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 [310]


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 [311] 。此外,上诉法院认为该专利具备标准必要性,并且遭受侵权 [312]

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 [313] 。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 [314] 。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 [315]

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 [316] 。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 [317]

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 [318] 。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 [319] 。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 [320] 。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 [321] 。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” [322]

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 [323] 。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 [324] 。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 [325]

  • [309] Koninklijke Philips N.V. v. Asustek Computers INC, District Court of the Hague, 2017, Case No. C 09 512839 /HA ZA 16-712。
  • [310] 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。
  • [311] 同上注, 段4.63, 4.68, 4.75, 4.80, 4.82, 4.93, 4.100, 及 4.117。
  • [312] 同上注, 段4.118及以下。
  • [313] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case-No. C-170/13。
  • [314] 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。
  • [315] 同上注, 段4.155及4.157。
  • [316] 同上注, 段 4.159。
  • [317] 同上注, 段 4.164。
  • [318] 同上注, 段 4.171。
  • [319] 同上注, 段 4.172。
  • [320] 同上注。
  • [321] 同上注, 段4.172-4.179。
  • [322] 同上注, 段 4.179。
  • [323] 同上注, 段 4.183。
  • [324] 同上注, 段 4.185。
  • [325] 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) [326] . 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) [327] .

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 [328] .

MPEG LA uses a standard licensing agreement, which is publicly available at its website [329] . It has signed licensing agreements with approx. 1,400 implementers [329] .

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) [330] .

On 15 September 2011, the parent company asked MPEG LA to send any relevant documents by mail to its IPR Manager [331] . A copy of MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement reached the parent company in late September 2011 [332] .

In 2012, the parent company acquired patents included in the MPEG LA pool [327] .

Since MPEG-LA and the parent company could not reach an agreement on a licence covering the MPEG LA pool [333] , 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 [334] .

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 [335] . 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 [336] . 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 [337] .

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 [338] . 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 [339] (Huawei obligations or framework) with respect to dominant undertakings [340] .

1. Dominant market position

The Court found that the Claimant holds a dominant market position in terms of Article 102 TFEU [341] .

The Court defined the relevant market for the assessment of dominance as the market for licences for any given patent [342] . A dominant market position can further also exist, when the patent holder can hinder competition in downstream markets for standard-compliant products and services [342] .

The Court made, however, clear that ownership of a SEP does not per se establish market dominance [343] . A dominant market position is given, when the use of the SEP is required for entering the market [343] . The same is true, if the patent user could not market competitive products or services, without access to the respective SEP [343] .

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 [344] .

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 [345] . 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) [346] . 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 [347] .

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 [348] . 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 [349] ), since with respect to the SEP in suit a ‘routine’ practice already existed prior to the Huawei judgement [350] . The Court explained that the Huawei judgment does not contain either an explicit or an implicit limitation of its scope of application [351] . 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 [352] . 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 [353] . 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 [354] .

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 [355] .

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 [356] .

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 [357] . The sole fact that a company belongs to a group justifies such an assumption, unless indications to the contrary exist [357] . 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) [358] . 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 [359] . 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 [360] . 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 [361] .

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 [362] . 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 [363] . A notification of infringement is, therefore, not necessary, when it constitutes just a ‘pointless formality’ [363] . 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 [363] . The respective test is, however, subject to strict conditions [363] .

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) [364] . 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) [365] , 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 [366] .

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 [367] .

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 [368] . The implementer is not required to refer to a specific licensing agreement [368] .

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 [369] .

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 [370] .

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 [371] . 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 [372] . Whether subsidiaries can (or should) also be licensed, will be the object of these negotiations [373] . 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 [374] . 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 [375] .

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 [376] . 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 [377] .

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 [378] . 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) [379] . 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 [379] . 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 [379] . 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 [380] .

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 [381] . 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 [381] . 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 [382] .

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 [383] . 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 [383] . 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 [383] . In this respect, comparable agreements can serve as an ‘important indicator’ of the fair and reasonable character of the offered royalty rates [383] .

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 [384] . 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 [384] . 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 [385] . 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 [385] .

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 [386] . In the electronics and mobile communications industries, licences covering a group of companies are in line with the industry practice [387] . 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 [388] .

In addition, the Court made clear that pool licences, as the one offered to the parent company, are appropriate under the Huawei framework [389] . An offer for a pool licence cannot per se be seen as abusive (Article 101 TFEU) [390] . 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 [390] .

Implementer’s counter-offer

The Court found that the Defendant failed to make a FRAND counter-offer [391] .

Sending signed copies of MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement back to MPEG LA can be regarded as a counter-offer [392] . 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 [393] . 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 [394] .

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 [395] .

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

Updated 2 八月 2019

Philips v Wiko, Court of Appeal of The Hague

荷兰法院判决
2 七月 2019 - Case No. C/09/511922/HA ZA 16-623

A. Facts

By letter dated 13 October 2013, the Claimant, Koninklijke Philips N.V. (“Philips”), informed the Defendant, Wiko SAS (“Wiko”), that it holds patents declared essential to the UMTS and LTE mobile telecommunication standards (Standard Essential Patents or “SEPs”) towards the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (“ETSI”). The letter included a list of some of Wiko’s products and invited Wiko to discuss a FRAND licensing agreement [396] . Wiko did not react to the letter [397] .

