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GE (Access Advance) v Vestel
21 December 2021 - Case No. 4c O 42/20
The Claimant, GE Video Compression (GE), holds patents essential to the practice of the High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) standard (standard essential patents, or SEPs). GE made an undertaking towards the relevant standardisation body (International Telecommunication Union, ITU) to make SEPs accessible to users on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions.
The Defendant, Vestel, is a global company with headquarters in Turkey, which manufactures electronic devices, including television sets and set-top-boxes. Vestel’s products sold in the German market support DVB-T2, which uses the encoding process of the HEVC standard.
GE offers bilateral licences to its SEP portfolio and has also joined a patent pool administered by Access Advance (Access Advance or Access Advance pool). The website of Access Advance contains general information about the licensing program and the fee structure, claim charts and the standard pool license agreement. Also available on the website is the so-called ‘Duplicate Royalty Policy’ addressing cases, in which patents contributed to the pool are covered by third party licences as well. This policy is linked to the document entitled ‘Duplicate Royalty Implementation Process’ that describes the procedure for dealing with potentially duplicate payments with regards to pool patents. Approximately 225 licensees have signed agreements with the Access Advance pool.
On 3 April 2017, Access Advance notified the parent company of the Vestel group via e-mail about the fact that several products make use of the HEVC standard. For further information, Vestel was directed to Access Advance’s website. Specific patents were not expressly mentioned in said e-mail.
Following a face-to-face meeting in December 2017, Access Advance provided claim charts to Vestel on 11 January 2018 and particularly elaborated that 17 pool patents were considered to be infringed.
On 15 May 2018, Access Advance sent a first license offer to Vestel. On 11 June 2018, Access Advance and Vestel had a meeting in person focusing on technical questions, in which further claim charts were shared. On 11 July 2018, Access Advance highlighted that further pool patents were infringed and pointed out that it was also possible for Vestel to obtain bilateral licences from the individual SEP holders that joined the pool.
In December 2018, Vestel signed a licence with a patent pool administered by MPEG LA (MPEG LA pool), which covers HEVC-related SEPs as well. Between the portfolios of the Access Advance pool and the MPEG LA pool there is a partial overlap.
In January 2019, Vestel made a counteroffer to Access Advance. At the same time, Vestel filed an action against Access Advance and a pool member before the High Court of England and Wales (High Court), requesting the High Court to declare that the rates contained in said counteroffer were FRAND (UK court proceedings). The UK court proceedings ended after both the High Court and the Court of Appeal dismissed Vestel’s action due to lack of jurisdiction.
In April 2019, GE made a bilateral license offer to Vestel. Vestel did not sign an agreement with GE (or with any other SEP-holder that is a member of the Access Advance pool).
In July 2020, Vestel filed another action against both Access Advance and certain pool members before the District Court of the Hague in the Netherlands, requesting for the determination of FRAND rates based on its previous counteroffer (Dutch court proceedings). These proceedings were not concluded by the time the case at hand was decided.
In August 2020, GE filed the infringement action against Vestel before the District Court of Duesseldorf (Court). Other members of the Access Advance pool launched infringement proceedings against Vestel before the same court as well.
After the actions were filed in Germany, further offers for both a pool licence and a bilateral licence were made to Vestel by Access Advance and GE respectively in October and November 2020 as well as in March 2021. Vestel made an updated counteroffer in September 2021. No agreement was, however, reached.
With the present judgmentGE (Access Advance) v Vestel, District Court of Düsseldorf, judgment dated 21 December 2021, Case No. 4c O 42/20 (cited by www.nrwe.de)., the Court recognised Vestel’s liability for patent damages on the merits and ordered Vestel to render accounts for sales in Germany since January 2017. On the other hand, GE’s claims for injunctive relief and the recall and destruction of infringing products were dismissed.
B. Court’s reasoning
The Court held that the patent-in-suit is infringed and essential to the HEVC standard. 
