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Wiko v Sisvel, Commercial Court of Marseille

20 September 2016 - Case No. RG 2016F01637

  1. Facts
    Claimant WIKO S.A.S. markets mobile phones as well as telecommunication products and services, produced by its parent company TINNO, in France and Europe. Defendant SISVEL UK LTD is a division of SISVEL INTERNATIONAL and performs the function of an intermediary between manufacturers seeking access to high-level technology and intellectual property rights holders willing to grant licenses to their portfolio. Claimant considers itself a victim of acts of unfair competition committed by Defendant. The latter sent letters to several French distributors and customers of Claimant, such as Carrefour, Casino or LDLC, alerting them that they (purportedly) infringed Claimant’s patents allegedly essential to the LTE standard. In consequence, Claimant sued Defendant before the Tribunal de Commerce de Marseille, seeking, inter alia, a decision declaring Defendant’s letters to be acts of unfair competition, forcing Defendant to issue a notice of revocation, and awarding damages to Claimant.
  2. Court’s reasoning
    The Tribunal de Commerce de Marseille rejected Claimant’s submission regarding the alleged violation of the French rules on unfair competition. Against the background of paras. 61, 63 of the Huawei judgment, requiring the SEP proprietor to alert the alleged infringer about the infringement prior to the initiation of proceedings and to present a specific, written offer for a license on FRAND terms, the Court considered the letters as prior notice in the sense of the Huawei rules of conduct and denied a violation of the French rules on unfair competition. In particular, the court stressed that the documents communicated by Defendant provided an overview including each SEP, its filing date as well as the parts of the LTE standard implementing the respective patented technology. They indicated not only the consequences of acts of unauthorized use and the devices allegedly embodying such use but informed the distributors also about their option to contest both the communicated information and the validity of the patents at issue. Furthermore, Defendant had offered to grant a FRAND license in the sense of the Huawei decision, defined a response period for this offer and attached a terms sheet substantiating the general framework, the basic clauses and, in particular, the royalties of a potential FRAND licensing agreement. The letters did not, however, ask for a cessation of sales of the allegedly infringing products.