On 28 July 2015, Philips sent Wiko claim charts and a licensing agreement [398] . The communication remained unanswered by Wiko [397] .

On 19 October 2015, Philips started the present proceedings against Wiko [399] . On 25 August 2016, Wiko made a counteroffer [400] . Since 2016, it has also provided information about worldwide units sold and blocked an amount of EUR 895.000 into an escrow account [397] .

After the present proceedings were filed, Philips brought a further action against Wiko before the District Court of Mannheim (Mannheim Court), Germany (German proceedings). On 2 March 2018, the Mannheim Court honoured Wiko’s FRAND defence and dismissed Philips’ action.

In an interlocutory decision dated 16 April 2019, the Court of Appeal of The Hague (Court) held that the patent in suit EP1 623 511 (EP 511) is valid and that Wiko is infringing this patent [401] . Wiko claimed that, as this patent is a SEP and Philips has not complied with its contractual duties, Philips is abusing its dominant position by initiating infringement proceedings against Wiko [397] .

With the present judgment, the Court granted Philips’ request for injunctive relief [402] , destruction [403] and the recall of products [404] , but partly invalidated EP 511, insofar it goes beyond the claims of the second auxiliary request [405] .

B. Court’s reasoning

German Proceedings and Lis Pendens

Since the Court of Manheim in Germany had honoured its FRAND defence, Wiko argued that Articles 29 and 30 of Brussels Regulation 1215/2012 on jurisdiction and enforcement of judgements (Brussels Regulation) are applicable and that the Court is not competent for the present case [406] .

The Court rejected this argument, underlying that each national proceedings are based on a national counterpart of a European patent. For each national counterpart, the concerned national jurisdiction is exclusively competent [407] .

The fact the same FRAND defence has been raised in the German proceedings does not prevent the Court from moving on with its proceedings. The application of Articles 29 and 30 of the Brussels Regulation on cases with same object requires that the filed claims, not the raised defences, are identical [406] .

The Court concluded that recognition of the Mannheim decision would not affect the pending proceedings, as the patents at stake were not the same [408] .

Patent essentiality and infringement

Philips had declared EP 511 as essential to HSUPA (part of UMTS standard) towards ETSI on 26 November 2009 [409] . The fact that EP 511 is essential to HSUPA was not challenged by Wiko [410] .

Moreover, the interlocutory decision of the Court dated 16 April 2019 confirmed that claims 1, 9 and 12 of EP 511 are implemented in the UMTS standard [397] .

FRAND negotiations and application of the Huawei steps

The Court considers that the Huawei decision [411] does not set up strict rules, but rather guidelines for FRAND negotiations in good faith between the parties [412] .

Regarding the first step of the Huawei decision, that is the SEP-holder’s obligation to notify the implementer of the patents at stake and the infringement [413] , the Court underlines that this approach is different than what had been previously decided in a Dutch case prior to the Huawei decision, Philips v. SK Kassetten [414] .

Moving on to the next step, the Court found that Wiko had not fulfilled its duty as it did not react to Philips’ notification [415] . The Court, therefore, held that Philips was not obliged to make a licensing offer to Wiko, before starting proceedings against Wiko [397] .

FRAND offer

Nevertheless, Philips had made an offer to Wiko on 28 July 2015 [416] . This offer was for a worldwide licence under Philips’ UMTS and LTE SEPs [417] .

Philips’ expert explained that the offered rate amounting to USD 1,0 per product (non-compliant rate) and USD 0,75 per product (compliant rate) was justified in view of all UMTS and LTE SEPs [397] .

However, Wiko argued that Philips’ offer is not FRAND for the following reasons: Philips did not specify that its offer was FRAND compliant and did not explain how the offer was FRAND [418] .

Contrary to German courts, the Court held that the Huawei steps do not imply a substantiation duty [419] , but solely the duty to specify the amount of the rate and the way it is calculated [420] . It bases this reasoning on the fact that the Huawei decision has to be read in light of a previous German decision, the Orange Book Standard decision, where the German Supreme Court decided it was up to the implementer to make a first FRAND offer [397] . The Court interprets the Huawei decision as requiring the SEP-holder, as it is in a better position to do so, to make a first FRAND offer after the implementer has demonstrated itself to be a “willing licensee” [397] . But it does not require the SEP-holder to substantiate its FRAND offer and give insights on why he believes the offer is FRAND. The Court also considers there is no duty for the SEP-holder to justify its rate in view of what other licensees are paying [421] .

Wiko also challenged specific terms of the license, i.e. the suggested duration (until expiry of the last patent), the coupling of UMTS and LTE SEPs, as well as the requested fixed licence fees [422] . The Court held, however, that Wiko did not provide any evidence to support its position that Philips’ offer is not FRAND [397] . Additionally, the Court attached importance to the fact that Philips had expressed its willingness to discuss the offer and specific circumstances with Wiko [423] . Philips had even asked Wiko to make a counteroffer, which the latter did not [424] .

The Court further pointed out that the fact that there are different terms and conditions with other parties does not necessarily imply that the offer made to Wiko is discriminatory [425] . It stressed that “non-discriminatory” does not mean that every licensee must be offered the same structure and rate; the “non-discriminatory” nature of an offer depends on the facts and circumstances of the specific case [397] .