Nevertheless, the claims for injunctive relief (as well as the recall and destruction of infringing products) asserted by GE were dismissed for the time being, since – in the eyes of the Court – Vestel could successfully invoke a ‘FRAND-defence’ based on Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), which prohibits an abuse of a dominant market position  . For the respective assessment, the Court relied on the standard established by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) in the matter Huawei v ZTE (Huawei judgment)  , as it was further fleshed out by two rulings of the German Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) in the matter Sisvel v Haier  .GE (Access Advance) v Vestel, District Court of Düsseldorf, judgment dated 21 December 2021, para. 216.
Abuse of dominant market position
The Court found that GE had abused its dominant market position in violation of Article 102 TFEU. 
The Court accepted that GE holds a dominant position in the relevant market that is the market, in which licences for the patent-in-suit are offered.  Owning a patent, even a standard-essential patent, does not constitute per se a condition for market dominance; that must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.  As a rule, a dominant position will, however, be given, if the use of an SEP is a pre-requisite for entering a downstream market. This applies also when – from a technical viewpoint – functionalities relevant for the downstream market are not available without the use of the patent and ‘general interoperability / compatibility' is endangered. 
Against this backdrop, the Court reasoned that the patent-in-suit conferred market dominance to GE: Although practicing the HEVC standard is no market entry requirement, compliance with said standard is an ‘essential factor’ for offering competitive products in the downstream market.  On the one hand, only the HEVC standard allows for streaming of large data volumes in good quality, which is a ‘must-have’ feature for the average user.  On the other hand, end-device manufacturers, such as Vestel, usually have to offer products supporting every current coding standard, taking into account that producers of video content use different standards. 
The Court noted that the burden of pleading and proof concerning the existence of a market dominant position rests on the defendant.  Notwithstanding that, the Court did not consider the fact that Vestel did not plead specific facts establishing the market dominant position of GE to be harmful.  Vestel had just invoked previous judgments in parallel proceedings, in which the Court had established that GE held such position.
Exceptionally, this was deemed to be sufficient, because there were no indication suggesting that the commercial position of GE was different in the present case. 
Parties’ conduct obligations
The Court then took the view that GE had failed to fully meet the FRAND obligations arising from its dominant market position. 
A patent holder, who made a FRAND commitment towards a standardisation body, abuses its market dominance, when it refuses to license an infringer willing to obtain a licence and files a suit for injunctive relief (and/or the recall and/or destruction of infringing products) instead. The same is true, when the patent holder has not lived up to the ‘particular responsibility’ to facilitate the conclusion of a licensing agreement on FRAND terms with a ‘willing’ infringer, to which the latter is entitled. 
In each individual case, courts shall, on the one hand, examine the conduct obligations of the SEP holder, which originate from competition law and are eventually influenced by the (contractual) FRAND commitment.  On the other hand, courts must also examine whether the infringer acted in ‘good faith’ as a potential licensee: Insofar, the infringer must request a FRAND-licence, whereby mere ‘lip service’ is not sufficient.  Indeed, a sole request to be granted a licence is not enough, when – from an objective point of view – the further behaviour of the infringer demonstrates without doubt that no ‘serious will’ to sign a licence exists, but the only goal of such request was to ‘hold-out’ the SEP-holder and delay infringement litigation in order to continue the use of the patent. 
Notification of infringement
Looking at the parties’ behaviour in detail, the Court confirmed that an adequate notification of infringement was made. 
The purpose of such notification is to call infringer’s attention to the patent infringement and the possibility (and necessity) to obtain a licence. The patent, the way it is infringed, as well as the infringing embodiments should be designated; detailed technical and legal analysis is, however, not required.  Reference to the standard-essentiality of the patent or a ‘mapping’ of the claims to the relevant specifications of the standard are not needed either. 
According to the Court, Access Advance’s e-mail dated 11 January 2018 in conjunction with the first e-mail previously sent to Vestel on 3 April 2017 constitute a proper infringement notification.  The fact that the first e-mail did not designate specific patents, but just referred to the patent list that was available on Access Advance’s website was problematic, since this way the infringement allegation was not sufficiently specified; this flaw was, however, corrected by providing Vestel with 17 claim charts by the e-mail dated 11 January 2018. 
Furthermore, the Court noted that it was acceptable to address the notification of infringement to the parent company of the Vestel group, since this corresponds to common practice, and it can regularly be expected that the parent company will inform the affected affiliates respectively. 
