Huawei対ZTE事件CJEU判決後の判例法
gb jp cn

4iP Council siteのメインサイトに戻る

Case law search


Updated 23 1月 2018

LG Mannheim

LG Mannheim
4 3月 2016 - Case No. 7 O 24/14

A. Facts

Case No. 7 O 24/14 [1] related to the infringement of patent EP 0.734.181.B1, which covered technology for decoding video signals in the DVD standard (‘subtitle data encoding/decoding and recording medium for the same’). [2] The defendant was a German subsidiary of a Taiwanese electronics company. It sold computers that used such DVD-software. The claimant, a Japanese electronics company, commercialised the patent in question through a patent pool. In early 2013, the patent pool approached the defendant’s parent company about the use of their patents in general.

On 30 May 2014, the defendant offered to enter into a license agreement for the respective German patent. The defendant indicated that it was willing to enter into negotiations for a portfolio license (but for Germany only). It was also willing to have the claimant determine the royalties owed under section 315 of the German Civil Code. On 25 July 2014, the claimant suggested to change the license offer to a worldwide portfolio license. The defendant rejected and informed the claimant on 22 August 2014 as to the number of respective computers they put into circulation between July 2013 and June 2014 in Germany.

On 13 March 2015, the claimant made an offer for a worldwide portfolio license. On 5 May 2015, the defendant requested the relevant claim charts and further details as to how the license fees had been calculated. On 25 June 2015, the claimant sent the claim charts but refused to elaborate on the calculation method. The claimant suggested a meeting in which it would answer further questions. The defendant responded on 13 July 2015 that most of the claim charts lacked necessary details. In a meeting between the claimant and the defendant’s parent company on 3 September 2015, the parties were unable to reach an agreement. On 30 September 2015, the claimant sent a PowerPoint presentation containing explanations regarding the patent and the calculation of the license fees.

The District Court of Mannheim granted an injunction order on 4 March 2016. [3] It also held that the defendant was liable for compensation and ordered it to render full and detailed accounts of its sales to determine the amount of compensation owed. Further, the District Court ordered a recall and removal of all infringing products from the relevant distribution channels.

B. Court’s Reasoning

1. Notice of Infringement

According to the Huawei/ZTE ruling, the claimant is required to notify the defendant of the alleged patent infringement. According to the District Court, this notice is supposed to provide the defendant an opportunity to assess the patent situation. [4] Thus, it is insufficient to notify the defendant that its products contain the respective standard and it is therefore infringing the SEP. Instead, the claimant is required to specify the infringed patent, the standard in question, and that the patent has been declared essential. The level of detail required depends on the respective situation. [5] However, the description does not need to be as thorough as a statement of claim in patent litigation. In the eyes of the court, the customary claim charts (which show the relevant patent claims and the corresponding passages of the standard) will typically be sufficient. By sending the charts to the defendant, the claimant had met its obligations under the Huawei/ZTE ruling. [6]

The Huawei/ZTE principles require the SEP holder to give notice of infringement before commencing patent infringement proceedings. Otherwise, the SEP holder would abuse its market power, which would mean that the patent infringement court would not be able to grant an injunction order. However, according to the District Court, in such a situation the SEP holder would not lose its patent rights, but would be prevented from exercising those rights in court. [7] Proceedings that had been commenced prior to the Huawei/ZTE ruling present a special case. In that situation, the SEP holder could not have been aware of the obligations that the CJEU subsequently imposed on claimants. Thus, it must be possible for an SEP holder to go through the Huawei/ZTE process subsequently without losing the pending lawsuit. [8] On this basis, the District Could held that the claimant had taken all necessary steps after commencing proceedings, which met the Huawei/ZTE requirements. [9]

2. The SEP Owner’s Licensing Offer

The District Court expressed its view that the CJEU had wanted to establish a procedure that keeps the infringement proceedings free of complicated deliberations about the conditions of the offer, similarly to the German Federal Court of Justice decision Orange Book Standard. [10] If the alleged infringer argues that the conditions of the offer are not FRAND – and, according to the court, alleged infringers typically do so – it is not the role of the infringement court to examine the conditions of the offer and decide whether they are FRAND or not. [5] Thus, the District Court took the view that an infringement court only assesses in a summary review whether the conditions were not evidently non-FRAND. An offer is only non-FRAND if it is under the relevant circumstances abusive. For example, this would be the case if the conditions offered to the alleged infringer were significantly worse than those offered to third parties. [11] The District Court held that in the case in issue the royalties were not evidently non-FRAND because the royalty rates were generally accepted in the market. [12]

The offer needs to include the calculation method in respect of the royalties. [11] However, the CJEU did not elaborate on the level of detail required. [13] The District Court took the view that the SEP holder needs to enable the alleged infringer to understand why the offer is FRAND. In the case in issue, the claimant had included the calculation method. It had also provided further explanations regarding the calculation, which met the Huawei/ZTE requirements. [14]

3. The standard implementer’s reaction

The alleged infringer is required to respond to the SEP proprietor’s license offer, even if the infringer is of the opinion that the offer does not meet the FRAND criteria. [13] The only possible exception is an offer that, by means of summary examination, is clearly not FRAND, which would constitute an abuse of market power. A counter-offer would need to be made as soon as possible, taking into account recognized commercial practices in the field and good faith. The District Court held that the defendant had not made an adequate counter-offer. It is common business practice to enter into license agreements in respect of worldwide portfolio licenses. [15] The defendant’s counter-offer only included the respective German license, which was deemed by the District Court as insufficient. [15] Further, the defendant had not made an adequate deposit into the court as required under the Huawei/ZTE principles. [16]

C. Other Important Issues

The court held that the procedures prescribed by the Huawei/ZTE ruling apply to applications for injunctions and recall orders, but not to rendering accounts and compensation. Regarding rendering accounts and compensation, SEP holders could pursue their rights in court without additional requirements. [13]

Further, the District Court was of the opinion that an alleged breach of Art. 101 TFEU could not be raised as a defence in patent infringement proceedings. Even if the claimant’s conduct was anti-competitive pursuant to Art. 101 TFEU, the standardisation agreement would be void. [17] This has no implications for patent infringement proceedings.

The court also held that there was no general rule that the SEP holder could only bring proceedings against the manufacturer of the infringing product. [18] In the eyes of the District Court, the Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe decision 6 U 44/15 (23 April 2015) did not establish such a principle. In that case, the defendant was a company that acted merely as a distributor of infringing products (which means it was reselling the products without making any alterations). In contrast, the defendant in the present case had installed the infringing software onto laptops and then sold them under its own brand name. Thus, the two cases were not comparable. [18]

  • [1] See also OLG Karlsruhe, 8 September 2016, 6 U 58/16 (application to stay execution of LG Mannheim, 7 O 24/14).
  • [2]  LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, pp. 4-6.
  • [3] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, pp. 2-3.
  • [4] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 22.
  • [5] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 23.
  • [6] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 34/35.
  • [7] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 26.
  • [8] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, pp. 27-30.
  • [9] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 33.
  • [10] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 21.
  • [11] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 24.
  • [12] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 37.
  • [13] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 25.
  • [14] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 35/36.
  • [15] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 38.
  • [16] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, pp. 38-40.
  • [17] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 43.
  • [18] LG Mannheim, 4 March 2016, 7 O 24/14, p. 44.

Updated 10 4月 2019

Huawei 対 ZTE

CJEUの決定
16 7月 2015 - Case No. C-170/13

A. 内容

原告Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.は、欧州電気通信標準化機構(ETSI)が開発したLTEE無線通信規格(標準必須特許又はSEP)のプラクティスに関して必須のものとして宣言済みの特許を保有している [19] 。2009年3月、原告は、当該特許を実施者が公平、合理的かつ非差別的(Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory:FRAND)条件で利用できるようにすることをETSIに誓約した [20]

被告ZTE Corp.及びZTE Deutschland GmbHは、LTE規格にかかわる複数のSEPを保有しており [21] 、とりわけ、ドイツにおいては、LTE準拠製品の上市も行っている [22]

2010年11月から2011年3月の間、両当事者は、原告のSEPポートフォリオのライセンス許諾に関し協議していた [22] 。原告が合理的なロイヤルティとみなした金額を示したのに対し、被告は、クロスライセンス契約の締結を求めた [23] 。しかしながら、ライセンス契約の申出は決着しなかった [23]

2011年4月、原告は、被告を相手取り、差止命令、それまでの使用にかかわる計算書の提出、製品のリコール及び特許侵害にかかわる損害賠償を求めて、デュッセルドルフ地方裁判所(地方裁判所)に訴訟を提起した [24] [6]。

地方裁判所は、訴訟手続を停止し、EU機能条約(TFEU)第267条に基づく先決裁定を得るため欧州司法裁判所(CJEU)に付託した。簡潔に言えば、地方裁判所は、SEP保有者がSEP実施者に対する禁止的差止命令を求めて訴訟を提起することが支配的地位の濫用でありTFEU第102条に反するとの問題に関し、ドイツ連邦裁判所と欧州委員会が相反する立場を取っていると見られる点に着目した [25] 。オレンジブック判決において、ドイツ連邦裁判所は、SEPにかかわる権利侵害訴訟において、被告は、ライセンス契約締結にかかわる無条件かつ公正な申出を特許保有者に提示しており、過去の使用行為にかかわる計算書を提出しており、かつ、それにより生じるロイヤルティにつき保証金を支払っている限り、TFEU第102条に基づき防御する(それにより差止命令を回避する)権利を有すると判示した [26] 。これに対し、欧州委員会は、複数のEU加盟国においてサムスンがAppleを相手取り権利行使に関連して提起した訴訟において、特許保有者のFRAND誓約に従いFRAND条件でのライセンス契約について協議する意思を被告が実証している限り、SEPに関し差止命令による救済手段を求める訴訟が原則としてTFEU第102条違反になるとの見解を示した [27]

現在の判決をもって、CJEUは、SEP保有者がTFEU第102条違反を生じることなく特許実施者に対し禁止的差止命令を求める訴訟を申し立てることのできる条件を確立した。とりわけ、CJEUは、SEP保有者がFRAND条件にて特許を実施できるようにする取消不能の引受けを行った場合、訴訟提起前に次の各条件を充足している限り、差止命令又は侵害製品のリコールを求めることにより支配的地位を濫用したことにならないと裁定した。

  • まず実施者に対し、「当該特許を指し示し、何が侵害にあたるのかを明示することにより」特許侵害を通知している。
  • 次に、申立てを受けた侵害者がFRAND条件でライセンス契約を締結する意思をあらわした場合、「当該条件でのライセンス申出について、とりわけ、そのロイヤルティ及び計算方法を明示した上で、当該侵害者に書面で明確に提示している」 [28]

これに対しSEP実施者は、特許保有者が禁止的差止命令又は製品リコールを求めた訴訟について、SEP保有者の申出に遅滞なく回答した場合に限り、当該訴訟の不適切性を訴えることができる [29] 。実施者は、当該申出を拒絶した場合、次の行為をしなければならない。

  • 「FRAND条件に対応する明示的なカウンターオファーを、速やかに、かつ、書面にて」特許保有者に送付し [30] 、かつ、
  • カウンターオファーが拒絶された場合、「銀行保証又は必要な預り金等を差し出す等して」、特許の実施に必要な担保を差し出す [31]

CJEUは、過去の使用行為に関しSEP保有者によりなされる損害賠償請求又は計算書提出の請求に上記の枠組みを適用しないことを明確にした。このような請求にかかわる行為は、標準的な準拠製品の上市又は市販継続が可能かどうかを左右するものでないため、TFEU第102条の侵害にあたらない [32]

B. 判決理由

CJEUは、SEP保有者の基本的な知的財産権(IPR)を司法により有効に保護することと、自由で歪みのない競争における公益との均衡を保つ必要性を強調した [33]

両当事者は、原告の市場における支配的地位の有無については争っていなかったため、裁判所の分析ではTFEU第102条に定める「濫用」の有無に焦点が当てられた [34] 。CJEUによれば、IPRの行使が支配的地位を保有する引受行為であるとしても、「元来」濫用になりえない [35] 。さらには、IPRの行使行為が支配的地位の濫用を構成するのは、「例外的な状況」に限られる [36]

SEPが関係する事例については、他のIPR関連事例と区別する。第一に、特許がSEPにあたる場合、その特許保有者は、「競合会社の製品の上市又は市販継続を妨げ、これにより、問題の製品の製造を留保できる」ことになる [37] 。これに加え、FRAND誓約により、特許保有者は、当該規格を実装する第三者に対しFRAND条件でSEPを利用できるとの「正当な期待」をもたらしている[19]。「正当な期待」がもたらされたことにより、権利侵害を訴えられた特許実施者は、SEP保有者がFRAND条件でのライセンス許諾を拒絶していた場合、原則として、TFEU第102条に依拠して防御することができる [38]

SEP保有者が法的手続を頼ってIPRの保護を求める権利を剥奪されることはないが、CJEUは、FRANDの引受けが、差止命令による救済手段を求めるに際し特定要件を遵守する義務をSEP保有者に負わせる根拠となると判示した [39] 。特に、TFEU第102条違反を回避するには、SEP保有者は、次の条件を満たさなければならない。すなわち、(a) 禁止的差止命令を求める訴訟を提起する前に、「当該特許を指し示し、何が侵害にあたるのかを明示することにより」侵害について実施者に通知しなければならず [40] 、かつ、(b) 実施者が当該ライセンス契約を締結する意思を表明している場合、FRAND条件でのライセンス申出について、「そのロイヤルティ及び計算方法」を明示した上で、当該実施者に書面で明確に提示しなければならない [41] 。この状況において、CJEUは、SEP保有者がそのような申出をするよう期待されうると認めた。これは、原則として、一般向けの規格ライセンス契約は存在せず、また、SEP保有者が第三者と締結した既存契約の条件は公開されていないことから、被疑侵害者に比べ非差別的な条件に従った申出であるかどうか確認する方が有効であるためである [42]

その一方で、(被疑)侵害者は、SEP保有者の申出に対し、注意を払った上で「業界で認められた商慣習に従い、誠実に」対応しなければならない[11]。応じるかどうかは、とりわけ「引き延ばし戦略」が黙示されない「客観的要素」に基づき確証しなければならない。 侵害者は、条件案において特許保有者のFRAND誓約がなされていないとしてSEP保有者のライセンス申出を拒絶することとした場合は、SEP保有者にFRAND条件に基づき書面による明示的なカウンターオファーをSEP保有者に送付しなければならない[12]。当該カウンターオファーが拒絶された場合において、(被疑)侵害者がライセンスを取得せずに当該SEPを既に使用しているときは、当該(被疑)侵害者は、業界で認められた商慣習に従い、銀行保証又は必要な預り金等を差し出す等して、適切な担保を差し出す義務を負う [31] 。担保の算定においては、とりわけ、「過去のSEP使用件数」を含めなければならず、被疑侵害者は、当該使用行為にかかわる計算書を提出できるよう用意しなければならない [31] 。(被疑)侵害者によるカウンターオファーにもかかわらず合意に至らなかった時点で、CJEUは、両当事者が「共通合意」により、「独立の第三者の遅滞なき決定により」ロイヤルティを決定するよう要請するオプションを有することを指し示した [43]

最後に、CJEUは、(被疑)侵害者がライセンス契約の協議と並行してSEP保有者の特許の有効性若しくは必須性又はこれを実際に使用することにつき異議を申し立てるか、将来これを行う権利を留保することができることを明確にした [44]

 

  • [19] Huawei対ZTE、欧州司法裁判所2015年7月6日判決、第22節。
  • [20] 同判決、第22節。
  • [21] 同判決、第40節。
  • [22] 同判決、第24節。
  • [23] 同判決、第25節。
  • [24] 同判決、第27節。
  • [25] 同判決、第29節以下。
  • [26] 同判決、第30節以下。
  • [27] 同判決、第34節以下。
  • [28] 同判決、第77節。
  • [29] 同判決、第65節。
  • [30] 同判決、第66節。
  • [31] 同判決、第67節。
  • [32] 同判決、第72節以下。
  • [33] 同判決、第42節。
  • [34] 同判決、第43節。
  • [35] 同判決、第46節。
  • [36] 同判決、第47節。
  • [37] 同判決、第53節。
  • [38] 同判決、第53節以下。
  • [39] 同判決、第58節以下。
  • [40] 同判決、第61節。
  • [41] 同判決、第63節。
  • [42] 同判決、第64節。
  • [43] 同判決、第68節。
  • [44] 同判決、第69節。

Updated 26 1月 2017

Unwired Planet v Samsung

LG Düsseldorf
19 1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. [45]
    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. [46] 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. [47] Claims for information and the rendering of accounts must, in this event, be limited to what is necessary for determining FRAND-based damages. [48]
    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. [48]
  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. [49] 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. [50]
    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. [51] 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. [52]
  • [45] Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. VII, 6, a
  • [46] Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. VII, 6, b, aa, bb
  • [47] Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. VII, 6, b, dd
  • [48] Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. VII, 6, b, ee
  • [49] Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. VII, 4
  • [50] Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. VII, 5
  • [51] Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. I, 4, b, aa
  • [52] Cf. for details LG Düsseldorf, 19 January 2016 - Case No. 4b O 120/14, para. I, 4, b, bb

Updated 24 7月 2020

Sisvel 対 Haier、ドイツ連邦最高裁判所(Bundesgerichtshof)