Wiko’s counteroffer

Wiko GmbH, an entity legally independent from other Wiko entities, had made a counteroffer to Philips [426] . However, the Court did not consider this counteroffer as a counteroffer made by the Defendant of the present proceedings to Philips [397] .

Besides that, the Defendant had also made a counteroffer to Philips after the start of the present proceedings [427] . This offer was based on the following estimates: the total number of UMTS and LTE SEPs was 12.000, out of which Wiko estimated that Philips holds 97 families, and the aggregated royalty rate for all SEPs amounted to 12% [428] . Wiko derived a rate of 0.001% per SEP family and made the following counteroffer to Philips [397] :

- 0.042% for the compliant rate (EUR 0.027)

- 0.066% for the non-compliant rate (EUR 0.043)

- 0.0315% for past sales (EUR 0.020).

Subsequently, Wiko made a further offer to Philips of 0.084 (which, in Philips‘ eyes, referred to a percentage) [397] .

The Court held that Wiko’s counteroffers were not FRAND. It found that the counteroffer included too many patents into the total SEPs pool, because it included base station and infrastructure patents, while Philips portfolio was focused on cellphone patents [429] . Consequently, the Court concluded that Philips held a higher percent of SEPs than estimated by Wiko [397] . It also highlighted that Wiko did not provide any explanation with respect to a proposed discount of the initially estimated rate of 0.097% and the aggregated royalty rate [429] . The Court also noticed that, while Wiko stated Philips’ rate should account for the technical and economic value of Philips’ SEPs, this analysis was missing from Wiko’s counteroffer [430] . It added that Wiko’s counteroffer did not account for the value of Philips’ SEPs in view of other SEPs for the same standard [431] .

Abuse of a dominant position

The Court held that the Huawei case requires that the facts and circumstances of a case have to be assessed to determine if there is an abuse of a dominant position [412] . Furthermore, the Court also referred to the decision of the UK High Court of Justice in Unwired Planet v. Huawei to note that the fact that the circumstances of a case diverge from the Huawei scheme does not automatically lead to the conclusion of an abuse of a dominant position, if the SEP-holder, nonetheless, files an action against an implementer [397] .

The Court expressly pointed out that if starting proceedings is considered as an abuse of a dominant position, then implementers have no incentives to comply with the Huawei steps and can just delay the negotiations [432] .

With respect to the asserted claims for injunction and recall of products, the Court found that the facts and circumstances of this case were different from the German proceedings, where the Mannheim Court viewed Wiko as a “willing licensee” [433] .

Wiko did not demonstrate itself to be a “willing licensee”, as it did not react to Philips’ notification, and did not comply with the required Huawei steps. Therefore, the Court rejected Wiko’s FRAND defence and granted Philips’ request for an injunction and recall of products.

  • [396] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 2.1
  • [397] Ibidem
  • [398] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 2.2
  • [399] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 2.3
  • [400] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 2.4
  • [401] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 3.1
  • [402] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 5.1
  • [403] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 5.4
  • [404] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 5.3
  • [405] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 5.8
  • [406] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.1
  • [407] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.2
  • [408] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.3
  • [409] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraphs 4.5 and 4.6
  • [410] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.5
  • [411] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgement dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [412] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.14
  • [413] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.10
  • [414] Case reference: Court of The Hague, Philips v. SK Kassetten, 17 March 2019, referred to in Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.10.
  • [415] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.15
  • [416] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.16
  • [417] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.27
  • [418] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.17
  • [419] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.18 and 4.19
  • [420] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.18
  • [421] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.19
  • [422] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.31
  • [423] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraphs 4.26, 4.31, 4.32, 4.36
  • [424] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.36
  • [425] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.34
  • [426] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.20
  • [427] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 2.4
  • [428] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.38
  • [429] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.40
  • [430] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.39
  • [431] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.41
  • [432] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.21
  • [433] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.22

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 [434] (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 [435] 。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 [436] 。 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”) [437]

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 [438]

 

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 [439] 。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 [439]

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 [440] 。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 [441] 。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 [441] 。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 [442]

 

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 [443] 。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 [444] [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 [443] 。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 [443] 。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) [443] 。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 [445]

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 [446] 。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 [447]

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) [448] 。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 [448]

 

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 [449]

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) [450] 。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 [451] 。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 [450]

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 [450] 。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 [450]

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 [452] 。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 [453]

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 [454] 。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 [455]

 

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 [456]

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 [457] 。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 [457]

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 [458] 。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“ [458] 。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 [459] 。法院指出,有数种手段可以确保这种情况不会发生 [459]

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 [459] 。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 [459] 。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 [459]

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 [460] 。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 [460]

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 [461] 。 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 [462] 。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 [463] 。连网功能确保了创造此一价值的机会 [464] 。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 [465]

 

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 [466]

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 [467] 。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 [467] 。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” [467]

《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 [468]

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 [469] 。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 [470] 。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 [471] 。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 [472]

 

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 [473]

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 [474] 。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 [474] 。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 [474]

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 [475] 。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 [476] 。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 [476]

 

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 [477]

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 [478] 。而在当前诉讼中情况并非如此 [479]