Considering Vestel’s behaviour, the Court concluded that, prior to litigation, Vestel had – at least – implicitly requested to be granted a licence and this request could not be seen as mere ‘lip service’. 
The Court explained that, in its ‘licensing request’ towards the SEP holder, the implementer must express its ‘serious’ willingness to conclude a license agreement on FRAND terms  . For this, no strict requirements apply, in terms of form; the willingness to sign a licence can be expressed in a ‘blanket’ and ‘informal‘ manner, as well as through ‘implicit behaviour’.  The infringer shall be given sufficient time to respond, depending on the level of detail of the infringement notice; delaying tactics are, however, prohibited. 
It is required that – from the SEP holder’s point of view – the implementer’s willingness is ‘clearly’ articulated; the patent holder must be certain throughout the negotiations that the implementer is seriously interested in a licence.  Accordingly, the entire conduct of the infringer throughout the licensing negotiations must be taken into account; this could mean that an initial willingness can be ‘undone’ by the subsequent behaviour of the implementer.  In other words, the (general) willingness to sign a licence must be given ‘permanently’. 
In the eyes of the Court, the ‘licensing request’ shall, nevertheless, not be subject to strict conditions in terms of content.  It will be sufficient to indicate whether the infringer is, in principle, prepared to take a licence or whether this is entirely ruled out.  At this stage, it cannot be expected from the infringer to deal with specific licensing conditions, or to make a counteroffer (as this would be incompatible with the procedure established by the Huawei judgment). 
Should the infringer make a counteroffer, then only the circumstances and the fact that such counteroffer was made can be considered for the assessment of willingness as part of the negotiation history; not, however, the FRAND-conformity of individual contractual clauses in terms of content.  The same is true also with respect to a license offer made by the SEP holder: the content of such offer can equally play no role in the assessment of willingness and lower, for instance, the requirements on the infringer’s conduct (e.g., if the offer is deemed to be ‘evidently un-FRAND’).  In the eyes of the Court, the actual FRAND-conformity of licensing terms is a question that is linked to the examination of SEP holder’s offer and shall have no impact on the assessment of willingness. 
Based on of the above considerations, the Court found that Vestel sufficiently indicated its willingness to obtain a licence towards Access Advance and remained ‘willing’ both before and during the trial. 
First, the Court found that Vestel had ‘underlined the fundamental willingness to stay in contact’ with Access Advance after receipt of the first infringement notification in April 2017, particularly by making arrangements for a face-to-face meeting, which then took place in December 2017.  In January 2018, Vestel received claim charts, started technical examinations and informed Access Advance respectively.  In further correspondence with Access Advance in the spring of 2018, Vestel asked Access Advance to provide a license offer, which the Court considered to be an additional indication of willingness, notwithstanding that the standard license agreement was available on Access Advance’s website, so that it could have been accessed long before it was sent to Vestel on 15 May 2018. 
Furthermore, the Court considered in favour of Vestel that after receipt of the offer in May 2018, Vestel continued discussions with Access Advance both on technical and commercial grounds (including in person meetings in November 2018) which – also from Access Advance’s viewpoint – were constructive.  The fact that it took Vestel usually several weeks to respond was not seen as harmful, as this was common practice of both parties since the beginning of the negotiations.  No objections were raised by the Court against the counteroffer which Vestel made in January 2019 either, although the parties had agreed that Vestel should provide the counteroffer months earlier (October 2018). 
The Court saw also no indication of ‘unwillingness’ in the fact that – after having sued Access Advance in the UK in January 2019 – Vestel requested, henceforth, that also outside legal counsel should be present in the negotiations with Access Advance.  Similarly, no concerns were expressed by the Court against the temporary stop of the negotiation with Access Advance in the period between May and October 2020. During this time, Vestel had bilateral discussions with GE and other SEP holders, which was seen as acceptable, since Vestel had a legitimate interest to have such parallel negotiations, in order to take an informed decision based on commercial considerations (that is whether and under which conditions a series of bilateral licences was preferrable over a single pool licence).  What is more, Vestel had informed Access Advance about these bilateral discussions with SEP holders, so that the latter could hardly assume that Vestel had no longer interest in signing a licence.  The further offer made by Access Advance in October 2020 as well as the fact that afterwards it kept contact with Vestel more or less until the oral hearings scheduled by the Court in September/October 2021 indicated this understanding as well. 