Federal Court of Justice - BGH
5 5月 2020 - Case No. KZR 36/17

A. 事実

原告であるSisvelは、各種無線通信規格の実施において必須な(と見込まれる)ものとして宣言された特許(標準必須特許、又はSEP)を保有する。

被告は、中国に本社を置くHaier groupのドイツ及びフランスの子会社である(Haier)。Haierグループは、とりわけ、GPRS規格に適合した電子機器の製造及びマーケティングを行なっている。

2012年12月20日、Sisvelは、Haier groupの親会社(Haier China)に対し、SisvelのSEPの使用侵害について通知した。Sisvelは、そのポートフォリオに包含されたおよそ450件の特許の一覧を提示すると共に、自社のSEPについてライセンスの申出を行う旨をHaierに知らせた。

2013年4月10日、Sisvelは、公平、合理的、かつ非差別的(FRAND)な条件にて規格ユーザにSEPの利用を認めることを欧州電気通信標準化機構(「ETSI」)に確約した。

2013年8月及び11月に、Sisvelは、Haier Chinaに対し、自社のライセンスプログラムに関する情報を記した追加の書簡を送付した。Haier Chinaは、2013年12月のみ、Sisvelに対して回答し、Sisvelと「正式な交渉(formal negotiation)」を行うことを望んでいる旨を明示すると共に、これまでのやりとりでSisvelが提示した割引の可能性に関する情報の提供を求めた。

2014年8月、Sisvelは、Haierに対してライセンスの申出を行ったが、この申出は、2014年9月に拒絶された。その直後、Sisvelは、Haierに対し、GPRS規格に従い、データ送信技術を対象としたSEPに基づき、デュッセルドルフの地方裁判所(本地方裁判所)に権利侵害訴訟を申し立てた(係争特許)。これに対応して、Haierは、2015年3月に、係争特許の無効の訴えを求め、ドイツ連邦特許裁判所に訴訟を提起した。

2015年11月3日に、本地方裁判所は、Haierに対して差止命令を出した [53] 。本地方裁判所はまた、侵害製品のリコール及び破棄を命じた。さらに本地方裁判所は、実体的事項に関するHaierの損害賠償責任を認めると共に、Haierに対して、Sisvelに対する侵害製品の販売にかかわる完全かつ詳細な会計書類の提示を命じた。

Haierは、この決定を上訴すると共に、本地方裁判所により下された差止命令の執行の停止を命じるよう、デュッセルドルフ高等裁判所(Higher District Court of Duesseldorf)(本上訴裁判所)に要請した。2016年1月、本控訴裁判所は、それぞれの命令を言い渡した [54]

上訴手続きにおいて、Haierは、とりわけ、Sisvelが侵害訴訟を提起した後の、Huawei対ZTE事件の2015年7月に下された判決(Huawei判決)において欧州司法裁判所(CJEU)がSEP保有者に課した行動要件について、本地方裁判所が、これを適切に考慮しなかった旨を主張した [55] 。 本控訴裁判所での手続き中、2016年1月16日に、Haierはさらに、ドイツの裁判所が係争特許の有効性及び侵害性を最終的に認めた場合のみ、SisvelからFRANDライセンスを受けるつもりであることを宣言した。2016年3月23日に、Haierは、Sisvelに別の書簡を送り、状況が何も変わっていないことを示した。さらに、Haierは、Sisvelの全ての特許に関するクレームチャート及びロイヤルティの算定についての追加の情報を要請した。2016年12月、Sisvelは、Haierに対して新たなライセンスの申出を行ったが、この申出はまた拒絶された。

2017年3月30日付の判決により、本控訴裁判所は、Haierの上訴を部分的に認めた [56] 。本控訴裁判所は、実体的事項に関するHaierの損害賠償責任及び会計書類の提示義務を確認した。しかしながら、本上訴裁判所は、Haierが侵害製品のリコール及び破棄についていかなる義務も負うものではないと判断した。Sisvelが、特にHaierに対してFRANDライセンスの申出を行わなかったことにより、Huawei判決に基づく自らの義務を遵守しなかったからである。本上訴裁判所は、両当事者が本件については和解することに合意したため、差止命令による救済の請求について決定を下す必要はなかった。係争特許が2016年9月に満了となるからである。Sisvelは、本控訴裁判所の決定に対して不服申し立てを行った。

2017年10月、係争特許の特定のクレームの範囲を狭め、別途その有効性を確認した [57] 。2020年3月に、ドイツ連邦最高裁判所(FCJ又は本裁判所)は、第二審として本決定を概ね容認した [58]

2020年5月5日付のこの判決により  [59] (引用元 https://juris.bundesgerichtshof.de/cgi-bin/rechtsprechung/document.py?Gericht=bgh&Art=en&sid=3abd1ba29fc1a5b129c0360985553448&nr=107755&pos=0&anz=1)、FCJは、本控訴裁判所の判決を破棄した。第一審における本地方裁判所の裁定は、Sisvelの損害賠償請求及び情報及び会計書類の提示請求に関して維持された。Sisvelによる侵害製品のリコール及び破棄についての請求は、Haierが所有している製品又は係争特許が2016年9月に満了となるまでに製造され、もしくは引き渡された製品に制限された。Sisvelによる差止命令による救済の請求は、これが係争特許が失効した後に本控訴裁判所における従前の手続き中に撤回されたため、本裁判所の裁定の対象とはならなかった。


B. 判決理由 本裁判所は、係争特許がGPRS規格に必須であり、侵害を受けているとの判決を下した [60]

さらに、本裁判所は、Haierに対する侵害訴訟を開始することにより、SisvelがEU機能条約(TFEU)第102条を違反して支配的市場地位を濫用していなかったと判決を下した [61]

本裁判所の見地からは、Sisvelは、侵害訴訟を提起する前に、自らのSEPの侵害使用についてHaierに通知を交付する、Huawei判決に基づく自らの義務を履行している。一方、Haierは、Sisvelとライセンス契約を締結するという自らの誠実意思を適切に示す、自らのHuawei義務を履行しなかった。この事実は、もはや本件において決め手となるものではないが、本裁判所は、SisvelがそれぞれのHuawei要件に従ってHaierにFRANDライセンスの申出を行ったとの見解を示した。

支配的市場地位

本裁判所は、SisvelがTFEU第102条の意味の範囲内で支配的市場地位にあるとの判決を下した  [62]

FCJは、支配的市場地位が、特許により付与される独占的な権利のみによって生じるものではないと説明した [63] 。従って、いくつかの要因を考慮する必要がある [64] 。1つ目の重要な要因は関連市場である。特許が、標準化団体によって策定された基準(又はデファクトスタンダード(事実上の標準))に適合する上で技術的に必須であって、かつ、下流市場で付された製品について、当該基準に代わる技術的な手段が利用できない場合、支配性の評価に適すのは、当該特許のライセンスが提供される(個々の)市場である [65]  。

これに基づき、本裁判所は、Sisvelが支配的市場地位にあると判示した:係争特許は、GPRS規格の実施に必須であること、また、GPRS規格に適合したいかなる携帯電話も、従前の規格の世代も今後の規格の世代も同一の機能を備えることが認められていないため、(下流)市場において競業するものではないこと [66]

この状況において、FCJは、規格実施者が、商品及びサービスの市場の買主と比較して、交渉において有利な立場を得る場合が多いという事実により、SEP保有者の市場支配が制限されるというSisvelの意見を認めなかった [67] 。本裁判所は、商品やサービスの買主とは異なり、規格実施者が、特許保有者との合意を締結していなくとも、規格に準拠した製品を製造するために必要な保護された技術にアクセスできるという有利な立場にいると判断した  [68] 。しかしながら、本裁判所によると、この事実は、市場支配を除外するには十分ではない。ライセンスの交渉において個々の実施者に対するSEP保有者の交渉力の度合いは関係ない [69] 。 支配的市場地位は、独占的権利を行使して市場から実施者を排除する法的能力から生じる、特許保有者の優越した構造的な市場支配力によりもたらされる [70]

同様に、本裁判所は、SEPの行使に関するHuawei判決により課せられた制限が、市場支配(的地位)を損なうものではないことを指摘した [71] 。 本裁判所は、対等な立場で交渉を行うための手段をSEP保有者が最大限に利用できないため、これらの制限がSEP保有者の交渉上の立場を著しく弱めていると指摘した [71] 。 それにも関わらず、実施者が、特許が満了となるまで交渉を遅延することにより「ホールドアウト」行為を行うような場合でさえ、これは、特許保有者の支配的地位を問題として取り上げるには十分ではない  [71]

それでもやはり、本裁判所は、係争特許が満了したので、Sisvelの支配的市場地位が終結したことを指摘した  [72]

侵害製品を(下流)市場参入から排除する法的権利がこれ以上付与されなくなる場合、SEP保有者はもはや支配力を有しない  [72]

市場支配的地位の濫用

両当事者の行為を検討し、本裁判所は、本控訴裁判所とは異なり、Sisvelがその市場支配的地位を濫用していないと判断した  [73]  。

本裁判所は、SEP保有者が、本質的には自らの特許から生じる独占的な権利を行使することを妨げられていないことを明言した  [74] 。特許が標準必須特許であるという事実は、その特許保有者が、支配的な市場地位を有することにより、その技術の使用を許可しているか、許可するよう義務付けられていない限り、かかる使用を容認しなければならないということを意味するものではない。 [74] 。しかしながら、FCJによると、SEPの使用を許可しなければならないという義務は、実施者がFRAND条件にてライセンスを取得するつもりのない場合には存在しない。特許保有者は、とりわけライセンス契約の締結を要請する法的権利を有しないため、支配的な市場地位を有するとしても、標準必須特許の使用者に対してライセンスを「課す」義務はない。 [75]  。

こうした背景のもと、本裁判所は、SEP保有者による独占的な権利の主張(差止命令による救済並びに/又は侵害製品のリコール及び破棄の請求)が市場独占性の濫用に相当し得るという、2つの事案を特定した。

  1. 特許保有者がその支配的な市場地位を濫用したり、非差別性に関わる義務を違反することなく、かかる特許保有者によって拒絶され得ない条件にて、実施者が無条件のライセンスの申出を行なった場合(本裁判所が2009年5月6日付の「オレンジブックスタンダート事件」判決(事件番号 KZR 39/06)における従前の裁定を反芻した限りにおいて) [76]  。
  2. 実施者が、基本的に、ライセンスを取得するつもりであるが、SEP保有者がその支配的市場地位に付される「固有の責任」に従ってライセンス契約の締結を円滑に進める「十分な努力」を尽くしていない場合 [77]

権利侵害通知

結果的に、本裁判所は、SEP保有者が、侵害請求訴訟を提起する前に係争特許の侵害使用について実施者に対して通知義務を負うという見解を示した [78] 。実施者が未だ侵害を認識していない場合に限り当該義務が発生するとFCJが示唆したと思われる  [79]  。

本裁判所は、基本的には、技術実施者が、製品の製造や販売を担う前に第三者の権利が侵害されていないことを確認しなければならない旨を説示した [80]  。しかしながら、この責務は、とりわけ情報通信技術(ICT)分野においてはかなり困難なことである。ICT分野の製品は、多数の特許権の影響を受ける可能性がある  [80]  。特許保有者は、通常はすでに侵害について調査しているが、実施者がFRAND条件にてライセンスを取得する必要があるか否かを検討し、それにより差止命令を回避できるよう、裁判手続きの開始前に実施者に対して特許の使用についての情報を提供しなければならない。 [81]  。

本裁判所によると、それぞれの侵害通知は、通常、グループ会社の親会社宛に送付されることで十分とする  [82] [309] 。内容について言えば、通知には、侵害対象となった特許を明記すると共に、特定の侵害使用及び非難の対象たる実施形態について説明しなければならない [83]  。侵害の技術的かつ法的分析についての詳細は必要ない。従って、実施者は、最終的には専門家や弁護士の助言に従い、侵害の申立について専ら評価しなければならない [83]  。概して、実際にはクレームチャートを提示することで十分な場合多い(強制ではない)  [83]  。

さらに、侵害された特許及び影響を受けた規格に関する情報を提供した特許保有者は、実施者が受け取った情報が侵害を評価するには十分ではないと直ちに示すことを予測していることを、FCJは付言した [84] 。これは、多くの特許及び規格が関わる場合にも当てはまる [84]

上記の事項を考慮し、本裁判所は、Sisvelが所定の適切な侵害通知をHaierに交付したと判断した。2012年12月20日付の書簡及びその後のやりとりは、該当する要件を満たすものであった  [85]  。

誠実意思

その一方、Haierの行為を勘案し、本裁判所は、HaierがSisvelからFRAND条件によるライセンスを取得する意思のあるライセンシーとして行為しなかったと判断した [86] 。この点において、FCJは、逆の結論に至った本控訴裁判所によるそれぞれの評価に異議を示した。

本裁判所は、Haierがほぼ1年にわたって(2012年12月から2013年12月まで)、対応することをとどまっていたため、Sisvelからの通知に対するHaier Chinaの当初の回答が遅かったことに注視した [87] 。侵害通知に回答するのに数ヶ月を要する実施者というのは、通常は、ライセンスを取得することに関心のないこと示す  [87]  。Sisvelが、2012年12月のHaierに対する最初の通知の送付後になって、Sisvelが係争特許を対象としてETSIに対してFRAND確約を行なったという事実は、適時性を評価する上でいかなる意味もなさない。2012年12月20日付の書簡において、Sisvelはすでに、Haierに対してFRANDライセンスを申し出るつもりであることを宣言している [87] 。侵害訴訟手続きの開始前に行われた遅延された回答が(2013年12月からのHaierの回答と同様に)、それでもやはり、当事者らによるHuawei判決(本上訴裁判所が行なった通り)の遵守を評価する際に考慮されるか否かについての疑義は、FCJによって判断されなかった  [88]  。本件では、この疑義は関連性がない。というのは、内容の点から言えば、Haierによるいかなる回答にも、ライセンスを取得する意思が十分に示されていないからである  [89]  。

本裁判所の見地から、実施者は、「どのような条件が実際にFRANDにあたるのかにかかわらず」SEP保有者とのライセンス契約を締結する意思について、「明確に」かつ「疑義の生じないよう」宣言しなければならない(Unwired Planet 対 Huawei(英国及びウェールズ高等法院、2017年4月5日付、事件番号[2017] EWHC 711(Pat)の判決を引用)  [90]  。実施者は、その後、「目的志向」の態度にてライセンス供与の協議に参加する義務がある [317] 。むしろ、権利侵害の通知に対して、ライセンス契約締結を検討する意思を示したり、ライセンス取得の是非及びその条件についての協議に入る意思を示したりするだけでは不十分である  [90]  。

これに基づき、本裁判所は、Haierの2014年12月の回答が、「正式な交渉」を行うという見込みのみが示されているだけであって、誠実意思を宣言するには不十分であると判断した。この宣言は、上記の「明確なもの」でも「疑義の生じないもの」でもなかった  [91]

同様に、2016年1月16日付のHaierの書簡には、Haierがドイツの裁判所による係争特許の有効性及び侵害についての従前の確認を条件としてライセンス契約を締結したため、誠実意思についての十分な宣言が記載されていなかった [92]  。実施者は、原則として、ライセンス契約の締結後にはライセンス対象特許の有効性に異議を申し立てる権利を留保することができるが、本裁判所は、それぞれの条件下での誠実意思の宣言を行うことはできないと判断した [92]  。

さらに、FCJは、Haierが2016年3月23日付の書面により自らの誠実意思を十分に明示してはいなかったと判断した。Haierが上記の許容できない条件を撤回しなかったという事実とは別に、本裁判所は、侵害通知の受領後およそ3年間に渡って、全てのSisvelの特許に関するクレームチャートの作成を要請することは、Haierが係争特許が満了となるまで交渉を遅延させることにしか関心がないことを示すものであるとの見解を示した  [93]  。

Haierが誠実意思を適切に宣言しなかったため、本裁判所は、侵害手続きが開始された後に、実施者がこの義務を履行することが可能であるか否かについて回答しなかった  [94]  。

 

  • [53] Sisvel 対 Haier、デュッセルドルフ地方裁判所、2015年11月3日付判決、事件番号No. 4a O 93/14。
  • [54] Sisvel 対 Haier、 デュッセルドルフ高等裁判所、2016年1月13日付判決、事件番号No. I-15 U 66/15。
  • [55] Huawei対ZTE、欧州司法裁判所、2015年7月16日付判決、事件番号No. C-170/13。
  • [56] Sisvel v Haier、デュッセルドルフ高等裁判所、2017年3月30日付判決、事件番号No. I-15 U 66/15。
  • [57] 連邦特許裁判所、2017年10月6日付判決、事件番号No. 6 Ni 10/15 (EP)。
  • [58] 連邦裁判所、2020年3月10日付判決、事件番号No. X ZR 44/18。
  • [59] Sisvel 対Haier、連邦裁判所、2020年5月5日付判決、事件番号KZR 36/17。
  • [60] 同判決、第9節以下、及び第59節。
  • [61] 同判決、第52節。
  • [62] 同判決、第54節。
  • [63] 同判決、第56節。
  • [64] 同判決、第 57節以下。
  • [65] 同判決、第58節。
  • [66] 同判決、第59節以下。
  • [67] 同判決、第61節。
  • [68] 同判決、第63節。
  • [69] 同判決、第62節。
  • [70] 同判決、第61節以下。FCJによると、それぞれの法的障害により、会社が市場に参入することが不合理なものとなっている事実により、事前にライセンスを得ていなくとも、市場参入の障壁はすでに構築されている。第63項を参照。
  • [71] 同判決、第64節。
  • [72] 同判決、第65節。
  • [73] 同判決、第67節以下。
  • [74] 同判決、第69節。
  • [75] 同判決、第70節。
  • [76] 同判決、第71節。
  • [77] 同判決、第72節。
  • [78] 同判決、第73節以下。
  • [79] 同判決、第73節以下。 本裁判所によると、特許保有者は、規格の使用者に対し、当該使用者が規格を実施することによりその特許の内容が許可なく使用されることになるという「事実を認識していない」場合には、特許の侵害について通知しなければならない。
  • [80] 同判決、第74節。
  • [81] 同判決、第74節及び第85節。
  • [82] 同判決、第89節。
  • [83] 同判決、第85節。
  • [84] 同判決、第87節。
  • [85] 同判決、第86 節以下。
  • [86] 同判決、第91節以下。
  • [87] 同判決、第92節。
  • [88] 同判決、第93節以下。
  • [89] 同判決、第94節。
  • [90] 同判決、第83節。
  • [91] 同判決、第95節。
  • [92] 同判決、第96節。
  • [93] 同判決、第98節。
  • [94] 同判決、第97節。

Updated 16 6月 2021

Conversant v Daimler, District Court (Landgericht) of Munich I

LG Munich
30 10月 2020 - Case No. 21 O 11384/19

A. Facts

The claimant, Conversant, holds patents declared as (potentially) essential to the practice of several wireless telecommunications standards (standard essential patents, or SEPs). Conversant has made a commitment towards the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to make patents essential to a standard accessible to users on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions.