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 [480] 。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 [480]
 

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 [481] 。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 [482]
 

  • [434] Nokia v Daimler, District Court of Mannheim, judgment dated 18 August 2020, Case-No. 2 O 34/19。
  • [435] 同上注, 段 49-136。
  • [436] 同上注, 段 138。
  • [437] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13。
  • [438] Nokia v Daimler, District Court of Mannheim, judgment dated 18 August 2020, Case-No. 2 O 34/19, 段 144。
  • [439] 同上注, 段 146。
  • [440] 同上注, 段 147。
  • [441] 同上注, 段 148。
  • [442] 同上注, 段 149。
  • [443] 同上注, 段 152。
  • [444] 同上注, 段 151-156。
  • [445] 同上注, 段 248。
  • [446] 同上注, 段 153 及以下。
  • [447] 同上注, 段 154。
  • [448] 同上注, 段 155。
  • [449] 同上注, 段 157-231。
  • [450] 同上注, 段 158。
  • [451] 同上注, 段 159。
  • [452] 同上注, 段 161。
  • [453] 同上注, 段 197-199。
  • [454] 同上注, 段 157, 160 及 162-164。
  • [455] 同上注, 段 160 及 165-168。
  • [456] 同上注, 段 169。
  • [457] 同上注, 段 170。
  • [458] 同上注, 段 171。
  • [459] 同上注, 段 172。
  • [460] 同上注, 段 173。
  • [461] 同上注, 段 174 及以下。
  • [462] 同上注, 段 174。
  • [463] 同上注, 段 177。
  • [464] 同上注, 段 180。
  • [465] 同上注, 段 187 及以下。
  • [466] 同上注, 段 201-212。
  • [467] 同上注, 段 202。
  • [468] 同上注, 段 203。
  • [469] 同上注, 段 205。
  • [470] 同上注, 段 210。
  • [471] 同上注, 段 213。
  • [472] 同上注, 段 215。
  • [473] 同上注, 段 216 及以下。
  • [474] 同上注, 段 217。
  • [475] 同上注, 段 218。
  • [476] 同上注, 段 230。
  • [477] 同上注, 段 232 及以下。
  • [478] 同上注, 段 234, 236 及以下。
  • [479] 同上注, 段 240 及以下。
  • [480] 同上注, 段 239。
  • [481] 同上注, 段 253 及 291。
  • [482] 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) [483] .

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 [484] .

MPEG LA uses a standard licensing agreement, which is publicly available at its website [485] . Since 2004, MPEG-LA has signed approx. 2,000 agreements with implementers [486] , 1,400 of which are still in force [485] .

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 [487] . On 15 September 2011, the parent company suggested to arrange a call on this issue [488] . 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 [489] .

In November 2013, the discussions between MPEG LA and the parent company ended without success [490] . The parties resumed negotiations in July 2016; again, no agreement was reached [490] .

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 [491] .

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 [492] .

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 [493] . Furthermore, the Defendant made a second counteroffer to the Claimant shortly after the last oral hearing before the Court [494] .

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

B. Court’s reasoning

The Court found that the patent in suit was valid [495] , standard essential [496] and infringed by the products sold by the Defendant in Germany [497] . 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 [498] (Huawei obligations or framework) with respect to dominant undertakings [499] .

Dominant market position

The Court found that the Claimant holds a dominant market position in terms of Article 102 TFEU [500] .

The Court defined the relevant market for the assessment of dominance as the market, in which licences for any given patent are offered [501] . A dominant market position can further also exist, when the patent holder can hinder competition in downstream markets for standard-compliant products and services [501] .

The Court made clear that ownership of a SEP does not per se establish market dominance [502] . A dominant market position is given, when the use of the SEP is required for entering the market [503] . The same is true, if the patent user could not market competitive products or services, without access to the respective SEP [504] .

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 [505] .

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 [506] . 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) [507] . 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 [508] .

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 [509] . 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 [510] ), 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 [511] . 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 [512] . 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 [512] . 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 [513] .

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 [514] .

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 [515] . The sole fact that a company belongs to a group justifies such an assumption, unless indications to the contrary exist [516] . 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) [517] . 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 [518] . 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 [519] .

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 [520] . 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 [520] . A notification of infringement is, therefore, not necessary, when it constitutes just a ‘pointless formality’ [520] . 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 [520] . The respective test is, however, subject to strict conditions [520] .

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) [521] . 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 [522] .

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 [523] .

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 [523] . This is sufficient under the Huawei framework: A general, informal statement suffices [524] . The implementer is not required to refer to a specific licensing agreement (on the contrary, this could be considered harmful under certain circumstances) [524] .

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 [525] .

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 [526] .

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 [527] .

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 [528] . 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 [529] . 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) [530] . 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 [530] . 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 [530] . 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 [531] .

Apart from the above, the Court held that the standard licensing agreement offered to the parent company was FRAND also in terms of content [532] .

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 [533] . 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 [533] . 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 [533] . In this respect, comparable agreements can serve as an ‘important indicator’ of the fair and reasonable character of the offered royalty rates [533] .

Non-discrimination

Regarding to the non-discriminatory element of FRAND, the Court pointed out that it applied only to similar situated cases [534] . Even then, an unequal treatment is allowed, as long as it is objectively justified [534] . 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 [534] . 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 [535] . 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 [535] .

