Case Law post CJEU ruling Huawei v ZTE

Philips v Acer

29 August 2016 - Case No. 6 U 57/16

http://caselaw.4ipcouncil.com/german-court-decisions/olg-karlsruhe-2/philips-v-acer-olg-karlsruhe

  1. Facts
    1. Decision First Instance
      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. 7 O 23/14). This case first instance concerned the infringement of the patent EP 0.745.307.B3, which covered a technology for subtitles in the DVD standard. The defendant marketed computers that use a DVD-software. The claimant, which commercialised the patent in question through a patent pool, [96] had made a FRAND-declaration to the “DVD-Forum” which administers the DVD standard. [97]
      On 30 May 2014, the defendant offered to enter into a license agreement for patent in question and respective products marketed in Germany. The license fees were based on an expert opinion which the defendant had commissioned. Alternatively, the defendant suggested that the license fees could be determined by the claimant in good faith pursuant to sec 315 of the German Civil Code. [98] The defendant made a deposit with the Düsseldorf Magistrates Court which covered use of the patent in Germany and rendered account to the claimant. On 25 July 2014, the claimant sent an amended counter-offer, which was rejected by the defendant. [99] On 13 March 2015, the claimant made another license offer for a world-wide portfolio license, giving details about the calculation of the license fee. [100] The defendant requested claim charts and rejected the calculation details as insufficient. [101]
      The District Court of Mannheim ordered the defendant to render full and detailed account of its sales (including all parties involved, the respective advertisements, all costs and profits) [102] to calculate the amount of compensation it owed. [103]
    2. The Ensuing Application for Stay of Execution
      Under the German rules of civil procedure, the Higher Regional Court can only grant a stay of execution if an appeal is pending and it is probable that the challenged decision will be overturned because it appears manifestly erroneous. [104] Alternatively, the Higher Regional Court can grant a stay of execution if the defendant (now: the applicant) can prove that the execution would cause particularly severe harm beyond the usual effects of an execution. [104]
      The applicant sought to stay the execution of the order of the District Court of Mannheim, [105] which required it to render full account. Instead, the applicant contended that it was only necessary to render information required to calculate the amount of compensation owed via license analogy (i.e. time of sale and number of units sold). [106] The Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe dismissed the application. [104] It held that the decision of the District Court of Mannheim was not manifestly erroneous. Further, the applicant had not provided sufficient evidence that particularly severe harm would be caused if the decision of the District Court of Mannheim were executed. [107]
  2. Court’s reasoning

      Most aspects of the decision do not directly relate to the Huawei ruling. However, the court held that the decision of the District Court of Mannheim was not manifestly erroneous in ordering the applicant to render accounts in full detail. It held that the District Court of Mannheim had correctly decided that the Huawei ruling did not contain any restrictions of the SEP holder’s information claims. [108] In the eyes of the District Court of Mannheim, the CJEU had not referred to means of calculating the amount of compensation owed - it had only clarified that Art. 102 TFEU does not prevent the SEP owner from demanding the alleged infringer to render accounts for use of the patent in the past. [108] Accordingly, the District Court of Mannheim considered that competition law, and in particular, the existence of a FRAND declaration, are not relevant considerations for compensation and information claims. [109] In the eyes of the court, this view is not manifestly erroneous.
  3. Other important issues
    The claimant commercialised the patent in question through a patent pool. This fact itself, according to the court, does not mean that the applicant’s interests outweigh the interests of the claimant. [110] In the past, the court had given special consideration to whether the claimant’s interests were primarily focused on receiving royalties (Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe, 23 April 2015, Case No. 6 U 44/15; Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe, 31 May 2016, Case No. 6 U 55/16). However, the court reasoned, in contrast to the case at issue, that the aforementioned decisions had concerned cases in which it was likely that the decision at first instance would not be upheld on appeal. [110]
    The court held that the decision at first instance was not manifestly erroneous in its interpretation of Art. 101 TFEU (anticompetitive conduct). The District Court of Mannheim had been of the opinion that an alleged breach of Art. 101 TFEU could not be raised as a defence in patent infringement proceedings. [111] If a standardisation agreement breached Art. 101 TFEU, the standard would be void. The Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe confirmed that it had not yet been decided by the higher courts if the commencement of patent infringement proceedings by an SEP holder constituted a breach of Art. 101 TFEU. However, even if that were the case, this defence would only be relevant against injunctions, but not in respect of compensation and rendering accounts claims. [112]
  • [96] Case No. 6 U 57/16, para 5
  • [97] Case No. 6 U 57/16, para 8
  • [98] Case No. 6 U 57/16, para 10
  • [99] Case No. 6 U 57/16, para 11
  • [100] Case No. 6 U 57/16, para 12
  • [101] Case No. 6 U 57/16, para 13
  • [102] Case No. 6 U 57/16, paras 15-19
  • [103] The decision omits further details on the decision first instance because they are not relevant for the application, see OLG Karlsruhe, 29 August 2016, Case No. 6 U 57/16, para 14
  • [104] Case No. 6 U 57/16, para 25
  • [105] Case No. 6 U 57/16, para 23
  • [106] Case No. 6 U 57/16, para 23, 31
  • [107] Case No. 6 U 57/16, para 26
  • [108] Case No. 6 U 57/16, para 31
  • [109] Case No. 6 U 57/16, para 32, 33
  • [110] Case No. 6 U 57/16, para 43
  • [111] Case No. 6 U 57/16, para 28
  • [112] Case No. 6 U 57/16, para 30