The defendant, Daimler, is a global car company with headquarters in Germany. Daimler manufactures and sells vehicles with connectivity features complying with the LTE standard developed by ETSI.

In October 2018, Conversant joined the Avanci licensing platform, which offers a patent licensing program tailored to connected cars. On 18 December 2018, Conversant made an offer for a bilateral worldwide licence to Daimler and provided information about its SEP portfolio including claim charts concerning several individual patents to the latter.

On 27 February 2019, following a respective reminder sent by Conversant, Daimler replied that it was willing to sign a FRAND licence, highlighted, however, that in the automotive sector it is common that intellectual property rights (IPRs) are licensed to suppliers. Daimler also requested information about existing licensees to Conversant's portfolio as well as an explanation which patents read on which components and why the terms offered were FRAND. Subsequently, Daimler started negotiations for a pool licence with Avanci.

On 5 July 2019, Conversant sent an e-mail to Daimler suggesting a meeting in person on 15 July 2019, since it had been informed by Avanci that the negotiations with Daimler had not been successful. Conversant also pointed out that the car makers participating in the Avanci-programme are licensed under its SEP portfolio and explained the royalty calculation underlying its own bilateral offer -inter alia- by reference to court cases (especially Unwired Planet v Huawei, UK High Court of Justice, judgment dated 5 April 2017). Conversant also intended to provide a full list of patents included in its portfolio to Daimler, the respective document was, however, not attached by mistake to the e-mail sent to Daimler.

On 29 July 2019, Daimler responded and referred to the ongoing negotiations with Avanci. It repeated the view that licensing at supplier level was more efficient and countered that a meeting in person should take place at a later point in time, since Conversant had not shared all necessary information yet.

On 13 August 2019, Conversant filed an infringement action against Daimler before the District Court of Munich I (Court), which did not include a claim for injunctive relief. On 24 August 2019, Conversant informed Daimler about the case filed in Munich and noted that it assumed that Daimler had no actual interest in obtaining a FRAND licence. Conversant also highlighted that for the calculation of royalties the value generated at end-device level should be taken into account.

On 18 September 2019, Daimler reiterated its willingness to obtain a licence and pointed out for the first time that Conversant's e-mail dated 5 July 2019 had not contained the full list of portfolio patents referred to by Conversant. This list was shared with Daimler on 20 September 2019. At the same time, Conversant suggested a meeting in person in the beginning of October 2019. On 8 October 2019, Daimler responded that a meeting could take place only in the end of October, since information needed was still missing.

On 4 December 2019, the parties met in person in Daimler's headquarters. On 15 January 2020, Conversant sent the presentation held in this meeting to Daimler and pointed out that it was willing to establish a licensing programme for Daimler's tier-1 suppliers and that it was prepared to have a meeting with Daimler and all supplier to that end. Conversant had also offered to take recourse to a neutral third party, e.g. in arbitration proceedings, for the determination of the licensing value. On 24 January 2020, Daimler explained that it had already discussed with its suppliers and was willing to organise a meeting.

On 29 January 2020, Conversant additionally raised claims for injunctive relief and the recall and destruction of infringing products against Daimler in the pending proceedings in Munich.

In February and March 2020, the parties discussed about a meeting with Daimler's tier-1 suppliers. Daimler did, however, not organise a meeting with the participation of all suppliers.

On 8 April 2020, Daimler made a counteroffer to Conversant. The counteroffer was based on the value of the Telematic Control Unit (TCU), which is the component enabling LTE-connectivity in cars.

On 30 June 2020, Conversant made a further offer to Daimler that was not accepted. On 10 August 2020, Daimler provided information to Conversant about past vehicle sales and placed security for past uses.

With the present judgment [95] , the Court found in favour of Conversant and – among other things – granted an injunction against Daimler.
 

B. Court's reasoning

The Court found that the patent in suit is essential to the LTE standard and infringed [96] . Consequently, the claims asserted by Conversant were given. The claims for injunctive relief as well as the recall and destruction of infringing products were also to be granted. By initiating infringement proceedings against Daimler, Conversant neither abused a dominant market position in terms of Article 102 TFEU (competition law defence, cf. item 1), nor violated its contractual obligations under ETSI's IPR Policy (contract law defence, cf. item 2.) [97] .
 

1. Competition law defence
Dominant market position

The Court held that Conversant had a dominant market position within the meaning of Article 102 TFEU [98] .

The exclusivity rights arising from a patent do not establish a dominant market position by themselves. [99] A market dominant position is established, when the patent is technically essential for complying with a standard developed by a standardisation body (or a de facto standard) and technical alternatives are not available for products brought on a (downstream) market [100] . In the Court's eyes, this applied to the patent in suit. [101]

Exceptional circumstances that could exclude Conversant's market dominant position here were not present. According to the Court, the sole fact that Conversant had made a FRAND commitment towards ETSI establishing an obligation to grant FRAND licences did not per se exclude market dominance; decisive is, moreover, whether the SEP holder actually meets this obligation. [102] Furthermore, the additional option to get a license from the patent in suit from Avanci did not limit Conversant's market dominant position. [103]
 

No abuse of market dominance

The Court found, however, that Conversant had not abused its dominance by filing an action for injunctive relief as well as the recall and destruction of infringing products against Daimler.

In cases, in which the implementer already uses protected standardised technology, the assessment of the SEP holder's behaviour requires a comprehensive analysis, in which the constitutionally guaranteed strong protection of IPRs, on the one hand, and the interest of users to access the standard, on the other hand, must be balanced against one another. [104] In this context, not only private interests, but also the public interest must be taken into account. [105] The Court highlighted that the public interest is not to be seen as just the 'sole sum of private interests in using standardised technology', but equally includes the substantial interest of the public to protect the integrity of IPRs and secure effective enforcement. [106]

Considering the 'particular nature' of SEPs especially in the telecommunications field, the Court held -in line with the Huawei v ZTE judgment (Huawei judgment) of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) [107] - that it is justified to impose certain conduct obligations on SEP holders. Reason for this is, basically, that -unlike 'regular' patents- SEPs are established in the market through their inclusion in the standard, without further action by the patent holder. [108] Consequently, the need to secure a competitive advantage for the inventor of a patented technology in the market by granting exclusivity rights for a certain period of time is less compelling in relation to SEPs compared to non-standard-essential patents. [109]

Having said that, the Court made, however, clear that the conduct duties imposed on the SEP holder by the Huawei judgement exist only towards an implementer, who 'seriously and not only in words' wants to sign a licence. [110] Accordingly, a defence based on an alleged abuse of market dominance can be successful, only when the implementer that wants to use, or already uses the patent without authorisation is willing to obtain a FRAND licence and refrain from delaying tactics throughout the licensing negotiations with the SEP holder. [111] The Court noted that the key notion underlying the Huawei judgment that parties are best situated to determine FRAND in fair, balanced and swift negotiations relies on a constructive involvement of both parties which is driven by the actual 'sincere motivation' to reach an agreement. [112]
 

Notification of infringement

Looking at the parties' behaviour, the Court held that Conversant fulfilled the duty to notify Daimler about the infringement of its SEPs by sending the letter dated 18 December 2018, which contained sufficient information about its portfolio, including claim charts covering several patents. [113] Whether Conversant had sufficiently explained the royalty calculation underlying the licensing offer that was also attached to this letter, was not relevant, since, at this stage, Conversant had not even been obliged to make an offer to Daimler. [114]
 

Willingness

On the other hand, the Court found that Daimler had not been willing to take a licence from Conversant: On the contrary, the Court identified a 'particularly clear case of missing willingness'. [115]

In terms of content, the implementer must 'clearly' and 'unambiguously' declare willingness to conclude a licence agreement with the SEP holder on 'whatever terms are in fact FRAND' and, subsequently, engage in negotiations in a 'target-oriented' and 'constructive' manner. [116] By contrast, it is not sufficient, in response to the (first) notification of infringement, to just demonstrate willingness to consider signing a licensing agreement or to enter into negotiations about whether and under which conditions taking a licence comes into question. [116]

The Court explained that the assessment of willingness requires a comprehensive analysis of all facts until the end of the oral hearings in the infringement proceedings. [117] Establishing whether willingness is given cannot be a question answered by a 'formalistic snapshot' of the implementer's conduct; what is more, the implementer cannot remain inactive until -in its view- the SEP holder has met its obligations first. [117]

In addition, the Court highlighted that timing in negotiations is a factor, which must be considered in the assessment of willingness as well. [118] Otherwise, implementers would lack motivation to seriously engage in negotiations in a timely manner. [119] Rigid deadlines cannot be set, a case-by-case assessment is needed. [120] An implementer, who has been notified about the infringement, is, however, obliged to legitimize the -unlawful- use of the patent(s) as soon as possible by signing a FRAND-licence with the SEP holder. [120]

Furthermore, the Court reasoned that whether and at which time the implementer made a counteroffer to the SEP holder can also be an 'important indicator' of (un-)willingness. [121] A counteroffer made after the initiation of infringement proceedings will, as a rule, not be acceptable. [122] According to the Court, implementers should not be allowed to engage in negotiations only 'for appearance's shake' and then pull the 'emergency brake' against a potential conviction in infringement proceedings by making a counteroffer. [119] Exceptionally, a counteroffer made during trial could be considered in the assessment of willingness in cases, in which the implementer was willing from the start of the negotiations and always engaged constructively in the discussions with the patent holder. [123]

In line with the above, the Court pointed out that, in general terms, delaying tactics initially applied by an implementer cannot be 'undone' at a later point in time without more ado. [124] Nevertheless, the belated declaration of willingness does not 'automatically' prevent an implementer from raising a 'FRAND-defence' in infringement proceeding: Whether this will be the case or not, shall be decided on a case-by-case basis on grounds of the overall circumstances of the negotiation history. [125]

Against this backdrop and under consideration of Daimler's overall behaviour, the Court reached the conclusion that -although acting in a FRAND-compliant manner would have actually been possible and reasonable [126] - Daimler had chosen to apply delaying tactics [127] .

The Court found that by directing Conversant to its suppliers, Daimler had not expressed willingness to take a licence on 'whatever terms are in fact FRAND', but rather made clear that it was not prepared to take a licence from Conversant itself. [128] Indemnification clauses regarding third-party IPRs potentially agreed between Daimler and its suppliers played insofar no role, as Daimler infringed Conversant's patents independently and must, therefore, be held accountable for that. [128]

A further indication of Daimler's unwillingness was the fact that it took Daimler more than two months to inform Conversant that it had not received a list of portfolio patents that was unintentionally not attached to the e-mail sent by Conversant on 5 July 2020. [129] The Court equally criticized the fact that Daimler had at no point in time posed questions to Conversant on the claim charts provided by the later, but raised concerns against the quality of the patents only in the pending infringement trial. [130]

The Court saw an additional 'substantial' indication of unwillingness in Daimler's response dated 27 July 2020, in which the latter had expressly limited its willingness to sign a licence to products, which were either not licenced yet or purchased by suppliers unwilling to take a licence from Conversant themselves. [131] The Court particularly objected Daimler's choice to define the 'unwillingness' of its suppliers as a condition for signing an own licence with Conversant. [132]

The fact that Daimler had not responded to the proposal to use alternative dispute resolution methods and particularly arbitration for the determination of FRAND-royalties, which Conversant had made at the parties' meeting on 4 December 2019, was also considered as a sign of unwillingness on the side of Daimler. [133]

An additional 'clear' indication of unwillingness and delaying tactics was -according to the Court- the fact that, following the discussion of 4 December 2019, Daimler did not organise a meeting with all tier-1 suppliers, in order to discuss a potential direct licensing option with Conversant, despite having implied that this option had already been discussed with its suppliers. [134]
 

Counteroffer

Subsequently, the Court noted that Daimler's counteroffer dated 8 April 2020 could not remedy the missing willingness which Daimler had displayed until then. [135] Moreover, it rather served as an 'alibi'. [126]

In the eyes of the Court, the counteroffer was belated, since it was made more than 1 year and 4 months after Conversant's offer. [135] What is more, Daimler made the counteroffer during the pendency of the infringement proceedings, which was not acceptable, given that until that point it had been clearly unwilling to take a licence. [136] The Court also explained that Daimler could not excuse the delay by claiming that Conversant had not provided necessary information, since the counteroffer was based on generally known and available data without an underlying detailed analysis; accordingly, it could have been made earlier, that is shortly after receipt of Conversant's initial offer. [137]

Besides that, the Court found that Daimler's counteroffer was, in terms of content, 'evidently not FRAND'. [138] Based on a summary analysis, the licensing fees offered by Daimler were considered to be evidently too low. [139]

The Court noted that FRAND is a range and that there are several methods for calculating FRAND royalties. [139] The Court relied on the so-called 'top-down'-approach (which both Conversant and Daimler had used). [140] Looking at Daimler's 'top-down'-calculation, the Court held that taking the number of all patents declared as standard-essential towards ETSI as the basis for determining Conversant's share of LTE-related SEPs was not in line with FRAND-principles. [141] Considering that not all declared patents are actually standard-essential (a phenomenon described as 'over-declaration'), the use of the total number of declared patents benefits Daimler: Conversant's share of SEPs would per se be higher, if the (lower) number of actually standard-essential LTE patents would be used as basis for the calculation. [141]

In addition, the Court pointed out that the average purchase price of the TCU is no adequate royalty base under FRAND principles. [142] The value of a SEP is reflected by a royalty, which is adequately in proportion to the value of the service provided. [143] According to the Court, in the present case, economic value is created by the offering of LTE-enabled functionalities in Daimler's cars and the use of such functionalities by Daimler's customers. [143] As a consequence, relevant is the value, which Daimler's customers attach to the LTE-based features in a car. [143] The purchase price of TCUs paid by Daimler to its suppliers does not mirror this value. [143]
 

FRAND defence raised by suppliers / licensing level

The Court further explained that Daimler could not invoke the (alleged) willingness of its suppliers to take a licence from Conversant for establishing a FRAND defence. [144]

If an implementer, along with its own declaration of willingness, expresses the wish that licensing takes place at supplier level, it is obliged to comprehensively disclose in writing, which standard-compliant components are integrated in its products and which suppliers provide such components. [145] If this information and disclosure duty is not met, as it was the case here, a request for licensing at supplier level contradicts the implementer's declaration that it is willing to sign an own licence with the SEP holder, and is, therefore, a sign of bad faith (Sec. 242 German Civil Code). [146] In this context, the Court made clear that the implementer is obliged to still pursue bilateral negotiations with the SEP holder in a timely and target-oriented manner, even if -after having provided the aforementioned information to the latter- it is in parallel actively engaged towards facilitating the establishment of a licensing regime at supplier level. [147] In the bilateral negotiations with the SEP holder, the implementer could, however, insist that a clause excluding double payments for components already licensed to suppliers is included in the agreement. [147]

In line with the above, the Court confirmed that by seeking to license Daimler, Conversant did not act in an abusive or discriminatory way. [148]

In the view of the Court, the fundamental question whether the so-called 'license-to-all' or 'access-to-all' approach should be followed with respect to SEP licensing in a supply chain, did not need to be answered here. [149] In legal disputes between a SEP holder and an end-device manufacturer it is sufficient from a competition law angle that the objectives pursued by the SEP holder in the proceedings do not exclude suppliers from the market; this is true, when suppliers are granted access to the standardised technology through 'have-made' rights established by the licence signed by the end-device manufacturer, as Conversant had offered. [149] Whether suppliers have individual claims for being granted a licence is a distinct question, that could be potentially raised in separate proceedings between the SEP holder and the supplier. [150]

The Court added that the SEP holder is free to decide against which infringer within a supply chain court proceedings will be initiated. [151] The respective right of choice is derived from the constitutionally guaranteed protection of property as well as the very nature of patents as exclusionary rights. [152]

According to the Court, the common practice in the automotive field that components are sold to car manufacturers free of third-party rights does not render Conversant's pursuit to license Daimler abusive in antitrust terms. [153] Respective agreements between end-device manufacturers and suppliers have only bilateral (contractual) effects and cannot impair the legal position of third parties. [153] In particular, they cannot limit the SEP holder's right to choose the level of the value chain for the assertion of its patents. [154] The Court noted that the need to abandon existing practices in the automotive sector is of no importance from an antitrust angle, given that the integration of additional technologies serves Daimler's economic interest to access new markets and customer groups. [154]

In this context, the Court also explained that the SEP holder is not obliged to perform duties under the Huawei judgment towards suppliers, as far as infringement proceedings are initiated only towards the end-device manufacturer. [155] Accordingly, a supplier joining such proceedings cannot invoke that the SEP holder abused its market dominance e.g. by omitting a separate notification of infringement addressed to the supplier. [156] The Court denied such comprehensive notification duty of SEP holders, since in multi-level supply chains it is neither feasible nor reasonable to identify all suppliers involved. [157]

In the Court's view, the question whether the SEP holder has abused its market dominance by denying a direct licence to a supplier is subject to general competition law principles. [158] In the present case, the Court did not see sufficient grounds for such abuse. [158] It was not convinced that -absent an own bilateral licence- suppliers are left without rights or face legal uncertainty. [159] The fact that an individual bilateral licence would give suppliers broader freedom to operate than 'have-made' rights might serve their commercial interests, is, however, not of relevance with respect to proceedings between SEP holders and end-device manufacturers, as long as adequate access to the standard is provided to suppliers through 'have-made' rights. [160] Insofar, the Court noted that co-operation within a supply chain on basis of 'have-made' rights is wide-spread and common in practice and also supported by EU law (Commission notice of 18 December 1978 concerning its assessment of certain subcontracting agreements in relation to Article 85 (1) of the EEC Treaty, OJ C 1, 3 January 1979). [160]

Finally, the Court dismissed the argument, that Conversant had allegedly colluded with other members of the Avanci platform to specifically discriminate implementers by excluding access to the relevant standards. [161] The Court saw no indication that this was the case here, but rather highlighted the pro-competitive effects which patent pools are generally recognised to have, not least by EU law (para. 245 of the Guidelines on the application of Article 101 TFEU to technology transfer agreements; 2014/C 89/03). [161]
 

2. Contract law defence

The Court further found that Daimler could not defend itself against the claim for injunctive relief by invoking a contractual claim against Conversant for being granted a FRAND licence, since such claim did not exist. [162] Daimler had argued that Conversant's FRAND commitment towards ETSI prevented the latter from asserting claims for injunctive relief before court.