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 [536] . 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 [537] . 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 [538] . 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) [539] .

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 [540] . 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) [541] . 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 [542] . Discounts can further hardly be discriminatory, if they are offered to every (potential) licensee under the same conditions [542] .

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) [543] . 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 [544] .

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 [545] .

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 [546] . 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 [546] .

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 [547] . 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 [548] . 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 [549] . What is more, the Defendant did not show that further licences are needed with respect to the AVC/H.264 standard [550] . 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 [551] .

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 [552] . This assumption is also confirmed by the fact that all existing licensees have accepted this clause [553] .

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) [554] . 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 [554] .

An offer for a pool licence can, nevertheless, violate FRAND in ‘special circumstances’ [555] , for instance, if not all patents included in the pool are used by the licensee [556] . 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 [557] . 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 [558] . 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) [558] .

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 [559] . The Defendant failed, however, to present any reliable evidence that this was the case with the MPEG-LA pool [560] .

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’) [561] . 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 [562] .

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 [563] . In the electronics and mobile communications industries, licences on a group level are in line with the industry practice and, therefore, FRAND-compliant [564] .

Implementer’s counteroffer

Having said that, the Court found that the Defendant failed to make a FRAND counteroffer [565] .

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 [566] . Furthermore, the counteroffer established different licensing rates for different regions (especially for China) without factual justification [567] .

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 [494] . On the contrary, the Court expressed the view that the purpose of this counteroffer was most likely to delay the infringement proceedings [494] .

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 [568] .

  • [483] Tagivan (MPEG-LA) v Huawei, District Court of Düsseldorf, 9 November 2018, para. 36.
  • [484] Ibid, para. 35.
  • [485] Ibid, para. 37.
  • [486] Ibid, para. 453.
  • [487] Ibid, para. 39.
  • [488] Ibid, para. 43.
  • [489] Ibid, para. 44.
  • [490] Ibid, para. 53.
  • [491] Ibid, para. 2.
  • [492] Ibid, para. 54.
  • [493] Ibid, para. 65.
  • [494] Ibid, para. 716.
  • [495] Ibid, paras. 143-208.
  • [496] Ibid, paras. 209-293.
  • [497] Ibid, paras. 295-302.
  • [498] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [499] Tagivan (MPEG-LA) v Huawei, District Court of Düsseldorf, 9 November 2018, paras. 304 et seqq.
  • [500] Ibid, para. 307.
  • [501] Ibid, para. 310.
  • [502] 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.
  • [503] Ibid, paras. 310 et seq.
  • [504] Ibid, para. 311.
  • [505] Ibid, paras. 315 et seqq.
  • [506] Ibid, para. 321.
  • [507] Ibid, para. 326.
  • [508] Ibid, para. 327.
  • [509] Ibid, para. 330.
  • [510] 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.
  • [511] Ibid, paras. 331 et seqq.
  • [512] Ibid, para. 335.
  • [513] Ibid, para. 337.
  • [514] Ibid, para. 339.
  • [515] Ibid, para. 343.
  • [516] Ibid, para. 345.
  • [517] Ibid, para. 356.
  • [518] Ibid, paras. 357 et seqq.
  • [519] Ibid, paras. 366 et seqq.
  • [520] Ibid, para. 340.
  • [521] Ibid, para. 341.
  • [522] Ibid, paras. 395 et seqq.
  • [523] Ibid, paras. 400 et seqq.
  • [524] Ibid, para. 399.
  • [525] Ibid, para. 405.
  • [526] Ibid, paras. 411-417.
  • [527] Ibid, para. 419.
  • [528] Ibid, para. 421.
  • [529] Ibid, para. 425.
  • [530] Ibid, para. 422.
  • [531] Ibid, paras. 426 et seqq.
  • [532] Ibid, para. 429.
  • [533] Ibid, para. 431.
  • [534] Ibid, para. 432.
  • [535] Ibid, para. 433.
  • [536] Ibid, para. 438.
  • [537] Ibid, para. 443.
  • [538] Ibid, para. 444.
  • [539] Ibid, para. 445.
  • [540] Ibid, para. 579.
  • [541] Ibid, para. 582.
  • [542] Ibid, paras. 583 et seqq.
  • [543] Ibid, para. 564.
  • [544] Ibid, paras. 568 et seqq.
  • [545] Ibid, paras. 573 et seqq.
  • [546] Ibid, para. 451.
  • [547] Ibid, para. 449.
  • [548] Ibid, para. 454.
  • [549] Ibid, paras. 487 et seqq.
  • [550] Ibid, para. 491.
  • [551] Ibid, para. 495.
  • [552] Ibid, paras. 591 et seqq., particularly para. 596.
  • [553] Ibid. para. 597.
  • [554] Ibid. para. 504.
  • [555] Ibid. para. 508.
  • [556] Ibid. para. 514.
  • [557] Ibid. paras. 511 et seqq.
  • [558] Ibid. para. 524.
  • [559] Ibid, para. 528.
  • [560] Ibid, paras. 531-543.
  • [561] Ibid, paras. 545 et seqq.
  • [562] Ibid, para. 546.
  • [563] Ibid, para. 599.
  • [564] Ibid, para. 600.
  • [565] Ibid, para. 603.
  • [566] Ibid, paras. 605 et seqq.
  • [567] Ibid, paras. 617 et seqq.
  • [568] Ibid, para. 625.

