Case Law post CJEU ruling Huawei v ZTE

TQ Delta LLC v Zyxel Communications, [2017] EWHC 3305 (Pat)

21 November 2017 - Case No. HP-2017-000045

http://caselaw.4ipcouncil.com/english-court-decisions/tq-delta-llc-v-zyxel-communications-ewhc

A. Facts

The Claimant is holder of two patents declared as essential to the implementation of the DSL standard under the relevant policy (ITU Recommen­dations). According to this policy he is required to license these patents on Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms. The Defendants manufacture and sell various types of equipment complying with the DSL standard.

The parties were unable to reach an agreement on a worldwide portfolio license. The Claimant argued that the Defendants followed a “hold-out” strategy by trying to delay negotiations and litigation as long as possible, in order to avoid royalty payments.

The actions brought before the High Court of Justice of England and Wales (EWHC) involve, on the one hand, the technical issues of validity, essentiality and infringement (technical trials) and, on the other hand, non-technical issues regarding licensing on FRAND terms (non-technical trial).

The parties agreed that the technical trials should be tried separately from, and before, the non-technical trial. After holding a case management conference, the court complied with the parties’ agreement to hold the technical trials first. The court, however, refrained from ordering the stay of the non-technical trial until the completion of the technical trials. Instead, the court allowed it to go ahead.

B. Court’s reasoning

In light of both the decision of the European Union Court of Justice in the matter Huawei v ZTE and the recent decision of the EWHC in the matter Unwired Planet v Huawei the court questioned the practice it followed so far, to hold FRAND related trials after technical trials.

In the court’s opinion, particularly if a global license for a global portfolio is in dispute between the parties, it is worth considering whether the prioritization of the trials should be altered, so that the non-technical trial comes first. If the defendant (potential infringer) wishes to argue that it does not need to take any license under any of the patents in suit, it is not compelled to do so. In this case, however, the defendant risks that it will, subsequently, be injuncted in infringement proceedings.

To justify its decision not to stay the non-technical trial, the Court referred to EWHC’s decision in the matter Unwired Planet v Huawei and pointed out, that the longer these proceedings are postponed, the longer their objective from the Claimant's perspective is frustrated, that is to obtain appropriate relief by way of injunction and/or financial compensation.

C. Other issues

Although the court did not rule on Claimant’s allegation that the Defendants pursued a “hold out” strategy, it made clear – again under reference to the matter Unwired Planet v Huawei that if that is the case, then the Defendants face the risk of being injuncted, if they should be unsuccessful in either of the technical trials.