The Court found that the ETSI FRAND undertaking does not establish duties or rights different than those established by European competition law (especially Art. 102 TFEU), which Conversant had met in the present case. [163] In legal terms, the ETSI FRAND undertaking is a contract for the benefit of a third party under French law ('stipulation pour l'autrui'), containing a binding promise of the SEP holder to grant a FRAND licence at a later point in time. [164] The content and the extent of the corresponding obligation to negotiate a licence is, however, to be interpreted in line with the Huawei judgment, which has defined a standard of conduct based on Art. 102 TFEU. [164] The fact that the ETSI FRAND commitment materialises the requirement to provide access to the standard stipulated by Art. 101 TFEU speaks also in favour of applying a uniform standard of conduct. [164] In the eyes of the Court, French law cannot establish further going conduct duties, since it must be interpreted within the spirit of EU law. [164]
 

C. Other important issues

Finally, the Court took the view that there are no grounds for a limitation of Conversant's claim for injunctive relief due to proportionality considerations. [165] Under German law, proportionality is a general principle of constitutional rank to be considered also with respect to injunctive relief, if a respective objection is raised by the defendant in trial. [165] The Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) has also recognised that an injunction might not be immediately enforceable in exceptional cases, in which the implementer would suffer hardships not justified by the patent holder's exclusionary right in violation of the principle of good faith ('Wärmetauscher'ruling dated 10 May 2016, Case No. X ZR 114/13). [165] In the eyes of the Court, Daimler had, however, not pleaded any relevant facts in the present proceedings. [165]

  • [95] Conversant v Daimler, District Court of Munich I, 30 October 2020, Case-No. 21 O 11384/19 (cited by juris).
  • [96] Ibid, paras.122-265.
  • [97] Ibid, para. 285.
  • [98] Ibid, para.286.
  • [99] Ibid, para.288.
  • [100] Ibid, paras.287 et seqq.
  • [101] Ibid, paras.291 et seqq.
  • [102] Ibid, para.295.
  • [103] Ibid, para.296.
  • [104]  Ibid, para. 299.
  • [105] Ibid, para. 300.
  • [106] Ibid, para.300.
  • [107] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [108] Conversant v Daimler, District Court of Munich I, 30 October 2020, Case-No. 21 O 11384/19, para.301.
  • [109] Ibid, para.301.
  • [110] Ibid, para.307.
  • [111] Ibid, para.308.
  • [112] Ibid, paras.302 and 308.
  • [113] Ibid, paras. 323 et seqq.
  • [114] Ibid, para.324. The Court expressed, nevertheless, doubts that the sole reference to the calculation method used by the UK High Court in Unwired Planet v Huawei would prove sufficient for the explanation of the rates offered by Conversant to Daimler.
  • [115] Ibid, para. 309.
  • [116] Ibid, para. 310.
  • [117] Ibid, para. 316.
  • [118]  Ibid, para. 311.
  • [119] Ibid, para. 312.
  • [120] Ibid, para. 320.
  • [121] Ibid, para. 311.
  • [122] Ibid, paras. 312 and 316.
  • [123] Ibid, para. 315.
  • [124] Ibid, paras.317 et seqq.
  • [125] Ibid, para. 321.
  • [126] Ibid, para.357.
  • [127] Ibid, paras.322 and 358.
  • [128] Ibid, para.328.
  • [129] Ibid, paras.331 and 336.
  • [130] Ibid, para.332.
  • [131] Ibid, paras.334 and 336.
  • [132] Ibid, para.335.
  • [133] Ibid, para.337.
  • [134] Ibid, para.338.
  • [135] Ibid, para.339.
  • [136] Ibid, para.340.
  • [137] Ibid, paras.355 et seq.
  • [138] Ibid, paras.341 and 354.
  • [139] Ibid, para.341.
  • [140] Ibid, paras.341 and 348.
  • [141] Ibid, para.352.
  • [142] Ibid, para.353.
  • [143] Ibid, para.353
  • [144] Ibid, para.360.
  • [145] Ibid, para.362.
  • [146] Ibid, paras.362 and 364.
  • [147] Ibid, para.363.
  • [148] Ibid, para.365.
  • [149] Ibid, para.366.
  • [150] Ibid, para.367.
  • [151] Ibid, paras.368 and 382.
  • [152] Ibid, para.368.
  • [153] Ibid, para.370.
  • [154] Ibid, para.372.
  • [155] Ibid, paras.373 and 376-378.
  • [156] Ibid, para.373.
  • [157] Ibid, paras.373 and382.
  • [158] Ibid, paras.373 and 379.
  • [159] Ibid, para.374.
  • [160] Ibid, para.375.
  • [161] Ibid, para.380.
  • [162] Ibid, para.384.
  • [163] Ibid, paras.384 et seqq.
  • [164] Ibid, para.385.
  • [165] Ibid, para.269.

Updated 6 5月 2021

Sisvel v Haier

Federal Court of Justice - BGH
24 11月 2020 - Case No. KZR 35/17

A. Facts

The claimant, Sisvel, holds patents declared as (potentially) essential to the practice of several wireless telecommunications standards (standard essential patents, or SEPs). Sisvel has made a commitment towards the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to make SEPs accessible to users on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions.

The defendants are two European subsidiaries of the Haier group (Haier), which has its headquarters in China. The Haier group produces and markets -among other things- mobile phones and tablets complying with various standards, including the GPRS and UMTS standards developed by ETSI.

On 20 December 2012, Sisvel informed the parent company of the Haier group (Haier China) that it offers licences for its SEPs and shared a list of approx. 235 patents included in its portfolio. In August and November 2013, Sisvel sent further letters with information about its licensing program to Haier China.

Haier China replied to Sisvel only in December 2013. It expressed 'hope' to have 'a formal negotiation' with Sisvel and asked for information regarding potential discounts mentioned in previous communi­cations.

In August 2014, Sisvel made an offer for a global portfolio licence to Haier, which was rejected.

Shortly after that, Sisvel filed infringement actions against Haier before the District Court of Duesseldorf (District Court). One of the actions was based on a SEP reading on the UMTS standard (patent in suit). The other action involved a patent reading on the GPRS standard. Haier filed nullity actions against both patents asserted before the German Federal Patent Court.

During the infringement proceedings, Haier made certain counteroffers to Sisvel. These offers had a limited scope, since they covered only the patents (patent families) asserted against Haier in court.

On 3 November 2015, the District Court decided in favour of Sisvel in both cases [166] . It granted injunctions against Haier and ordered the recall and destruction of infringing products. The District Court further recognised Haier's liability for damages on the merits and ordered Haier to render full and detailed account of the sales of infringing products to Sisvel. Haier appealed both decisions.

In the subsequent proceedings before the Higher District Court of Duesseldorf (Appeal Court), Haier argued –among other things– that the District Court had not adequately taken into account the conduct requirements imposed on SEP holders by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) in the Huawei v ZTE ruling [167] (Huawei judgment) rendered after Sisvel had filed the infringement actions.

On 16 January 2016, during the course of the proceedings before the Appeal Court, Haier declared that it was willing to take a FRAND licence from Sisvel, however, only in case that the German courts would finally confirm the validity and infringement of the patent in suit. Haier also requested claim charts with respect to all patents included in Sisvel's portfolio.

In December 2016, Sisvel made a further licensing offer to Haier, which was also rejected.

On 20 January 2017, that is a few weeks prior to the end of the oral arguments in the appeal proceedings, Haier made a further counteroffer to Sisvel. The licence offered would cover only the two subsidiaries of the Haier group sued in Germany. An agreement was not reached.

By two judgments dated 30 March 2017, the Appeal Court partially granted Haier's appeals in both parallel proceedings [168] . The claims for injunctive relief as well as the recall and destruction of infringing products were dismissed on the grounds that Sisvel had not complied with its obligations under the Huawei judgment, especially by failing to make a FRAND licensing offer to Haier.

Sisvel appealed the decisions of the Appeal Court.

In April 2020, the Federal Court of Justice (FCJ or Court) finally dismissed the invalidity action filed by Haier against the patent in suitFederal Court of Justice, judgment dated 28 April 2020, Case No. X ZR 35/18..

On 5 May 2020, FCJ rendered a judgment in the parallel proceedings pending between the parties concerning the patent reading on the GPRS standard [170] . The Court decided in favour of Sisvel and reversed the judgment of the Appeal Court. With the present judgmentSisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17 (cited by )., the Court reversed the decision of the Appeal Court also in the case involving the patent in suit.
 

B. Court's reasoning

The Court found that the patent in suit was essential to the UMTS standard and infringedIbid, paras. 10-43..

Contrary to the view previously taken by the Appeal Court, FCJ found that by initiating infringement proceedings against Haier, Sisvel had not abused a dominant market position in violation of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) [173] .
 

Dominant market position

The Court held that Sisvel had a dominant market position within the meaning of Article 102 TFEUIbid, paras. 48 et seqq..

FCJ explained that a dominant market position is given, when a patent is technically essential for comply­ing with a standard developed by a standardisation body (or a de facto standard) and technical alterna­tives to the standard are not available for products brought on a downstream marketIbid, para. 49.. Even when alternative (technical) options exist, market domi­nance can arise as long as products not using the teaching of the patent cannot compete in a (downstream) market.Ibid, para. 49. According to the FCJ, this applied with respect to the patent in suit.
 

Abuse of market dominance

The Court found, however, that Sisvel had not abused its dominant market position by filing infringement actions against HaierIbid, para. 52.. An abuse of market dominance can occur, when the SEP holder
 

  • refuses to grant a FRAND licence to an implementer willing to take such licence and brings a court action against the latter, asserting claims for injunctive relief (and/or the recall and destruction of infringing products), or
  • has not made 'sufficient efforts' in line with the 'particular responsibility' attached to its dominant position to facilitate the signing of a licence agreement with an implementer, who is, basically, willing to take a licenceIbid, para. 53..

In the eyes of the Court, in both above scenarios, the filing of an action against a 'willing' implementer amounts to an abuse, only because the latter has a claim to be contractually allowed by the SEP holder to use the teachings of the patent under FRAND conditionsIbid, para. 54.. On the other hand, an abuse is regularly not per se established by an offer made by the patent holder at the beginning of negotiations, even when the terms offered would unreasonably impede or discriminate the implementer, if contractually agreed.Ibid, para. 54. An abuse would be given, if the SEP holder insisted on such conditions also at the end of licensing negotiations with the imple­menter.Ibid, para. 54.
 

Notification of infringement

The Court explained that the 'particular responsibility' of a market dominant patent holder materializes in an obligation to notify the implementer about the infringement of the patent in suit prior to filing an action, in case that the implementer is (potentially) not aware that by complying with the standard said patent is usedIbid, para. 55..

In the present case, the Court found that by the letter dated 20 December 2012 and the following correspondence Sisvel had given proper notification of infringement to HaierIbid, para. 84..
 

Willingness

On the other hand, the Court found that Haier did not act as a licensee willing to obtain a FRAND licence from SisvelIbid, paras. 86 et seqq.. In this respect, FCJ disagreed with the Appeal Court, which had taken the opposite view.

In the Court's eyes, the implementer must 'clearly' and 'unambiguously' declare willingness to conclude a licence agreement with the SEP holder on FRAND terms and, subsequently, engage in negotiations in a 'target-oriented' manner [182] . By contrast, it is not sufficient, in response to a notification of infringement, to just demonstrate willingness to consider signing a licensing agreement or to enter into negotiations about whether and under which conditions taking a licence comes into question [182] .

The Court reasoned that the willingness of the implementer to legitimise the unauthorized use of the patent for the future by creating a respective contractual base is a prerequisite for placing the burden on the SEP holder to negotiate a FRAND licence with the implementer. [183] What is more, willingness (on both sides) is essential, because an adequate solution balancing the opposing interests of the parties results, as a rule, from an interest-based negotiation. [184] The fact that a party fails to contribute in negotiations towards a FRAND agreement will regularly be considered to its detriment. [185] An implementer, who has not shown interest in a FRAND-licence over a longer period after receipt of an infringement notification will have to undertake 'additional efforts' to make sure, that despite the delay caused a licence can be signed as soon as possible. [186]

The Court highlighted particularly that implementers should not engage in 'patent hold-out' by exploiting the 'structural disadvantage', which SEP holders face due to the limitation of their right to assert patents in court. [187] Otherwise, competition could be distorted, because the infringer would gain unfair advantages over implementers that have taken a licence in a timely manner. [187]

FCJ took the view that the above interpretation of the requirements related to the implementers' obligation to demonstrate willingness to obtain a FRAND-licence is in line with the Huawei judgment; a new referral of the respective questions to the CJEU, as requested by Haier, was not needed.Ibid, para. 63. The Huawei judgment created a 'safe harbour' against antitrust liability in the sense that compliance with the obligations established will regularly suffice to exclude an abuse of market dominance.Ibid, para. 65. Under special circumstances, however, stricter or less strict conduct duties of the parties could be justified.Ibid, para. 65.

The Court observed that the Huawei judgment supports the notion that the implementer should remain willing to obtain a licence throughout the course of negotiations.Ibid, para. 65. The 'continuous' willingness is an 'indispensable condition' for successful negotiations or, in case negotiations fail, for a finding of abuse of market dominance on the side of the SEP holder.Ibid, para. 68. The refusal of SEP holder to grant a FRAND licence would, indeed, have no relevance in antitrust terms, when the implementer is not objectively willing and able to obtain such licence. [191]

Accordingly, FCJ explained that willingness shall (still) be in place, also when the SEP holder makes a licensing offer.Ibid, para. 69. In this regard, the Court disagreed with the District Court of Duesseldorf, which had expressed the opposite view in the recent referral of certain FRAND-related questions to the CJEU in the matter Nokia v Daimler.Ibid, para. 69. See Nokia v Daimler, District Court of Duesseldorf, order dated 26 November 2020, Case No. 4c O 17/19. According to FCJ, the offer of the SEP holder is just the 'starting point' of negotiations; since FRAND is a range, it is the goal of negotiations to reach a fair and reasonable result considering the interests of both sides.Ibid, paras. 70 and 71. The implementer has, therefore, a duty to examine the FRAND-conformity of the terms of the SEP holder's offer.Ibid, para. 71. If the offer is 'obviously' not FRAND, it will be sufficient that the implementer explains the reasons why this is the case.Ibid, para. 71.

In this context, the Court made clear that the implementer's duty to examine SEP-holder's licensing offer exists, irrespective of whether the offer is, in terms of content, FRAND-compliant in every respect.Ibid, para. 72. If one would require from the SEP holder to make a 'perfect' FRAND offer right away, licensing negotiations would be obsolete.Ibid, para. 73. It is also not possible to assess the FRAND-conformity of the offer in the abstract, without reference to the aspects which each side considers relevant.Ibid, para. 74. The Court reiterated that an non-FRAND licensing offer does not per se amount to an abuse of market dominance.Ibid, para. 76.