Updated 3 二月 2021

HEVC (Dolby) v MAS Elektronik

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

A. Facts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


B. Court's reasoning

The Court found that Dolby was entitled to assert claims arising from the patent-in-suit. The respective patent application was transferred before grant and Dolby was registered as owner in the Patent Register at the moment the patent was granted. MAS did not present any reason to question the validity of the transfer of the patent application to Dolby. [569]

Furthermore, the Court held that the patent-in-suit is essential (and not only optional) to the improvement process of encoding and decoding of images under the HEVC standard and, therefore, infringed by the devices manufactured and sold by MAS. [570]


Abuse of dominant market position

Having said that, the Court explained that by asserting claims for injunctive relief as well as recall and destruction of infringing products before court, Dolby had not abused its dominant market position in violation of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) [571] .

In the eyes of the Court, Dolby holds a dominant position [572] . The Court highlighted that owning a patent, even a standard-essential patent, does not constitute per se a condition for market dominance [573] . That must be assessed case by case. A dominant position will be, as a rule, given if the use of a SEP is considered a pre-requisite to enter a downstream market. This is true also when the SEP is needed for offering competitive products in the downstream market. [573] In the present case, the implementation of the HEVC was required to make a competitive offering in the STB market [574] .

Notwithstanding the above, the Court found that Dolby had not abused its dominant market position, considering that it had fulfilled the obligations set forth by the Court of Justice the EU (CJEU) in the matter Huawei v ZTE (Huawei judgment or framework) [575] .


Notification of infringement

The required notification of the infringement by the patent holder was properly done. The Court understood that HEVC Advance, as the pool administrator, was entitled to do such notification on behalf of the patent holders that contributed patents to the pool. There is nothing in the Huawei judgment that suggests otherwise. [576]

The Court explained that the notification must, at least, include the publication number of the patent-in-suit and also indicate the infringing products and the infringing act(s) of use. [577] The notification does not need to contain a detailed (technical or legal) analysis, with reference to standards or claim features, but only present sufficient information that enables the other party to assess the infringement accusation made against it. [577]

In this case, the notification initially sent by HEVC Advance to MAS was sufficient in terms of content, since it specified the infringing products, and referred to HEVC Advance's patent portfolio and its website containing additional information. The fact that no patent numbers were mentioned was not considered harmful, since this information is publicly available in the pool's website. [578] Moreover, the Court highlighted that the notification can be a mere formality, if knowledge of the infringement by the implementer can be assumed. In such case, arguing that the notification was flawed, can be considered abusive, as it was the case here. [579]

Besides the notification made by HEVC Advance, the Court found that Dolby had also made a sufficient notification itself by the letter sent to MAS on 11 July 2018. [580] The letter fulfilled all requirements in terms of content. The fact that it was sent only after the action was filed was not harmful, since MAS had been already adequately informed by HEVC Advance before.Ibid, para. 759.

Willingness to obtain a licence

Looking at the conduct of MAS after receipt of the notifications of infringement, the Court reached the conclusion that MAS had sufficiently declared willingness to enter into a pool licence with HEVC Advance. [581] On the contrary, the Court took the view that MAS had not acted as a willing licensee with respect to Dolby's subsequent offer for a bilateral licence. [582]

The Court explained that, in its licensing request towards the SEP holder, the standards implementer must express its 'serious' willingness to conclude a licensing agreement on FRAND terms [583] . For this, no strict requirements apply, in terms of content or form; moreover, also an 'implicit behaviour' can suffice [584] . The implementer is, however, required to react in due course. [585] Furthermore, 'willingness' must still exist when the patent holder makes his licensing offer [583] .

The Court held that MAS had expressed willingness to take a pool license from HEVC Advance –although no express request was made–, since "immediately" after receipt of the notification of infringement, MAS started a correspondence with HEVC Advance with the goal to initiate negotiations. [586]

On the other hand, MAS had not been willing to obtain a bilateral licence from Dolby. [580] The Court emphasized that the whole conduct of the implementer must be assessed; a 'genuine' willingness to obtain a license must be demonstrated. [587] This is not given, when -as it had been the case here- the implementer only poses repetitive questions that do not present any constructive remarks and, therefore, do not lead to any progress in the negotiation. [588] In addition to that, it could be expected that a licensee willing to sign a bilateral agreement with an individual pool member, will have an interest to also engage in discussions with further pool members, especially for assessing the total 'economic burden' for its products, in comparison with a pool licensing agreement. [589] MAS refrained from doing that. What is more, it made clear in the proceedings that it was only interested in a pool licence.Ibid, para. 765.