In addition, the Court found that neither the UK nor the Dutch court proceedings filed by Vestel against Access Advance and certain pool members were sufficient for assuming that Vestel was (no longer) ‘willing’. 
Proceedings launched by an implementer are not necessarily an indication that willingness to obtain a licence is missing.  As long as the implementer still engages in discussions with the SEP holder in a target-oriented manner during the pending infringement trial, the new lawsuit filed does not ’block’ the negotiations of the parties.  Given that Vestel had discussions with Access Advance and individual SEP holders also after the respective actions was filed, the Court could not identify any delays caused by the UK court proceedings with respect to the licensing negotiations.  The fact that it should have been obvious also to Vestel that UK courts lacked jurisdiction, was not considered as relevant by the Court in this context.  On the contrary, the Court assumed that an implementer could have a justified interest in such parallel litigation, e.g., for confirming the FRAND-conformity of its counteroffer, especially when the (other) court dealing with patent infringement will not address this issue. 
The fact that in both UK and Dutch court proceedings Vestel had (also) filed a request for an ‘anti-suit injunction' (ASI) was not seen as harmful by the Court either.  Contrary to the view taken by the District Court of Munich, the Court reasoned that the Huawei judgment does not impose an obligation on the implementer to either ’add’ a statement that no ASI will be filed to its declaration of willingness, or to confirm without reason that such measures will not be taken.  The implementer is obliged to declare whether a motion for an ASI will be filed or not, only upon specific inquiry on the side of the SEP holder.  This had not been, however, the case here, since Access Advance had not raised such a question towards Vestel.  Irrespective of this, the Court took the view that the SEP holder did not need ‘additional protection’ here, since the motions for an ASI filed in the UK and the Netherlands were inadmissible due to violation of EU procedural law, so that the infringement trial in Germany could not be impacted. 
Offer for a pool licence
The Court then moved on to examine, whether Access Advance’s licensing offer to Vestel that was based on its standard pool license agreement was in line with the Huawei framework. 
In terms of form, the fact that the draft agreement shared with Vestel had not been signed, did not cause any concerns.  In the Court’s view, the CJEU requires only that the SEP holder’s offer contains all usual terms of a license agreement; a binding offer that would lead to the conclusion of a licence through sole acceptance by the implementer is, however, not needed. 
Considering that Access Advance offered comprehensive information about the calculation of the royalty rates on its website, the Court further found that the respective duty under the Huawei judgment was met.  It was not harmful that the information was not provided along with the actual (written) offer but was separately available online. 
In this context, the Court noted that if the patent holder has previously granted licences to third parties, it has to give – depending on the circumstances of the individual case – ‘more or less’ substantiated reasons, why the royalty it envisages is FRAND.  When the SEP holder offers licences exclusively based on a standard license 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 terms. 
Having said that, the Court found that Access Advance’s licensing offer was not FRAND in terms of content.  In particular, the Court criticized that although the offer covered a considerable number of patents already licensed through the MPEG LA pool, it did not contain a fair and reasonable mechanism for the reimbursement of duplicate royalty payments. 
In the eyes of the Court, the fact that an offer includes a ‘not just negligible’ number of patents, to which the implementer is already licensed, is a source of concern, since fee payments would be due also for patents which the implementer is already allowed to use.  Even if one would accept that this cannot be avoided under specific circumstances, a fair reimbursement mechanism is required; according to the Court, the mechanism provided by Access Advance did not live up to this requirement. 
Whether a reimbursement mechanism addressing the abstract risk of duplicate royalty payments is, generally, needed in pool license agreements was left open by the Court.  In any event, such a mechanism was required here, since there was an overlap between the patents licensed under the Access Advance pool and the patents which Vestel had licensed over the MPEG LA pool.  To what extend this overlap actually existed was not finally determined by the Court, given that even at the lowest possible end the overlap was deemed to be considerable. 