Having said that, FCJ noted that for the assessment of the willingness of the implementer its entire conduct (including its reaction to the SEP holder's licensing offer) must be taken into account.Ibid, para. 77. Consequently, willingness can change in the course of time: a court action filed by the SEP holder could become abusive at a later point in time, if the implementer adequately raises a request for a FRAND-licence.Ibid, paras. 79 et seqq. However, the longer the implementer waits with asserting such request, the higher the threshold for considering it as a willing licensee will be. [202] The Court again noted that the above inter­pretation is in line with the Huawei judgment, so that no additional referral to the CJEU is needed, as Haier had requested.Ibid, para. 77.

Against this background, the Court observed that the first response of Haier China to Sisvel's notification almost one year after receipt of the infringement notification was belated [203] . An implementer taking several months to respond to a notification of infringement, typically, sends a signal that there is no interest in taking a licence [203] . Besides that, FCJ found that Haier's response in December 2013, in which only the 'hope' to have a 'formal negotiation' was expressed, was not a sufficient declaration of willing­ness, in terms of content [204] . Since it had reacted belatedly to the notification of infringement, Haier should have undertaken 'additional efforts' to demonstrate willingness, which had been, however, not the case. [205]

Similarly, Haier's letter dated 16 January 2016 did not contain a sufficient declaration of willingness, since Haier had made the signing of a licence subject to the prior confirmation of the validity and infringement of the patent in suit by German courts [206] . Although the implementer is, in principle, allowed to preserve the right to contest the validity of a licensed patent after conclusion of an agreement, the Court held that a declaration of willingness cannot be placed under a respective conditionIbid, para. 95.. Besides that, requesting the production of claim charts for all patents of Sisvel's portfolio almost three years after the receipt of the notification of infringement was, according to the Court, an indication that Haier was only interested in delaying the negotiations until the expiration of the patent in suit [208] .

Furthermore, FCJ found that Haier's willingness to enter into a FRAND licence could also not be extracted from the counteroffers made during the infringement proceedings.Ibid, paras. 102 et seqq. The fact that these counteroffers were, in terms of scope, limited only to the patents asserted by Sisvel in court indicated that Haier had not seriously addressed Sisvel's request for a worldwide portfolio licence. [210] Given that it had more than sufficient time to examine Sisvel's portfolio, one could expect from Haier to provide substantive grounds for such 'selective licensing'. [210]

What is more, the Court held that the counteroffer dated 20 January 2017, which Haier had made shortly before the end of the appeal proceedings, was no sufficient demonstration of willingness either.Ibid, paras. 108 et seqq. The Court focused particularly on the fact that the licence would cover only the two affiliates of the Haier group sued in Germany.Ibid, para. 116. According to FCJ, Haier had no 'legitimate interest' on such 'selective licensing'; on the contrary, a limited licence would offer no sufficient protection against infringement by other companies of the Haier group and force Sisvel to a cost-intensive assertion of its SEPs 'patent to patent and country-by-country'.Ibid, para. 118.

In addition, the Court also criticised the proposed royalty regime.Ibid, paras. 124 et seqq. Haier based the royalty calculation only on a small portion (four patent families) of the SEPs that should be included in the licence, which, in its eyes, were 'probably' essential.Ibid, para. 124. The Court reasoned that the scope of the licence must be clarified in negotiations, whereas in the ICT-sector, due to the large number of relevant patents, it is common to rely on estimations regarding both essentiality and validity, which, on the one hand, allow to take 'necessary remaining uncertainties' adequately into account and, on the other hand, help to avoid disproportionate high transaction costs.Ibid, para. 125.

Apart from that, the fact that the counteroffer was made only in the 'last minute' of the appeal proceedings allowed the conclusion that Haier was not actually aiming at signing a FRAND licence, but was rather motivated by tactical considerations with respect to the pending proceedings.Ibid, para. 126.
 

SEP holder's licensing offer

Having found that Haier had not sufficiently demonstrated willingness to obtain a FRAND licence, the Court did not examine the FRAND-conformity of Sisvel's licensing offers to Haier in the present case [218] . According to FCJ, this question is not relevant, when the implementer has not adequately expressed willingness to sign a FRAND licence.Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17, para. 107.

The Court highlighted that -apart from the obligation to notify the implementer about the infringement- duties of the SEP holder (including the duty to make a FRAND licensing offer) arise only if the implementer has demonstrated willingness to obtain a licence on FRAND terms.Ibid, para. 56. The FRAND-undertaking of the patent holder towards the relevant standardisation body does not change the fact that the user of a patent is, in principle, obliged to seek a licence from the right holder.Ibid, para. 56.
 

C. Other important issues

Patent ambush

The Court dismissed Haier's defence based on the 'patent ambush' argument.Ibid, paras. 127 et seqq. Haier argued that the patent in suit was unenforceable, because the initial patent holder, from whom Sisvel had acquired said patent, had failed to disclose the patent towards ETSI in due course during the development of the UMTS standard.

The Court did not examine whether a 'patent ambush' in the above sense indeed occurred in the present case.Ibid, para. 130. FCJ took the view that an implementer can assert 'patent ambush' only against the patent holder that actually participated in the standard development process; on the contrary, such defence cannot be raised against its successor (here: Sisvel).Ibid, para. 130.

Notwithstanding the above, the Court noted that a 'patent ambush' requires that the decision-making process within the relevant standardisation body was distorted by the withheld information.Ibid, para. 131. Insofar, the implementer must establish at least some indication that the standard would have taken a different form, if the information considering the relevant patent application had been disclosed in time.Ibid, paras. 131 et seq. Haier had, however, failed to do so.Ibid, paras. 131 et seq.
 

Damages

Finally, the Court found that Sisvel's damage claims were given on the merits. Negligence establishing Haier's liability for damages was given: The implementer is, in principle, obliged to make sure that no third party rights are infringed, before starting manufacturing or selling products, which Haier had not done. [225]

What is more, Sisvel's claim for damages was not limited to the amount of a FRAND licensing rate ('licensing analogy'). [226] The SEP holder is entitled to full damages, unless the implementer can assert an own counterclaim, requesting to be placed in the position, in which it would have been, in case that the SEP holder had fulfilled the obligations arising from its dominant market position. [225] An implementer is, however, entitled to such (counter)claim, only when it adequately expressed its willingness to enter into a licence, which had not been the case here.77

  • [166] Sisvel v Haier, District Court of Duesseldorf, judgment dated 3 November 2015, Case No. 4a O 144/14 (UMTS-related patent) and Case No. 4a O 93/14 (GPRS-related patent).
  • [167] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [168] Sisvel v Haier, Higher District Court of Duesseldorf, judgment dated 30 March 2017, Case No. I-15 U 65/15 (UMTS-related patent) and Case No. I-15 U 66/15 (GPRS-related patent).
  • [169] Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 28 April 2020, Case No. X ZR 35/18.
  • [170] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 5 May 2020, Case No. KZR 36/17.
  • [171] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17 (cited by ).
  • [172] Ibid, paras. 10-43.
  • [173] Ibid, para. 44.
  • [174] Ibid, paras. 48 et seqq.
  • [175] Ibid, para. 49.
  • [176] Ibid, para. 52.
  • [177] Ibid, para. 53.
  • [178] Ibid, para. 54.
  • [179] Ibid, para. 55.
  • [180] Ibid, para. 84.
  • [181] Ibid, paras. 86 et seqq.
  • [182] Ibid, para. 57.
  • [183] Ibid, para. 58.
  • [184] Ibid, para. 59.
  • [185] Ibid, para. 60.
  • [186] Ibid, para. 62.
  • [187] Ibid, para. 61.
  • [188] Ibid, para. 63.
  • [189] Ibid, para. 65.
  • [190] Ibid, para. 68.
  • [191] Ibid, paras. 66 and 68.
  • [192] Ibid, para. 69.
  • [193] Ibid, para. 69. See Nokia v Daimler, District Court of Duesseldorf, order dated 26 November 2020, Case No. 4c O 17/19.
  • [194] Ibid, paras. 70 and 71.
  • [195] Ibid, para. 71.
  • [196] Ibid, para. 72.
  • [197] Ibid, para. 73.
  • [198] Ibid, para. 74.
  • [199] Ibid, para. 76.
  • [200] Ibid, para. 77.
  • [201] Ibid, paras. 79 et seqq.
  • [202] Ibid, para. 83.
  • [203] Ibid, para. 87.
  • [204] Ibid, paras. 88 et seqq.
  • [205] Ibid, para. 89.
  • [206] Ibid, paras. 93 et seqq.
  • [207] Ibid, para. 95.
  • [208] Ibid, paras. 96-99.
  • [209] Ibid, paras. 102 et seqq.
  • [210] Ibid, para. 102.
  • [211] Ibid, paras. 108 et seqq.
  • [212] Ibid, para. 116.
  • [213] Ibid, para. 118.
  • [214] Ibid, paras. 124 et seqq.
  • [215] Ibid, para. 124.
  • [216] Ibid, para. 125.
  • [217] Ibid, para. 126.
  • [218] The Court had, however, undertaken such analysis in its earlier decision between the same parties dated May 2020. See Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 5 May 2020, Case No. KZR 36/17, especially paras. 76-81 and 101 et seqq.
  • [219] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17, para. 107.
  • [220] Ibid, para. 56.
  • [221] Ibid, paras. 127 et seqq.
  • [222] Ibid, para. 130.
  • [223] Ibid, para. 131.
  • [224] Ibid, paras. 131 et seq.
  • [225] Ibid, para. 135.
  • [226] Ibid, paras. 134 et seqq.

Updated 3 12月 2018

IP Bridge v HTC

LG Mannheim
28 9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) [227] . 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 [228] .

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 [229] . The Defendant filed an action for invalidity against the Claimant’s SEP in Germany [229] .

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 [229] . Subsequently, several licensing offers and counter-offers were made by the Claimant and the parent company respectively [229] . 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 [230] . In response, the parent company confirmed that it is willing to obtain a licence, among others, by letter dated 7 September 2016 [231] . 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 [232] .

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 [233] . 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) [233] . This deadline was extended for almost three weeks until 7 May 2018 [233] .

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) [233] .

With the present judgment the Court ruled that the Defendant is liable for damages arising from the infringement of the SEP in suit [234] . The Court also ordered the Defendant to render accounts and to provide relevant information to the Claimant [234] . 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 [235] .


B. Court’s reasoning

The Court held that the products sold by the Defendant in Germany infringe Claimant’s SEP [236] . Thus, the Defendant is obliged to compensate the damages suffered by the Claimant and the previous holder of the patent in suit [234] . 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) [234] .

In the Court’s view, the Defendant cannot raise a defence based on a so-called “patent ambush” against these claims [237] . 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 [238] . 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” [238] . The Court held that the Defendant failed to establish such fact [237] . 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?) [237] .

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 [239] .

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 [240] . The wording of Article 6.1. ETSI IPR Policy establishes a respective assumption [240] . 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 [230] . 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 [230] . 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 [241] .

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 [239] . 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 [239] .

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 [239] . 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 [243] .

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 [244] .

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) [245] .

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 [230] . 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) [230] .

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) [246] .

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) [231] .

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 [231] .

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) [247] . 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 [231] .

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 [248] . Only then, the SEP user’s consequent obligation under the Huawei framework to make a FRAND counter-offer to the SEP holder is triggered [248] . 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 [248] . For the assessment of the non-discriminatory character of the offer, information on comparable agreements is needed [248] .

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 [249] . 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 [249] . 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”) [249] . 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 [250] . Otherwise, the initiation of the infringement proceedings shall be considered as abusive in terms of antitrust law [250] . In the present case, the Claimant chose to not ask for a stay in the proceedings, ignoring the Court’s respective indication [250] .


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 [251] . On the other hand, it does not define the ownership of the patent in material legal terms [252] . Nevertheless, the patent registration establishes an assumption of ownership which must be rebutted by the defendant in infringement proceedings based on concrete indications [253] .

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 [254] . As a rule, it must be expected with a sufficient degree of probability that the patent(s) in suit will be invalidated [254] . The Defendant failed convince the Court that this was the case with the SEP in suit [254] .

  • [227] District Court of Mannheim, judgment dated 28 September 2018, Case-No. 7 O 165/16, page 2 and 23.
  • [228] Ibid, page 23 et seq.
  • [229] Ibid, page 5.
  • [230] Ibid, page 25.
  • [231] Ibid, page 26.
  • [232] Ibid, pages 5 et seq.
  • [233] Ibid, page 6.
  • [234] Ibid, page 19.
  • [235] Ibid,page 23.
  • [236] Ibid, pages 16 et seqq.
  • [237] Ibid, page 20.
  • [238] Ibid, page 21.
  • [239] Ibid, page 22.
  • [240] Ibid, page 24.
  • [241] Ibid, pages 24 et seq.
  • [242] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgement dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-130/13.
  • [243] District Court of Mannheim, judgment dated 28 September 2018, Case-No. 7 O 165/16, pages 22.
  • [244] Ibid,pages 23 and 25.
  • [245] Ibid, page 23.
  • [246] Ibid, pages 23 and 25 et seq.
  • [247] Ibid, pages 26 et seqq.
  • [248] Ibid, page 27.
  • [249] Ibid, page 28.
  • [250] Ibid, page 29.
  • [251] Ibid, page 10.
  • [252] Ibid, pages 10 et seq.
  • [253] Ibid, page 11.
  • [254] Ibid, page 30.

Updated 9 11月 2020

Nokia対Daimler、マンハイム地方裁判所

LG Mannheim
18 8月 2020 - Case No. 2 O 34/19

A. 内容

原告は、フィンランドに本社を置くNokiaグループに属している(「Nokia」)。Nokiaは、大手通信事業者であり、欧州電気通信標準化機構(「ETSI」)が開発した各種無線通信規格の実施に不可欠(と見込まれる)と宣言されている、重要な特許ポートフォリオ(標準必須特許又はSEP)を保有している。

被告Daimlerは、世界的に有名なドイツの車メーカーである。Daimlerは、ETSIが開発した規格を実装する接続機能を備えた車をドイツで製造し、販売している。

Nokiaは、本件にかかわる特許が4G/LTE規格にとって不可欠であるとETSIに向けて宣言した。ETSIは、規格の実施に不可欠であるか、不可欠となる可能性のある特許の特許権者に対し、ユーザーが公平、合理的、かつ非差別的(FRAND)な条件にてこれを利用できるよう確約することを要求している。

2016年6月21日、Nokiaは、ETSIに不可欠(と見込まれる)と宣言した特許及び特許出願を網羅したリストを提出して自社のSEPポートフォリオをDaimlerに知らせた。これに対しDaimlerは、自社製品が実際にNokiaの特許を侵害しているとの条件でライセンスを取得できると回答した。

2016年11月9日、Nokiaは、Daimlerに1回目のライセンスの申し出を行った。2016年12月7日、Nokiaは、自社の特許ポートフォリオに関する詳細情報をDaimlerに提供した。2016年12月14日、Daimlerは、Daimlerの車に組み込まれている、いわゆる「テレマティクス制御ユニット」(TCU)を製造するサプライヤーへライセンスを付与する方が効率的と思われる旨回答した。2017年1月から2019年2月まで、Daimlerは、Nokiaとの交渉の場に再度就くことはなく、NokiaがDaimlerのサプライヤーと行った協議にも参加しなかった。

2019年2月27日、Nokiaは、Daimlerに対し二度目となるライセンスの申し出を行い、これに際し、自社特許と対象たる規格関連部分との対応関係を図示したクレームチャートを添付した。2019年3月19日、Daimlerは、Nokiaのポートフォリオに関するロイヤルティについて、基本的に、Daimlerが製造した車の台数ではなく、そのサプライヤーからDaimlerに提供されたコンポーネント数を基準として計算すべきであるとして、再度この申込みを拒絶した。

爾後Nokiaは、Daimlerに対し、ドイツのミュンヘン、デュッセルドルフ及びマンハイのム地方裁判所に複数の権利侵害訴訟を申し立てた。

2019年5月9日、権利侵害訴訟開始後間もなく、Daimlerは、Nokiaにカウンターオファーを行った。Nokiaのポートフォリオにかかわるそのロイヤルティの算定根拠は、Daimlerがサプライヤーに支払ったTCUの平均販売価格であった。Nokiaはこのカウンターオファーを拒絶した。

2020年6月10日、Daimlerは、Nokiaに2度目のカウンターオファーを行った。Nokiaは、(ドイツ民法典第315条に従い)ライセンス料を一方的に決定することができたが、Daimlerは、その決定されたライセンス料について裁判で争う権利を有していた。その2度目のカウンターオファーも拒絶された。

2020年6月18日、ドイツ連邦カルテル庁(「カルテル庁」)がマンハイム地方裁判所(「本裁判所」)での本件訴訟に介入し、FRAND宣言の性質に関する問題を本裁判所から欧州司法裁判所(CJEU)に照会するよう勧告した。本裁判所は、カルテル庁の勧告に従わなかった。

現行の判決で [255] 、本裁判所は、Daimlerに差止命令を下すとともに、本案に関するDaimlerの損害賠償責任を認めた。さらに本裁判所は、Nokiaへの損害賠償金の算定に必要な会計帳簿及び情報を提出するようDaimlerに命じた。

 

B. 判決理由

本裁判所は、係争中の特許をDaimlerが侵害したと認定した [256] 。これにより、Nokiaには差止命令等による救済手段が与えられた [257]