SEP holder's offer

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

The Court found that the offer made by HEVC Advance met the Huawei requirements. In terms of form, the fact that the standard agreement sent to MAS had not been signed did not cause any concerns. [590] In the Court's view, the CJEU requires that the SEP holder's offer contains all usual terms of a licensing agreement, however, no binding offer that could lead to the conclusion of a licence through sole acceptance by the implementer is needed. [591]

Furthermore, HEVC Advance had sufficiently explained the royalty calculation, in line with the Huawei judgment. [592] If the patent holder has previously granted licenses to third parties, it has to give more or less substantiated reasons, depending on the circumstances of the individual case, why the royalty it envisages is Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND). [593] In case that the SEP holder offers licences exclusively based on a standard licensing agreement, it will, as a rule, suffice to establish the adoption of the licensing programme in practice and to show that the specific offer corresponds to the standard licensing agreement. [594] The more standard licensing agreements signed are shared by the patent holder, the stronger the assumption is, that the offered rates are FRAND. [595]

The Court emphasized that is not necessary to present the full content of all the licensing agreements already concluded, but only the relevant ones, considering clearly delineated product categories. [596] Existing licences with cross-licensing-elements, are not relevant in this context, especially, when the implementer does not have any patents himself, as it was the case here. [597] Accordingly, the Court found that the forty third party agreements disclosed by Dolby in the proceedings were enough in the present case. [598]


Fair and reasonable terms

Looking at the content, the Court found that the terms of the standard licensing agreement offered by HEVC Advance are fair and reasonable. [599] As fair and reasonable can be considered terms offered to a willing party, without exploiting a dominant position. [600] Apart from the royalties, the offer must also prove reasonable with regard to the other terms as well (scope, territory etc.). [600]

Having said that, the Court held that the royalties charged by HEVC Advance's standard licensing agreement are fair and reasonable. [601] An indication of that is the fact, that up to January 2020, more than forty licensees selling products in the same category as MAS had taken a license on the same terms, modified sometimes by 'blended rates'. [602] On the other hand, the fact that lower royalties are charged by a competing patent pool (MPEG LA) does not make the HEVC Advance's rate unreasonable, as FRAND is considered rather to be a range than a specific amount. [603]

Furthermore, the Court took the view that the limitation of the offered licence to 'practised claims' only (that is those claims of the licenced patents that are essential to the practice of the HEVC standard), is not unreasonable. [604] This limitation does not present any adverse effect on MAS' business, since the royalty payments correspond to the claims that are actually used by the licensee (and, vice versa, no obligation to pay for claims not used is established). [605]

Also, in the eyes of the Court, MAS was not able to prove that the lack of an adjustment clause is unreasonable [606] . MAS failed to establish that respective clauses are common in industry practice; on the contrary, the fact that at least forty parties had signed a licence with HEVC Advance without such clause indicated the opposite. [607] What is more, the royalty clause is constant. That means that the rate charged will not change if licenced patents expire, but also will remain the same in the case of addition of new patents to the pool that will be automatically covered by the agreement. Insofar, an economic risk for both parties exists. [608]

Regarding the choice of forum clause contained in the standard licensing agreement, establishing the jurisdiction of courts in New York as well as granting HEVC Advance the right to also choose other venues at its discretion, the Court was not able to conclude any unfair disadvantage for MAS. [609] The same clause was agreed in many other licensing agreements signed by HEVC Advance with third parties. [610] In fact, MAS agreed to a similar one in its license agreement with the MPEG LA pool. [610]


Non-discrimination

Besides that, the Court was unable to establish any discrimination against MAS through the licence offered by HEVC Advance. [611] The obligation of equal treatment applies only to aspects that are comparable; even a market dominant undertaking must be allowed to respond differently to different market conditions. [612] An unequal treatment is to be assessed based on the specific circumstances of each individual case under the goals of competition and can be accepted as lawful, if objectively justified. [613] Therefore, not every difference in the terms and conditions of a licence can be seen as abusive. [614] According to the Court, the same principle also applies to the licensing of SEPs. [615]

Against this background, the Court found that the fact that the pool administered by HEVC Advance updated its terms in a way that an 'uniform licensing regime' no longer exists, since for certain licensees the previous version of the agreement still applies, does not mean that the new standard licensing agreement offered to MAS was discriminatory. [616] Although, according to the case-law of the Higher District Court of Düsseldorf, a patent holder (and its assignees) is bound to the 'licensing concept' underlying the first ever licence granted, it is allowed to deviate from such 'concept', if this does not lead to a discrimination of either past nor future licensees. [617] In the Court's view, this was not the case here: The old licensees were offered the possibility to shift to the new terms, and there is no evidence that MAS would be treated worse by the terms of the new standard licensing agreement. [617] On the contrary, the new royalty calculation leads to a lower licensing burden. [617]

The Court also took the view, that there is also no discrimination in the way the patent-in-suit is enforced. [618] MAS argued that it was discriminated, because its competitors or large companies were not sued by members of the HEVC Advance pool for patent infringement. The Court highlighted that refraining from enforcement does not necessarily mean discrimination: the phase of adoption of the relevant standard, the costs and procedural risks involved, the knowledge of the holder regarding the infringement and its extent are factors to be considered. [619] In the case of HEVC Advance, the initial phase of its existence and limitation of resources are relevant for this assessment. [620]

Moreover, no discrimination with respect to the amount of the royalty rate or the scope offered was found. [621] The Court pointed out that the fact that some of the existing licensees have agreed on rates higher than those offered to MAS, could not be used in favour of the latter: as a rule, only those who are treated less favourably can invoke discrimination. [622]

The Court further held that the 'blended rates' agreed with certain other licensees, did not render the offer made to MAS by HEVC Advance discriminatory either. [623] These rates mirrored variations due to the difference in products and implementer's profiles and were either offered to MAS or not applicable to his business model. [624]

Furthermore, the Court found that the 'incentive programme' offered by the HEVC Advance pool, which under specific conditions (especially the signing of a licence at an early point in time) results in discounted rates, is lawful and non-discriminatory. [625] The same is true with respect to discounts offered for past uses prior to the signing a licence, as it is the case for HEVC Advance [626] .