When – as in the present case – a reimbursement regime is needed, then it should be binding for the licensor and allow the licensee to identify both the calculation basis and the approximate amount of compensation for duplicate royalty payments.  Apart from pointing out to (and eventually establishing) the existence of duplicate payments, the licensee should not carry the entire burden of seeking an agreement with every individual SEP holder receiving duplicate payments, because this way part of the FRAND obligations of the pool administrator would be ‘passed on’ to the licensee. 
The fact that neither the ‘Duplicate Royalty Policy’ nor the ‘Duplicate Royalty Implementation Process’ were incorporated in the text of the standard license agreement was, in the eyes of the Court, not per se harmful.  The reimbursement mechanism was, however, not laid down in a uniform and transparent manner. 
Apart from that, the Court held that Access Advance’s reimbursement regime was not adequate in terms of content, since the full risk of repayment of duplicate fees was imposed on Vestel.  First, the Court noted that safeguards for avoiding duplicate payment in the first place were not in place.  Furthermore, three different options for the reimbursement of royalties were provided for (net distribution received from Access Advance; or net distribution received from another pool; or any mount agreed with SEP holder) without, however, any indication of which option would apply in each case.  Patent holders were given the choice between those three options. Objective criteria that would make that choice (and, consequently also the amount of the expected reimbursement) reliably transparent to the licensee prior to signing a pool agreement were, however, missing.  What is more, a refund of duplicate payments required pro-active measures taken by the licensee (potentially including court action), whereas the pool would assume no task in this direction. 
In the view of the Court, the reimbursement mechanism adopted by Access Advance lacks objective justification that could lift the conflict with Article 102 TFEU.  The fact that Access Advance had signed agreements with other licensees based on the same standard license agreement was not sufficient for showing that the underlying terms where reasonable also with regards to Vestel.  The Court accepted that comparable license agreement can primarily be used to establish the ‘reasonableness’ of individual contractual terms; especially if a large number of contracts has been signed, further going pleadings would likely not be necessary.  For this, it is required that the contracts were signed on identical terms and cover the same product market.  In the present case, Access Advance had not been able – according to the Court – to sufficiently plead that it had concluded identical license agreements including the reimbursement regime for duplicate payments offered to Vestel in comparable scenarios. 
Furthermore, the Court saw no objective justification for Access Advance’s reimbursement mechanism in the fact that duplicate payments can very likely play only a limited role in the future, considering that an increasing number of SEP holders leave the MPEG LA pool and join Access Advance. 
In this context, the Court also explained that Vestel can invoke the non-FRAND character of the reimbursement regime also against GE, even though the latter is no recipient of double royalty payments.  By joining Access Advance, GE ‘utilizes’ the pool for complying with its FRAND obligations and is, thus, accountable for the pool’s conduct, not least because the pool acts on behalf of every member. 
SEP holder’s bilateral license offer
The Court added that GE cannot invoke the bilateral relation with Vestel (particularly the bilateral license offer made to Vestel) for enforcing the claims arising from the patent infringement.  By choosing to license its patents through the pool, GE is bound – from a competition law angle – to the respective ‘licensing practice’, from which it could only deviate, if ‘express substantive grounds’ can be demonstrated. 
SEP holders are, in principle, expected to offer potential licensees also the option to sign a bilateral license agreement; implementers are, on the other hand, allowed to engage in negotiations both bilaterally and with the pool.  However, the Court felt that when the ‘actual licensing practice’ of the patent holder is directed towards one ‘licensing form’ (here: licensing through the pool), the SEP holder’s ‘right of choice’ is limited to this ‘practice’.  Such ‘contractual limitation of the right of choice’ is justified, according to the Court, by the fact that a ‘customary practice’ to grant pool licences has emerged in the specific industry.  A change towards a different ‘licensing practice’ is not ruled out; the SEP holder must, however, present ‘substantive grounds’ for such change, which could be, e.g., given, if the implementer uses only the patents of the specific patent holder, or intends to sign bilateral agreements with other relevant SEP holder as well. 
In the eyes of the Court, GE failed to show ‘substantive grounds’, justifying the conclusion of a bilateral licence with Vestel.  The Court placed particular weight on the fact that the parties invested a considerably shorter amount of time in the bilateral negotiations compared with the negotiations between Vestel and the Access Advance pool.  This indicates, according to the Court, that GE had no continuing interest in signing a bilateral licence with Vestel, respectively that ‘substantive grounds’ for deviating from the current ‘licensing practice’ were not given. 