Daimler及び当該訴訟に参加したそのサプライヤーは、Nokiaが権利侵害訴訟の申立てにより市場支配的地位を濫用しており、これがEU機能条約第102条に違反していることから、差止命令が却下されるべきとして、いわゆる「FRAND宣言を理由とする抗弁」を主張した。とりわけ、Huawei v ZTE [258] (「Huawei裁定」又は「Huaweiフレームワーク」)事件でCJEUが定めた行動要件をNokiaが遵守していないと論じられた。

本裁判所は、Daimler及びそのサプライヤーのFRAND宣言を理由とする抗弁を理由がないとして棄却した [259]

 

Huaweiフレームワーク

本裁判所は、SEP保有者が特許に起因して生じる独占権の行使を本来的に妨げられないことを名言した [260] 。実際のところ、特許が規格に必須であっても、その特許権者に技術利用を許容する義務を負わせることにならない。但し、市場支配的地位を獲得した結果、そのような利用を認めていたか、その利用を認める義務を課されていた場合は、この限りでない [260]

特許権者がHuaweiフレームワークに基づく義務を履行しているのであれば、特許権の行使による市場支配的地位の濫用が生じることはない [261] 。但し上記の義務は、権利者の許諾なしに保護対象技術を既に利用している実施者がFRAND条件でのライセンス取得の意思を有していることを前提とする [262] 。本裁判所は、特許権者から規格利用者に対しライセンスを「押しつける」よう要請することはできないのであるから、ライセンス契約締結を要請する法的請求権については尚更有していないと説示した [262] 。その上、支配的地位に付される「特段の責任」により、SEP保有者は、原則としてライセンス取得の意思を有するライセンシーに契約締結を促すよう「十分な努力」を払う義務を負う [263]

 

権利侵害通知

本裁判所によれば、上記の「努力」には、その実施者に特許侵害について通知するだけでなく、権利侵害訴訟申立て前におけるライセンス取得の可能性および必要性を通知する義務が含まれる [264] 。具体的な事例を参照した結果、本裁判所は、Nokiaが当該義務を履行したと認めた [265]

内容について言えば、上記の権利侵害通知には、被侵害特許の明示並びに侵害性を有する使用法及び訴えの対象たる実施形態を記載しなければならない [264] 。権利侵害について技術的・法的観点から詳細に分析する必要はない。実施者の立場としては、結局は専門家又は弁護士の助言に依拠してその権利侵害の主張を評価するしかない [264] 。通例、クレームチャートが提示されれば十分である(但し、必須ではない) [264] 。さらに本裁判所は、特許権者がその特許を侵害している最終製品メーカーのサプライヤーそれぞれに対し、別個に権利侵害を通知する義務を負わないことを指摘した [266]

本裁判所の見地から、2016年6月21日、2016年11月9日及び2016年12月7日付のNokiaのEメールは、上記要件を満たしている [267] 。実際のところNokiaは、-少なくとも当初は-付託される係争中の特許に該当する標準規格書の具体的部分を示していなかったことは、害にはならない。これは、権利侵害の最終的な評価を行うに際し権利侵害通知が求められていなかったためである [268]

さらに本裁判所は、Nokiaが権利侵害通知において、関連規格によって接続機能を生み出す具体的なコンポーネント(Daimlerの車に組み込まれたTCU等)を特定する必要はないと判断した [269] 。Daimlerは当該コンポーネントを購入した上で自社製品に使用したのだから、情報不足は何ら生じるはずがなかった [269]

 

誠実意思

さらに本裁判所は、DaimlerがNokiaとのFRANDライセンス契約締結の意思を十分に明示ていないことから、差止命令を回避するためにFRAND宣言を理由とする抗弁に依拠できないと認定した [270]

本裁判所の見地から、実施者は、「どのような条件が実際にFRANDにあたるのかにかかわらず」SEP保有者とのライセンス契約を締結する意思について、「明確に」かつ「疑義の生じないよう」宣言した上で、爾後「目的志向」の意図にてライセンス供与の協議に従事しなければならなかった(Sisvel v Haier(連邦司法裁判所, 2020年5月5日, Case No. KZR 36/17)、及びUnwired Planet v Huawei(英国及びウェールズ高等法院、2017年4月5日, Case No. [2017] EWHC 711(Pat)の判決) [271] 。ライセンス供与の協議における実施者の「目的志向」は、決定的な重要性を有する。実施者は概して、ライセンス供与の協議が開始される前の時点で特許取得済の標準化技術を既に使用していることから、その特許の有効期間満了までライセンス契約締結を遅延させることに利得を有するが、これはHuawei裁定の趣旨に反する [272] 。よって、権利侵害の通知に対して、ライセンス契約締結を検討する意思を示したり、ライセンス取得の是非及びその条件についての協議に入る意思を示したりするだけでは不十分である [271]

本裁判所はさらに、一定条件下での誠実意思の宣言が許容されないと指摘した [271] 。さらに特許権者へのカウンターオファー内容変更協議の拒絶も、実施側の誠実意思欠如を示すものとみなされうる [271]

上記に基づき、本裁判所は、Daimlerが当初、製品がNokiaの特許を実際に侵害すればライセンス契約を締結すると示したことでは、DaimlerがFRANDライセンス契約を締結する意思を適切に示さなかったとの見解を示した [273] 。本裁判所は、Daimlerのカウンターオファーは契約締結にかかわる意思を十分に示したものになりえず、特に2度目のカウンターオファーについては、Nokiaが片務的に設定できたはずのロイヤルティ料率に異議を唱える権利をDaimlerに求めただけで、ライセンス料の決定に関する両当事者間の紛争を爾後の訴訟に持ち越しただけに過ぎないと付け加えた [274]

本裁判所はさらに、DaimlerがNokiaとの協議に関与しなかったにもかかわらず、自らのサプライヤーにNokiaから直接ライセンスを付与するよう強く主張したことから、Daimlerが「誠実意思を有する」ライセンシーとして行為していなかったと判示した [275] 。さらに、Daimlerの誠実意思の欠落は、NokiaのSEPポートフォリオに対するライセンス料の算定基準として、Daimlerがサプライヤーから購入したTCUの平均価格を適用するよう主張したことからも確認された [276]

 

FRAND料金の算定

本裁判所は、NokiaのSEPポートフォリオに対するロイヤルティ料率の算定に、TCUを「参考値」として使用することは適正でなかったと認定した [277]

一般に、FRAND条件は単一ではなく、FRANDのライセンス供与条件及び料金には幅が設定されるのが通例である [278] 。また、何がFRANDとみなされるかは、業界及び時期によって異なる場合がある [278]

しかしながら、本裁判所は、原則として「バリューチェーンの最終段階で商品として通用する最終製品にかかる技術の経済上の利益」を特許権者に「配分」しなければならないと指摘した [279] 。どの理由は、保護された発明を使用する最終製品で「経済上の利益」を獲得する「機会が創出する」、ためである [279] 。裁判所は、最終製品における特許技術の価値を斟酌して、SEP保有者がバリューチェーンの別の段階でなされるイノベーションから利益を得ているとの考えを認めなかった [280] 。裁判所は、これが生じないと確認するために入手可能な証拠文書が複数存在することを示した [280]

したがって、本裁判所は、いわゆる「最小販売可能特許実施単位(SSPPU)」、すなわち、製品に組み入れられる最小技術単位をFRANDロイヤルティ料率の算定根拠とする考えを否定した [280] 。特許消尽の影響により、SEP保有者は、バリューチェーン最終段階で創出される価値に関与することを妨げられる [280] 。これとは別に、この選択肢は、バリューチェーンの複数の段階において同一特許のライセンスが付与される「二重取り」の特定と回避をより複雑にするおそれがある [280] 。 それでもなお本裁判所は、上記の原則について、必ずしも専ら最終製品製造会社とライセンス契約締結を意味するものでないと明言した [281] 。本裁判所は、販売可能な最終製品の特許技術の価値がサプライチェーンの別の段階で計算に組み込まれる可能性が大いにあるとみなした [281]

この背景に照らし、本裁判所は、TCUの販売価格では、本事件の最終製品にあたるDaimler製造車に対するNokiaのSEPの価値が十分に反映されていないと認定した [282] 。TCUの販売価格が相応するのはDaimlerのそれぞれのコストのみである [283] 。むしろDaimlerは、接続機能により、顧客に追加サービスを提示してこれによる収入を得て、コストを節減し、研究開発費を最適化した [284] 。接続機能はこの価値創出の機会を保証するものである [285] 。さらに、本裁判所は、Daimlerの複数の主要競合会社が(専ら車製造会社にライセンスを付与する)Avanciプラットフォームのライセンシングモデルを承諾したことにより、最終製品向けの保護された技術の価値に焦点があてられることは、自動車業界にとっても合理的と認定した [286]

 

非差別性

さらに本裁判所は、NokiaのDaimlerに対する特許請求の申立ては差別的なものではなく、よってサプライヤーがライセンスを取得するべきとのDaimlerの主張が正当化されるものでないことを認めた [287]

裁判所は、特許権利者が基本的に、サプライヤーンの中で権利を主張する段階を自由に選択できることを説示した [288] 。競争関連法においてこの可能性は本来的に制限されていないため、市場支配的地位を有する特許権者も同様である [288] 。その上、支配的地位を有する特許権利者は、すべての見込ライセンシーに「標準料率」を申出する義務を負うものでない [288] 。TFEU第102条に定められた非差別性に関わる義務は、上流市場又は下流市場での競争の歪みを回避するためであるが、正当な根拠が十分に存在する場合にライセンシーの様々な取扱いを排除するものではない [289]

本件において、本裁判所は、ロイヤルティベースとして最終製品を使用すべきであるとのNokiaの請求が競争に影響を及ぼさないと判断した [290] 。特に、自動車業界では車メーカーに販売されるコンポーネントのライセンスをサプライヤーが取得することが一般的であるとの事実は、Nokiaに慣行の変更を求めるものでない。これは特に、AvanciプラットフォームからDaimlerの競合会社へのライセンス供与は、通信業界において実勢的なその慣行が自動車業界でも既に適用されていることを証しているためである [291] 。さらに本裁判所は、最終製品メーカーにSEPを主張することにより生産、販売及び技術発展の制限がもたらされ、これにより消費者が不利益を被るとはみなさなかった [292] 。この点に関し、本裁判所は、ETSI IPRポリシーに拠ればFRANDライセンスに含められるべきであり、かつ、コンポーネントメーカーに製品の製造、販売及び開発を認めるいわゆる「下請製造権」に言及した [293]

 

SEP保有者の申出/情報提供義務

さらに、本裁判所は、Nokiaがライセンスの申出に関し十分な情報を提供することを拒絶した旨をDaimlerが主張しても、Daimlerのライセンス取得する意思のないことを正当化できないと判示した [294]

本裁判所は、SEP保有者がライセンス要請のFRAND適合性を具体化する義務を負う可能性を指摘した [295] 。特許権利者は、第三者との間で非標準的な条件に基づき既に契約を締結している場合、一般的には、別の契約条件の申出を受けているかどうか実施者が評価できるようにするため、-少なくとも-重要な契約条項の内容を開示し、提示する義務を負う [295] 。各々の義務の範囲および詳細なレベルは、ケースバイケースで判断される [295]

上記に鑑みて、本裁判所は、車両の接続機能の価値に関する調査や他の主要車メーカーとの署名済みライセンス締結等を共有することにより、NokiaがDaimlerに十分な情報を提供していたとの見解を示した [296] 。この状況において、本裁判所は、NokiaがDaimlerに対し、スマートフォンメーカーとのライセンス契約を開示する義務を負っていなかったと示した。本裁判所は、SEP保有者の情報開示義務が、従前に署名されているあらゆるライセンス契約の全文に及んで適用されるとの意見や、SEP保有者がすべての既存契約を開示する義務を負うとの意見を拒絶した [297] 。さらに本裁判所は、通信業界でのライセンス契約は自動車業界でのライセンスのFRAND適合性評価とは無関係であると判示した [297]

 

サプライヤーによるFRAND宣言を理由とする抗弁

上記とは別に、本裁判所は、訴訟に参加したサプライヤーが提起したFRAND宣言を理由とする抗弁がDaimlerに利益をもたらさないことを強調した [298]

本裁判所は、訴えられている最終製品メーカーがそのサプライヤーにより提起されるFRAND抗弁に、原則として依拠できるかどうかについて結論を出さなかった。本裁判所によれば、これについてはいかなる場合であれ、サプライヤーが(製造するコンポーネントでなく)最終製品に対する対象特許の価値を根拠として特許権利者からライセンスを取得する意思を有している必要がある [299] 。本訴訟はこのような状況でなかった [300]

本裁判所は、サプライヤーがSEP保有者に支払ったロイヤルティをその顧客に転嫁することが難しいことを無視したわけではない [301] 。しかしながら、第三者との契約上の取決め(ここでは、サプライヤーと最終製品メーカーとの契約)は、裁判所の見地から、最終製品にかかわる特許技術により創出される価値への配分を認めないライセンス契約にSEP保有者に指示するものであってはならない [301]

 

C. その他の問題点

最終的に本裁判所は、-カルテル庁の勧告に反し-、訴訟手続を停止し、かつ、SEP保有者のFRAND宣言により、バリューチェーンに含まれるあらゆる者に双務的なライセンスが付与される直接的な請求(license-to-allの考え方)または標準化技術へのアクセスへの請求(access-to-allの考え方)が確立されるのかをめぐる問題をCJEUに照会する必要はないと判断した。

本裁判所は、Daimlerもそのサプライヤーも、Daimlerが製造した車に関する特許技術の価値に基づきFRAND条件でNokiaからライセンスを取得する意思を有していなかったため、これについて結論を出さなかった [302] 。さらに本裁判所は、係争中の特許の有効期限が今後数年で満了するとの事実に基づき、訴訟手続の停止命令に反対すると述べた [303]

  • [255] Nokia v Daimler(マンハイム地方裁判所, 2020年8月18日判決, 事件番号 2 O 34/19(www.juris.deから引用))
  • [256] 同判決、第49節乃至第136節。
  • [257] 同判決、第138節。
  • [258] Huawei v ZTE(欧州司法裁判所, 2016年7月16日判決、事件番号 C-170/13)
  • [259] Nokia v Daimler(マンハイム地方裁判所、2020年8月18日判決、事件番号 2 O 34/19, 第144節)
  • [260] 同判決、第146節。
  • [261] 同判決、第147節。
  • [262] 同判決、第148節。
  • [263] 同判決、第149節。
  • [264] 同判決、第152節。
  • [265] 同判決、第151乃至第156節。
  • [266] 同判決、第248節。
  • [267] 同判決、第153節以降。
  • [268] 同判決、第154節。
  • [269] 同判決、第155節。
  • [270] 同判決、第157乃至第231節。
  • [271] 同判決、第158節。
  • [272] 同判決、第159節。
  • [273] 同判決、第161節。
  • [274] 同判決、第197乃至第199節。
  • [275] 同判決、第157節、第160節及び第162節乃至第164節。
  • [276] 同判決、第160及び第165節乃至第168節。
  • [277] 同判決、第169節。
  • [278] 同判決、第170節。
  • [279] 同判決、第171節。
  • [280] 同判決、第172節。
  • [281] 同判決、第173節。
  • [282] 同判決、第174節以降。
  • [283] 同判決、第174節。
  • [284] 同判決、第177節。
  • [285] 同判決、第180節。
  • [286] 同判決、第187節以降。
  • [287] 同判決、第201節乃至第212節。
  • [288] 同判決、第202節。
  • [289] 同判決、第203節。
  • [290] 同判決、第205節。
  • [291] 同判決、第210節。
  • [292] 同判決、第213節。
  • [293] 同判決、第215節。
  • [294] 同判決、第216節以降。
  • [295] 同判決、第217節。
  • [296] 同判決、第218節。
  • [297] 同判決、第230節。
  • [298] 同判決、第232節以降。
  • [299] 同判決、第234及び第236節以降。
  • [300] 同判決、第240節以降。
  • [301] 同判決、第239節。
  • [302] 同判決、第253及び第291節。
  • [303] 同判決、第291節。

Updated 21 6月 2019

Unwired Planet v Huawei

OLG Düsseldorf
22 3月 2019 - Case No. I-2 U 31/16

A. Facts

The Claimant, Unwired Planet International Limited, acquired patents relevant to the 2G (GSM) and 3G (UMTS) wireless telecommunications standards developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).

The previous holder of the patents in question, Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson (Ericsson), had made an undertaking towards ETSI to grant users access to its patents should they become essential to a standard (Standard Essential Patents or SEPs) on Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions.

The Defendants, China-based Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd (Huawei China) and its German affiliate Huawei Technologies Deutschland GmbH, offer for sale and sell devices in Germany complying with the 2G and 3G standards.

In March 2014, the Claimant brought an action against the Defendants before the District Court (Landgericht) of Düsseldorf (District Court) based on one of its SEPs, asking for a declaratory judgement recognising the Defendants’ liability for damages on the merits, as well as information and the rendering of accountsUnwired Planet v Huawei, Higher District Court of Düsseldorf, 22 March 2019, para. 32 (cited by www.nrwe.de).. At the same time, the Claimant also initiated infringement proceedings against the Defendants in the UK (UK proceedings). During the course of the UK proceedings, the parties made certain licensing offers. However, an agreement was not reached.

By judgment dated 19th January 2016, the District Court found that the Defendants infringed the patent in suit, recognised the Defendant’s liability for damages on the merits and ordered the Defendants to render accounts to the Claimant [305] . The Defendants appealed the District Court’s ruling.