Finally, a 10% discount offered by HEVC Advance when a licensee also takes a trademark licence, allowing for the labelling of products with the HEVC trademark, was equally offered to the MAS, so that the Court could not see a discrimination of MAS by such provision in the standard licensing agreement. [627]


Implementer's counteroffer

The Court found that MAS' counteroffer was not FRAND. [628] The offer made by MAS failed to present sufficiently an explanation of why its terms would be FRAND, in view of the terms offered by HEVC Advance. MAS presented only a royalty rate, without making any reference to the rest of the clauses contained in the offer previously made by HEVC Advance, which it alleged to be discriminatory or unreasonable. [629]

Having found that MAS' counteroffer had not been FRAND, the Court explained that the fact that MAS neither rendered accounts nor provided security did not play any role for its decision. [630]


C. Other issues

By the facts of the case, the Court concluded that MAS acted culpably, or at least negligently, and, therefore, owes compensation for past and future damages caused by its actions. Moreover, damages should not be limited to a FRAND royalty. [631] The quantification of the damages will be possible with the rendering of accounts by MAS. [632]

The lawsuit for revocation of the patent, arguing lack of inventive step, that had not been decided yet, had no likelihood of success, according to the Court's analysis. Therefore, the request for staying the proceedings until a decision on the validity is delivered by the Federal Patent Court was denied. [633]

  • [569] HEVC (Dolby) v MAS Elektronik, District Court (Landgericht) of Düsseldorf, 7 May 2020, Case No. 4c O 44/18 (cited by www.nrwe.de), paras. 75 et seqq.
  • [570] Ibid, paras. 157-184.
  • [571] Ibid, paras. 186 et seqq.
  • [572] Ibid, paras. 189 et seqq.
  • [573] Ibid, paras. 194 et seqq.
  • [574] Ibid, para. 197.
  • [575] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [576] HEVC (Dolby) v MAS Elektronik, District Court (Landgericht) of Düsseldorf, 7 May 2020, Case No. 4c O 44/18, paras. 213 et seqq and paras. 221 et seqq.
  • [577] Ibid, para. 210.
  • [578] Ibid, paras. 229 et seqq.
  • [579] Ibid, para. 233.
  • [580] Ibid, para. 759.
  • [581] Ibid, paras. 236 et seqq.
  • [582] Ibid, paras. 760 et seqq.
  • [583] Ibid, para. 237.
  • [584] Ibid, para. 237 and para. 761.
  • [585] Ibid, para. 760.
  • [586] Ibid, para. 238.
  • [587] Ibid, para. 763.
  • [588] Ibid, para. 764.
  • [589] Ibid, para. 765.
  • [590] Ibid, paras. 241 et seqq.
  • [591] Ibid, para. 242.
  • [592] Ibid, paras. 244 et seqq.
  • [593] Ibid, para. 245.
  • [594] Ibid, para. 248.
  • [595] Ibid, para. 255.
  • [596] Ibid, para. 250.
  • [597] Ibid, para. 253.
  • [598] Ibid, para. 249.
  • [599] Ibid, paras. 257 and 258.
  • [600] Ibid, para. 260.
  • [601] Ibid, paras. 264 et seqq.
  • [602] Ibid, para. 268.
  • [603] Ibid, paras. 271 et seqq.
  • [604] Ibid, paras. 280 et seqq.
  • [605] Ibid, para. 284.
  • [606] Ibid, paras. 286 et seqq.
  • [607] Ibid, para. 295.
  • [608] Ibid, para. 298.
  • [609] Ibid, paras. 301 et seqq.
  • [610] Ibid, para. 304.
  • [611] Ibid, paras. 306 et seqq. and paras. 314 et seqq.
  • [612] Ibid, para. 308.
  • [613] Ibid, paras. 308 et seq.
  • [614] Ibid, para. 310.
  • [615] Ibid, para. 311.
  • [616] Ibid, paras. 314 et seqq.
  • [617] Ibid, para. 318.
  • [618] Ibid, para. 321.
  • [619] Ibid, para. 322.
  • [620] Ibid, para. 323.
  • [621] Ibid, paras. 325 et seqq. as well as paras. 443 et seqq.
  • [622] Ibid, para. 326.
  • [623] Ibid, paras. 328 et seqq.
  • [624] Ibid, paras. 329 et seqq.
  • [625] Ibid, paras. 334 et seqq.
  • [626] Ibid, paras. 526 et seqq.
  • [627] Ibid, paras. 665 et seqq.
  • [628] Ibid, paras. 751 et seqq.
  • [629] Ibid, paras. 754.
  • [630] Ibid, para. 756.
  • [631] Ibid, para. 773.
  • [632] Ibid, para. 774.
  • [633] Ibid, paras. 781 et seqq.