C. Other issues
Having concluded that Access Advance had not fully met the conduct obligations under Article 102 TFEU, the Court ruled that Vestel was entitled to a claim for damages.  As a consequence, Vestel could not be held liable for paying damages for patent infringement to GE that would exceed the amount of a FRAND-compliant royalty rate. 
Following the case-law of the Federal Court of Justice, the Court explained that a respective damage (counter-)claim is given when the implementer had been willing to obtain a licence and the SEP holder has either denied signing a licence or offered terms that were not FRAND.  These conditions were met here.  The Court reiterated in this context, that GE should be held accountable for Access Advance’s conduct. 
-  GE (Access Advance) v Vestel, District Court of Düsseldorf, judgment dated 21 December 2021, Case No. 4c O 42/20 (cited by www.nrwe.de).
-  Ibid, paras. 128-215.
-  Ibid, para. 216.
-  Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
-  Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 5 May 2020, Case No. KZR 36/17; Sisvel v Haier II, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17.
-  GE (Access Advance) v Vestel, District Court of Düsseldorf, judgment dated 21 December 2021, para. 216.
-  Ibid, para. 217.
-  Ibid, para. 223.
-  Ibid, para. 224.
-  Ibid, para. 228.
-  Ibid, paras. 228 et seq.
-  Ibid, paras. 228 and 230.
-  Ibid, para. 225.
-  Ibid, para. 227.
-  Ibid, para. 233.
-  Ibid, paras. 234 et seq.
-  Ibid, para. 236.
-  Ibid, paras. 240 et seqq.
-  Ibid, para. 242.
-  Ibid, paras. 244 et seqq.
-  Ibid, paras. 249 et seq.
-  Ibid, paras. 246 et seq.
-  Ibid, para. 252.
-  Ibid, para. 254.
-  Ibid, para. 261.
-  Ibid, para. 255.
-  Ibid, para. 256.
-  Ibid, para. 259.
-  Ibid, para. 260.
-  Ibid, paras. 257, 258 and 261.
-  Ibid, para. 263.
-  Ibid, para. 265.
-  Ibid, paras. 266 et seq.
-  Ibid, paras. 269 et seq.
-  Ibid, para. 271.
-  Ibid, paras. 271 et seq.
-  Ibid, para. 274.
-  Ibid, para. 276.
-  Ibid, paras. 277-279.
-  Ibid, paras. 283 et seqq.
-  Ibid, para. 285.
-  Ibid, para. 286.
-  Ibid, paras. 287 et seq.
-  Ibid, para. 288.
-  Ibid, para. 289.
-  Ibid, paras. 292 et seqq.
-  Ibid, para. 294.
-  Ibid, para. 295.
-  Ibid, para. 296.
-  Ibid, paras. 304 et seqq.
-  Ibid, para. 308.
-  Ibid, paras. 313 et seqq.
-  Ibid, para. 314
-  Ibid, para. 309
-  Ibid, para. 310.
-  Ibid, paras. 304 and 317 et seqq.
-  Ibid, para. 318.
-  Ibid, para. 324.
-  Ibid, paras. 330 and 333.
-  Ibid, para. 330.
-  Ibid, paras. 330 et seq.
-  Ibid, para. 331.
-  Ibid, para. 337.
-  Ibid, para. 338.
-  Ibid, paras. 341 et seq.
-  Ibid, para. 343.
-  Ibid, para. 340.
-  Ibid, para. 349.
-  Ibid, para. 350.
-  Ibid, paras. 388 et seqq.
-  Ibid, para. 391.
-  Ibid, paras. 392-398.
-  Ibid, para. 406.
-  Ibid, paras. 414 et seq.
-  Ibid, para. 415.
-  Ibid, para. 423.
-  Ibid, para. 424.
-  Ibid, para. 428.
-  Ibid, paras. 429 et seq.
-  Ibid, para. 432.
-  Ibid, para. 433.
-  Ibid, paras. 478 et seqq.
-  Ibid, para. 495.
-  Ibid, para. 481.
-  Ibid, paras. 483 et seqq.
-  Ibid, paras. 489 et seqq.