With the present judgment, the Higher District Court (Oberlandesgericht) of Düsseldorf (Court), basically, upheld the decision of the District Court. However, following a partial withdrawal of claims by the Claimant, the Court limited the Defendants’ obligation to render accounts by excluding information about production costs (broken down by single cost factors) and realised profits [306] .

The Court allowed for an appeal on points of law before the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof). The parties appealed the present decision.

B. Court’s reasoning

The Court confirmed the District Court’s finding that the Defendants had infringed the patent in suit by offering for sale and selling standard-compliant products in Germany [307] .

The Court also agreed with the District Court’s finding that the Claimant was entitled to assert claims against the Defendants: in its view, the patent in suit had been validly transferred to the Claimant [308] .

Transfer of SEPs

The Defendants had argued that the agreements underlying the transfer of said SEP to the Claimant had several flaws, which the District Court had not evaluated properly. In a lengthy reasoning, the Court dismissed this argument and confirmed the validity of the agreements in question [309] .

Besides that, the Defendants had claimed that the relevant agreements were void from an antitrust perspective, because they violated Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). The Court rejected these claims as well.

In the Court’s eyes, the – repeated – transfer of a SEP does not constitute an abuse of market power in violation of Article 102 TFEU [310] , since the FRAND undertaking, which – according to the Court – irrevocably limits the exclusion rights arising from a patent ‘in rem’ (‘dinglich’) [311] , is directly and indispensably binding for the new patent holder (irrespective of any contractual obligation assumed by the latter) [312] . Due to the ‘automatic’ transfer of the FRAND undertaking, there is no reason for prohibiting the transfer of SEPs or imposing limitations regarding to whom the SEP is assigned to; insofar, the patent holder has a free choice [313] .

Furthermore, the Court found that the transfer of the SEP in suit to the Claimant did not violate Article 101 TFEU [314] . Reciprocal agreements, as the agreements underlying the transfer of said patent, per se do not violate Article 101 TFEU, unless they contain side agreements which could impede competition [315] . According to the Court, this was not the case here. In this context, the Court explained that the fact that Ericsson had transferred only a part of its portfolio to the Claimant could not have any anti-competitive effect in terms of Article 101 TFEU [316] . Reason for this is that the FRAND-undertaking, to which both Ericsson and the Claimant are bound, sets the upper limit for the financial or other kind of burden from the licence that can be imposed on any licensee with respect to the entire patent portfolio [316] .

FRAND-undertaking

Having taken the view that the FRAND-undertaking is ‘automatically’ transferred to the new SEP holder, the Court suggested that it is binding for the latter not only ‘on the merits’ (‘dem Grunde nach’), but also in terms of ‘amount and content’ (‘der Höhe und dem Inhalt nach’) [317] . In other words: the new patent holder is not only – generally – obliged to offer access to the SEP on FRAND terms, it is, moreover, bound to the actual licensing practice of the previous patent holder [317] . The Court found that this is needed for ensuring that the SEP holder will not exempt itself of its FRAND commitment – especially the non-discrimination obligation – by transferring the SEP to a third party [318] .

Existing licensing agreements / Confidentiality

Accordingly, the Court held that existing licensing agreements of the previous patent holder (which have not expired yet) need to be considered for the assessment of the non-discriminatory character of licensing offers made by the new SEP holder [319] . Consequently, in the Court’s view, the SEP holder’s FRAND undertaking obliges the latter to provide its successor with information regarding to the content of licensing agreements which it had concluded with third parties [319] .

To be able to establish the non-discriminatory character of its licensing offer, the new SEP holder needs to make sure that it will be able to refer to and present licensing agreements of the prior SEP holder, particularly in court proceedings [320] . An exception could be made only when presenting such agreements would violate contractual confidentiality obligations. For this, the content of relevant confidentiality clauses must be presented in detail in trial, in order to allow an assessment of the extent of the patent holder’s obligations [321] . In addition, the party bound to respective clauses must demonstrate that it cannot release itself from its confidentiality obligations, by showing that all existing licensees have refused – upon request – to waive their rights arising from each clause in question [321] . Notwithstanding this, the Court expressed the view that agreeing to comprehensive confidentiality clauses will, as a rule, bar the SEP holder (and/or its successor) from invoking confidentiality with respect to existing licences in pending court proceedings: in this case, the refusal to present licences cannot be justified, since the patent holder acted culpably by agreeing to confidentiality with other licensees, regardless of its FRAND-obligation to provide information to its successor with respect to the licensing agreements it has signed [321] . Its unjustified refusal to present existing licences will, moreover, also affect the position of the new patent holder in trial (leading potentially to a dismissal of its claims for lack of evidence of the FRAND-conformity of its licensing offer) [321] .

In this context, the Court noted that presenting existing licensing agreements with third parties in trial does not raise antitrust concerns (especially under Article 101 TFEU) [322] . According to the Court, the fact that business secrets will be disclosed to potential competitors of the existing licensees is not harmful from an antitrust perspective, since measures to protect confidentiality in trial are available [322] . In particular, the addressee of confidential information is obliged to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), if the holder of such information (a) concretely explains why this information constitutes a business secret, (b) presents in detail which measures were taken so far for securing confidentiality with respect to the information in question, (c) demonstrates in a substantiated and verifiable manner (for each information separately), which concrete disadvantages would be suffered, if the information would be disclosed and (d) also explains, with which degree of certainty the said disadvantages are expected to occur [322] . If these requirements are met, the opposing party’s refusal to sign an NDA would allow the party holding confidential information to limit its pleadings in trial to ‘general, indicative statements’ [322] . According to the Court, this was, however, not the case here.

Application of the Huawei framework

On the merits of the case, the Court made clear that the conditions established by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in the matter Huawei v ZTE [323] (Huawei framework or obligations) apply only to claims for injunctive relief and the recall of infringing products, not to the patent holders’ claims for information, rendering of accounts and damagesUnwired Planet v Huawei, Higher District Court of Düsseldorf, 22 March 2019, para. 159 (cited by www.nrwe.de).. In particular, when deciding about the implementer’s liability for damages on the merits, courts do not have to consider whether the patent holder has met its Huawei obligations or not [325] .

This question is, however, relevant for deciding on the amount of damages owed to the patent holder. The non-compliance of the SEP holder with the Huawei framework can limit the amount of damages that it can claim to the amount of a FRAND royalty (for certain periods of time) [326] . Since the right to request the rendering of accounts serves the calculation of the amount of damages, the Court took the view that the SEP holder is barred from claiming information about production costs and/or realised profits for periods of time, in which it is not entitled to damages going beyond the FRAND royalty, because this information is not required for calculating the latterIbid, para. 402 et seq. Insofar the Court expressly disagreed with the District Court of Mannheim, which in a previous decision had denied any limitations of the patent holder’s right to demand the rendering of accounts, in case of non-compliance with the Huawei framework; cf. District Court of Mannheim, judgment dated 10 November 2017, Case No. 7 O 28/16, GRUR-RR 2018, 273..

SEP holder’s offer to the implementer

Looking at the present case, the Court held that the Claimant had not fulfilled its Huawei obligation to make a written and specific FRAND licensing offer to the Defendants [328] . In particular, in the offers made the Claimant failed to adequately specify both the calculation and the non-discriminatory nature of the royalties proposed [329] .

For allowing the implementer to assess the non-discriminatory character of the SEP holder’s licensing offer, the Court repeated that the latter is obliged to disclose whether other licensees exist and, if so, to which conditions they have been licensed [330] . This obligation extends also to licensing agreements concluded by the previous patent holder(s) [330] . Only agreements that have expired or have been terminated do not need to be considered in this respect [331] . As a result, the Claimant should have referred to both the licences covering the SEP in suit that it had concluded with third parties after the transfer of the patent, and to all licences, which Ericsson had concluded with licensees prior to the transfer of said patent and were still in force, when the Claimant made the respective licensing offer to the Defendants [332] .

The Court took the view that, prior to granting the very first FRAND licence, the SEP holder ought to select a specific ‘licensing concept’. This ‘concept’ is ‘legally binding’ for the future licensing conduct of the SEP holder and potential successors. In other words: the licensing conditions established by the first FRAND licence granted outline the leeway available to the SEP holder for future licensing negotiations [333] . This is also the case, when the royalties agreed for the first licence lie at the lower end of the FRAND scale available to the patent holder [334] . Accordingly, any deviation from the ‘licensing concept’ is allowed only and to the extent that (existing and new) licensees are not discriminated through less favourable conditions [333] .

The Court allowed SEP holders to select a new ‘licensing concept’ (within the available FRAND range), provided that all licensing agreements subject to the existing ‘concept’ will expire at the same point in time [335] . In the Court’s view, this could be achieved, for instance, by agreeing with all later licensees that their licence will expire at the same time as the first FRAND licence ever granted [331] . The Court recognised that this would require substantial efforts, particularly when considerable patent portfolios are involved; this fact did not, however, speak against binding the successor to the licensing practice of the previous SEP holder [336] .

C. Other important issues

According to the Court, the fact that the UK proceedings were directed towards setting the terms of a worldwide licence between the parties, covering all SEPs held by the Claimant did not require the Court to stay its own proceedings [337] . According to Article 27 of the Brussels I Regulation, the court later seized of the matter has to stay its proceedings until the jurisdiction of the court first seized of the case has been settled. The Court saw, however, no indication that the UK proceedings (had ever) concerned the claims asserted in the proceedings brought before it (claims limited to Germany) [337] .

Besides that, the Court confirmed that German courts have international jurisdiction for the claims brought against Huawei China [338] . If infringing products are offered over the internet, the international jurisdiction of German courts is established, when German patent rights are being affected and the website can be accessed in Germany [338] .

  • [304] Unwired Planet v Huawei, Higher District Court of Düsseldorf, 22 March 2019, para. 32 (cited by www.nrwe.de).
  • [305] Ibid, para. 41. See District Court of Duesseldorf, judgement dated 19 January 2016, Case No. 4b O 49/14.
  • [306] Ibid, paras. 139 et seqq.
  • [307] Ibid, paras. 252-387.
  • [308] Ibid, paras. 161 et seqq.
  • [309] Ibid, paras. 169-199.
  • [310] Ibid, para. 203 et seqq.
  • [311] Ibid, para. 205.
  • [312] Ibid, paras 205 et seqq.
  • [313] Ibid, para 209.
  • [314] Ibid, paras. 235 et seqq.
  • [315] Ibid, para. 236.
  • [316] Ibid, para. 242.
  • [317] Ibid, paras. 212 et seqq.
  • [318] Ibid, para. 214.
  • [319] Ibid, paras. 216 et seq.
  • [320] Ibid, para. 216.
  • [321] Ibid, para. 218.
  • [322] Ibid, para. 220.
  • [323] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [324] Unwired Planet v Huawei, Higher District Court of Düsseldorf, 22 March 2019, para. 159 (cited by www.nrwe.de).
  • [325] Ibid, para. 396.
  • [326] Ibid, para. 402.
  • [327] Ibid, para. 402 et seq. Insofar the Court expressly disagreed with the District Court of Mannheim, which in a previous decision had denied any limitations of the patent holder’s right to demand the rendering of accounts, in case of non-compliance with the Huawei framework; cf. District Court of Mannheim, judgment dated 10 November 2017, Case No. 7 O 28/16, GRUR-RR 2018, 273.
  • [328] Ibid, paras. 406 et seqq.
  • [329] Ibid, para. 411.
  • [330] Ibid, para. 419.
  • [331] Ibid, para. 420.
  • [332] Ibid, para. 423.
  • [333] Ibid, paras. 413 et seq.
  • [334] Ibid, para. 413.
  • [335] Ibid, paras. 414 and 420.
  • [336] Ibid, para. 421.
  • [337] Ibid, para. 144.
  • [338] Ibid, paras. 153 et seqq.

Updated 30 10月 2018

­Vodafone v Intellectual Ventures, High Court of Ireland

アイルランド裁判所の決定
10 3月 2017 - Case No. 2016 5102P, [2017] IEHC 160

A. Facts

The Claimant, Vodafone GmbH, is a German company offering communication services in Germany, including DSL internet connections based on the standards ADSL2+ and VDSL2 [339] .

The first Defendant, Intellectual Ventures II LLC (IV LLC), is a US company that holds patents declared as essential to the above standards (Standard Essential Patents or SEPs), including German designations of several European patents [340] . The second Defendant, Intellectual Ventures International Licensing (IV Licensing), is an Irish company engaged in patent licensing [340] . IV LLC granted IV Licensing a sub-licence which allows the latter to grant non-exclusive licences in respect to IV LLC’s portfolio [341] .

In January 2016, IV LLC brought infringement actions against the Claimant before the District Court (Landgericht) of Düsseldorf in Germany (Düsseldorf Court) based on the German designation of two of its SEP relating to the ADSL2+ and VDSL2 standards (German proceedings) [342] . In the German proceedings, IV LLC sought for a declaration that the Claimant is liable for damages arising from the infringement of the SEPs in suit as well as the provision of information and the rendering of accounts [342] .

During the course of the German proceedings, IV Licensing made an offer for a licensing agreement to the Claimant comprising the German designations of sixteen European Patents, including the two patents already asserted before the Düsseldorf Court [343] . The Claimant made a counter-offer which was, however, rejected [344] .

Subsequently, the Claimant filed an action for a declaratory judgement against the Defendants before the Dublin High Court (High Court) in Ireland (Irish proceedings). The Claimant requested the High Court inter alia to declare (1) that IV Licensing’s offer was not Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) and, therefore, amounted to an abuse of dominant position contrary to Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) and (2) that Claimant’s counter-offer was FRAND [345] . In case that the High Court held that neither IV Licensing’s offer nor Claimant’s counter-offer were FRAND, the Claimant also sought for a declaration as to which terms and conditions would be FRAND [345] .

The Defendants challenged the jurisdiction of the High Court. They requested the High Court – among other motions – to decline jurisdiction in favour of the Düsseldorf Court, or, in the alternative to stay its proceedings [346] .

With the present judgment the High Court refused to decline jurisdiction over the dispute brought before it [347] . The Court ordered, however, a stay in the proceedings, until the Düsseldorf Court delivered its final judgment in the German proceedings [347] .

B. Court’s reasoning

The High Court held that neither Article 24 nor Article 29 of the Recast Brussels Regulation [348] require the court to decline jurisdiction in favour of the Düsseldorf Court, even though the German proceedings were initiated prior to the Irish proceedings.

Pursuant to Article 24 of the Regulation, the Courts of each EU Member State have exclusive jurisdiction in proceedings concerned with the validity of any European Patent granted for that Member State. Both pending proceedings concern German designations of IV LLC’s European patens. However, this fact did not hinder the High Court to assume jurisdiction over the present case: In the High Court’s eyes, no issue as to the validity the patents which ought to be licensed has been placed in issue in the Irish proceedings; moreover, no part of Claimant’s cause of action concerning the (alleged) abuse of dominance depends in any way on the validity of the SEPs in suit [349] .

Furthermore, the High Court found that Article 29 of the Regulation does not apply to the present case, either. The High Court took the view that the Irish proceedings and the German proceedings do not involve the “same cause of action”, as Article 29 of the Regulation requires [350] . Although there are overlapping issues in both proceedings (for instance, Article 102 TFEU is mentioned in parties’ pleadings in both trials), this fact does not suffice to establish a “same cause of action” in terms of Article 29 of the Regulation [350] . In particular, Article 102 TFEU, to the extent that it features in the German proceedings is not concerned with an (alleged) abuse of dominant position by way of the offer made to the Claimant by IV Licensing [350] . Besides that, the High Court also pointed out, that – at least regarding to IV Licensing – it is not presented with proceedings “between the same parties” (since IV Licensing in not party to the German proceedings) which is, however, a further prerequisite for the application of Article 29 of the Regulation [351] .

Notwithstanding the above, the High Court held that some form of relief under Article 30 of the Regulation ought to be granted to the Defendants [352] . Under this provision, a court is allowed (meaning that the power given to the court is discretionary) to either stay its proceedings (Article 30 para. 1) or decline jurisdiction (Article 30 para. 2), in case that a “related action” is already pending before another court [353] . The objective of Article 30 of the Regulation is “to improve co-ordination of the exercise of judicial functions” within the EU and to avoid “irreconcilable judgments” [354] . In the matter at hand, the High Court found that these ob­jectives are served by an order to stay the proceedings according to Article 30 para. 1 of the Regulation [347] .

Looking at the present case, the High Court explained that a risk of “irreconcilable judgments” exists, since at the heart of both the Irish and the German proceedings lies the question whether the parties have complied with their conduct obligations under the judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU in the matter Huawei v ZTE [355] (Huawei requirements), especially with the obligation to exchange licensing offers on FRAND terms [356] .

In the Irish Proceedings, the claims made by the Claimant expressly address this question. In the German Proceedings, the same question will be of “direct relevance” for the nature and scope of the claim for damages and the accessory claim for the rendering of accounts asserted by IV LLC [357] . Although compliance with the Huawei requirements is – in contrast to claims for injunctive relief – no direct prerequisite for the enforcement of SEP holder’s damage claims (including the auxiliary claims for information and the rendering of accounts) [358] , it has an impact on the scope of such claims: according to the case law of the Düsseldorf Courts, if the patent holder does not meet the Huawei requirements or both the patent holder and the potential licensee comply with the Huawei requirements, the patent holder’s damage claim is limited to the FRAND licence fees and the claim for the rendering of accounts is limited to the information needed in order to calculate the respective damages (using the so-called “licence analogy” method) [359] . Accordingly, the Düsseldorf Court would not be able to decide on the merits of the claims raised by IV LLC before it, without first determining whether the parties fulfilled the Huawei requirements [360] .

In addition, the High Court pointed out that setting the FRAND terms and conditions for the patent portfolio offered to the Claimant, as the latter requested in the Irish proceedings, could also lead to “irreconcilable judgments”, particularly if the Düsseldorf Court would be asked by IV LLC at a later point in time to fix the damages for the two SEPs asserted in the German proceedings (since these SEPs were also part of the portfolio offered) [361] . Insofar, the High Court was not convinced by the Claimant’s argument, that fixing of rates for a patent portfolio usually involves different considerations to the fixing of a rate for individual patents [361] . On the contrary, the High Court recognized that within the “longstanding industry practice” of portfolio licensing, the fixing of rates for a portfolio of patents does, in general, involve the same methodology as the fixing of rates for individual patents. Consequently, rates set by the High Court in the Irish proceedings might conflict with any rates determined by the Düsseldorf Court with respect to the damage claims made in the German proceedings [361] .

  • [339] Vodafone v Intellectual Ventures, High Court of Ireland, 10 March 2017, para. 1.
  • [340] Ibid, para. 2.
  • [341] Ibid, para. 3.
  • [342] Ibid, para. 37.
  • [343] Ibid, paras. 10-12 and 93.
  • [344] Ibid, paras. 13-16.
  • [345] Ibid, para. 5.
  • [346] Ibid, para. 7.
  • [347] Ibid, para. 180.
  • [348] Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12th December 2012 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (recast), OJ L 351/1 of 20th December 2012.
  • [349] Vodafone v Intellectual Ventures, High Court of Ireland, 10 March 2017, para. 122.
  • [350] Ibid, para. 146.
  • [351] Ibid, para. 148.
  • [352] Ibid, para. 166.
  • [353] Ibid, para. 119.
  • [354] Ibid, para. 165.
  • [355] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [356] Vodafone v Intellectual Ventures, High Court of Ireland, 10 March 2017, para. 52.
  • [357] Ibid, paras. 52 and 60.
  • [358] Ibid, paras. 55 et seqq.
  • [359] Ibid, para. 61 et seq.
  • [360] Ibid, para. 62.
  • [361] Ibid, para. 93.

Updated 4 6月 2020

Sisvel v Xiaomi, Court of Appeal of The Hague

オランダ裁判所の決定
17 3月 2020 - Case No. C/09/573969/ KG ZA 19-462

A. Facts

Sisvel International S.A. (Sisvel) is the parent company of the Sisvel group [362] . In 2012, Sisvel acquired EP 1 129 536 B1 (EP 536) [363] . EP 536 relates to the EGPRS technology, which forms part of a GSM telecommunications standard that implements EDGE [364] .

Xiaomi is a manufacturer of mobile phones with headquarters in China [365] .

On 10 April 2013, Sisvel submitted to the European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI) a declaration under which it committed to make a list of patents, including EP 536, accessible to standard users under Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions (FRAND commitment) [366] .

On 15 October 2013, Sisvel notified Xiaomi about its Wireless Patent Portfolio [364] . On 16 July 2014, Sisvel sent a letter to Xiaomi, inviting Xiaomi to contact Sisvel regarding to the conclusion of a licence [364] . Further e-mails were sent to Xiaomi on 3 December 2014, 4 December 2014 and 5 March 2015 [364] .

In an article dated 29 March 2019 published on nu.nl [367] and ad.nl [367] , Xiaomi announced that it would enter the Dutch market with online shops and physical stores [368] .

On 23 April 2019, Sisvel initiated legal proceedings against Xiaomi before the English High Court of Justice in London (English proceedings) [369] . Sisvel requested the court to declare that the terms and conditions of the MCP Pool Licence, under which EP 536 as part of the Wireless Patent Portfolio is licensed [370] , are FRAND or alternatively, to determine FRAND licensing terms and conditions and find three patents (including EP 536) to be valid and infringed [369] .

On 30 August 2019, Xiaomi filed two legal actions against Sisvel in Beijing [371] . Xiaomi asked, in one of the cases, the court to determine FRAND terms and conditions for a licence limited to China and, in the other case, to declare that Sisvel had abused its dominant position [364] .

In the Netherlands, Sisvel requested a preliminary injunction against Xiaomi, until Xiaomi accepts Sisvel’s offer to go to arbitration, as well as the recall and destruction of products, information over profit made and additional documentation with respect to resellers, a penalty fee, and – as a subsidiary motion – the removal of the EGPRS/EDGE extension of the GSM functionality [372] . With judgment dated 1 August 2019, the Court of The Hague rejected Sisvel’s claims in first instance and sentenced Sisvel to the process costs, in view of the balance of interests between the parties and the complexity of the case [373] .

Sisvel appealed the first instance decision on 29 August 2019 [374] . During the course of the appeal proceedings, on 22 January 2020, Xiaomi deposited funds [375] on an escrow account held by Intertrust [376] . With the present judgment, the Court of Appeal of The Hague (Court) rejected Sisvel’s appeal and sentenced Sisvel to higher process costs [377] .

B. Court’s reasoning

The Court focused on the balance of interests between the parties.

Injunction

The Court considered that the harm caused to Sisvel by the infringement of EP 536 was limited, taking into account only infringing uses in the Netherlands, as well as the fact that EP 536 is only one out of many patents held by Sisvel, and almost expired [378] . Considering that Sisvel’s business model is to conclude licences, Sisvel did not have to fear damages caused by free riding on the cellphone market, but only damages resulting from denied profits under a license [379] . Therefore, only financial damages could incur which the Court considers to be relatively simply compensated at a later point in time [380] . Additionally, Xiaomi had provided security [380] . The security addresses the problem raised by Sisvel, i.e. Xiaomi becoming insolvent and unable to pay damages for patent infringement [364] .

With respect to Xiaomi’s interest, the Court noted that an injunction would force Xiaomi to stop sales, close shops in the Netherlands and stop its distribution contracts with customers [381] . The consequences would thus be severe and could hardly be undone, even if Xiaomi could resume sales again after the expiration of EP 536 [364] . The only way for Xiaomi to avoid those consequences would be to take a license, which also brings important consequences. Indeed, the MCP license offered by Sisvel is not only for EP 536 but for more than 1000 patents in all countries worldwide [382] . By accepting a licence Xiaomi would be irrevocably bound to comply with it, including with its rate [383] . The stop of sales in the Netherlands would create loss of profits for Xiaomi and worsen its relationships with its customers [364] . The Court highlighted such damages are difficult to evaluate as Xiaomi is still building its market position and there are many other players on the market [364] .

The Court further argued that the case was complex for a preliminary decision, because it required an opinion on the validity and scope of a patent protecting a complex technology as well as an assessment of Xiaomi’s FRAND defence, for which parties have arguments over many facts and the principles to determine a FRAND rate [384] . Additionally, the court that would be entrusted with the main proceedings could have a different opinion on the validity of the technology and the FRAND defence [364] . Therefore, the Court concluded there was no reason, even if the patent was valid and the FRAND defence had to be rejected, to force Xiaomi to leave the Dutch market or to take a licence from Sisvel [364] . The Court found that Xiaomi’s interest to reject the request for a preliminary injunction was stronger than Sisvel’s interest to stop the continuation of the infringement [384] .

The Court also rejected Sisvel’s claim that Xiaomi was an unwilling licensee [385] . Such claim could be used to invalidate Xiaomi’s FRAND defence, but the Court stated that the examination of Xiaomi’s FRAND defence had to be separated from the balance of interests’ assessment in preliminary proceedings [364] .

Reviewing Sisvel’s request based on the EU enforcement directive 2004/48 and Article 9 of such directive did not lead the Court to another conclusion: in light of the enforcement directive, the injunction would not be proportionate in this case, therefore the Court had no obligation to use Article 9 of the EU enforcement directive [386] .

Even in combining the application of Article 3 of the EU enforcement directive, Article 5, 17 and 47 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights the Court came to the same interpretation: an injunction for the limited remaining time of EP 536 would not help [387] . The lack of an injunction would not unreasonably delay the case as the Court argued that the effective remedy would be compensation for the damages in main proceedings [364] . Additionally, the Court found this conclusion to be supported by the fact that Sisvel had only initiated main proceedings against other parties in the Netherlands and abroad [364] .

Sisvel’s claim that the lack of an injunction would create an unfair playing field between market participants was also rejected by the Court [388] . The Court stated that Xiaomi’s security and the possibility for Sisvel to get compensation for damages in main proceedings created an equal playing field [364] . Sisvel had relied on a decision of the Dutch Supreme Court, according to which a patent can only be effectively protected if there is a quick stop to further infringement [389] . The Court explained that this is the case only when the damages for patent infringement are difficult to determine; this was, however, not the case here [364] .

Security

The Court rejected Sisvel’s claim that the deposit on the escrow account had been made in such a way that it would be impossible for Sisvel to get paid [390] . Indeed, the Court underlined that Sisvel can unilaterally reclaim payment, especially if a FRAND rate is determined in the English proceedings [364] . Moreover, Xiaomi declared itself to be ready to adapt the amount placed on the escrow account in close cooperation with Sisvel, if Sisvel wishes to do so or has requests about the escrow account [364] . The Court noted it did not seem Sisvel made use of this possibility to adapt the amount [364] .

The amount deposited for fees under Sisvel’s MCP Patent Licence was considered as sufficient by the Court for the products sold in the Netherlands for the lifetime of EP 536 [391] . The Court added that this would still be the case even in the event that Sisvel wanted to increase the licensing rate for non-compliant users or to account for profits based on the infringement [364] . The Court underlined that in the Huawei v. ZTE decision of the CJEU [392] , the security had to be “appropriate”, which depends on the context of the FRAND defence [364] .

Recall and destruction of products

Sisvel’s request to have infringing products recalled and destroyed, as well as all mentions about those products removed, resellers informed and profits provided was rejected by the Court [393] . Sisvel had asserted the same urgent interest as for the preliminary injunction to support this request: stopping and preventing infringement of EP 536. Since the request for a preliminary injunction failed, the further claims asserted by Sisvel had to follow the same fate [364] . The Court stated that there was no urgent interest to have Xiaomi disclosing its profits, or at least that was more important than having Xiaomi keeping this information confidential [364] . Sisvel did also not explain why profits data should be disclosed in advance of the main proceedings [364] .

C. Other important issues

The Court also denied Sisvel’s request to grant a preliminary injunction, as long as Xiaomi did not agree to initiating arbitration procedures [394] . The Court argued that if Xiaomi would be forced to have an arbitration tribunal determining the terms and conditions for all patents of the MCP Patent Licence for the whole world, this would deprive Xiaomi of its fundamental right of access to a court [364] . The acceptance of such arbitration proposal without conditions would have drastic consequences on Xiaomi’s position [364] .

  • [362] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 2, par.2.2.
  • [363] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 2, par.2.4.
  • [364] Ibidem
  • [365] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 2, par.2.8.
  • [366] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 2, par.2.5.
  • [367] Dutch newspaper.
  • [368] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 4, par.2.11.
  • [369] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 4, par.2.12.
  • [370] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, pages 3 and 4, par.2.7 and 2.12.
  • [371] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 4, par.2.13.
  • [372] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 4, par.2.14.
  • [373] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, pages 4 and 5, par.3.3.
  • [374] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 2, par.1.
  • [375] Amount has been redacted.
  • [376] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 5, par.3.5.
  • [377] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, pages 10 and 11, par. 4.24 and following.
  • [378] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 5, par.4.3.
  • [379] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, pages 5 and 6, par.4.3.
  • [380] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 6, par.4.3.
  • [381] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 6, par.4.7.
  • [382] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, pages 6 and 7, par.4.8.
  • [383] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 7, par.4.9.
  • [384] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 7, par.4.11.
  • [385] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 7, par.2.12.
  • [386] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 8, par.4.14.
  • [387] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 8, par.4.15.
  • [388] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 8, par.4.16.
  • [389] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, pages 8 and 9, par.4.17.
  • [390] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 6, par. 4.5.
  • [391] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 6, par. 4.6.
  • [392] Court of Justice of the European Union, Huawei Technologies Co.Ltd. v. ZTE Corp. and ZTE Deutschland GmbH, 16 July 2015.
  • [393] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 9, par. 4.2.1.
  • [394] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 17 March 2020, page 9, par.4.18.

Updated 6 10月 2020

Unwired Planet対Huawei Conversant対Huawei 及び ZTE、英国最高裁判所

英国裁判所の決定
26 8月 2020 - Case No. [2020] UKSC 37

A. 内容

英国最高裁判所(最高裁判所)による本判決は、欧州電気通信標準化機構(European Telecommunications Standards Institute: ETSI)が開発した無線通信標準の実施において必須な(と見込まれる)ものとして宣言済みの特許(標準必須特許又はSEP)の侵害に関する2つの別々の事件から提起された上告について判断を下している。ETSIの知的財産権ポリシー(ETSIのIPRポリシー)は、特許権者に対して自らの保有するSEPを公平、合理的、かつ非差別的(Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory:FRAND)な条件で標準の実施者にとってアクセス可能にするとの誓約を推奨している。

Unwired Planet対Huawei

第一の事件は、幾つかの無線通信標準に対応したSEPのポートフォリオを保有する会社であるUnwired Planet International Limited(Unwired Planet)と特に標準準拠のモバイルフォンを製造販売する中国の製造販売会社であるHuaweiグループ中の2社(Huawei)の間の紛争に関わるものである。

2014年3月、Unwired Planetは自社の5つの英国SEPの侵害に関しHuawei、Samsung、及び第三の会社をイングランド・ウェールズ高等法院(高等法院)において提訴した。この訴訟の過程において、Unwired PlanetはHuaweiに対しライセンシングの申し出をいくつか行ったが、ライセンス契約の合意には至らなかった。その一方で、Unwired PlanetとSamsungとの間ではライセンス契約が交わされた。

2017年4月5日、高等法院はHuaweiに対し、同法院がFRANDと決定した特定の条件による ワールドワイド・ライセンス契約をUnwired Planetとの間で交わすまでの差止命令を出した [395] 。Huaweiはこの判決について控訴した。高等法院は控訴が係属中の間、差止命令の強制を停止した。

2018年10月23日、英国控訴院(控訴院)は高等法院の判決を不服とするHuaweiの控訴を棄却した  [396] その後、Huaweiは英国最高裁判所(最高裁判所又は最高裁)に上告を提起した。

Conversant対Huawei and ZTE

第二の事件は、ライセンシング会社であるConversant Wireless Licensing S.A.R.L. (Conversant)とHuawei及びZTEグループの2社 (ZTE)の間の紛争に関わるものである。ZTEは中国に拠点を置きネットワーク機器、モバイルフォン、及び消費者向け電子機器を製造し世界的に販売する企業グループである。 2017年にConversantはHuawei及びZTEに対する侵害訴訟を高等法院において提起した。Conversantは、数ある請求の中でもとりわけ、自社の4つの英国特許に対する侵害について差止による救済を求め、また自社のSEPポートフォリオについてグローバルFRANDライセンスの条件を決定することも高等法院に求めた。Huawei及びZTEは同事件について審理し判決を下す高等法院の管轄権について争い、Conversantの中国特許の有効性に異議を唱える訴訟を中国で提起した。

2018年4月16日、高等法院は、グローバルポートフォリオ・ライセンスの条件を決定する権限を含めて当該紛争についての管轄権を同法院が有すると確認した [397]  。HuaweiとZTEは高等法院のこの判決について控訴した。

2019年1月30日、控訴院は控訴を棄却し、英国特許の侵害を根拠としてグローバルライセンスのFRAND条件を決定するための管轄権を英国の裁判所が有すると確認した [398] 。HuaweiとZTEは最高裁判所に上告した。

最高裁判所は、両事件についての控訴を全員一致で棄却し、本判決を下した Unwired Planet対Huawei、Conversant対Huawei及びZTE、英国最高裁判所、2019年1月30日判決、事件番号 [2019] EWCA Civ 38。 。 

B. 判決理由

最高裁判所は、両上告において以下の5つの争点が提起されたと特定し、それらについて判断を下した。

1. 管轄権 最高裁判所は、多国籍SEPポートフォリオについてグローバルFRANDライセンス条件を決定する管轄権を英国の裁判所が有し、従って、標準実施者がかかるライセンス契約の締結を拒否した場合には、英国SEPを根拠とする差止命令を発出する管轄権を有すると確認した  [400]

最高裁は、ETSIのIPRポリシーの下でSEP保有者は国内裁判所に差止命令を求めることを禁じられていないとした [401] 。 最高裁は、国内裁判所が差止命令を出すことで侵害を止める可能性は、むしろ、実施者がFRANDライセンスの交渉を行うことを確実に奨励するのであり 「IPRポリシーが取ろうとするバランスに必要な構成要素である」とした [401]  。

また、最高裁は、英国特許を根拠とする差止命令の裁定の他に、英国の裁判所は、グローバルFRANDライセンスの条件も定めることができるとした。最高裁判所の見解によれば、ETSIのIPRポリシーが定めた「契約上の取り決め」は、英国の裁判所に該当する権限を行使する管轄権も与えている  [402]

最高裁によれば、ETSIのIPRポリシーは「通信業界における商慣習の反映」を試みており 「国際的に効力を有することを意図する」ものである [403] 。通信業界においては、(ポートフォリオ中の)「正確にいくつの特許が有効か又は侵害されているかを知らずに」特許のポートフォリオについてグローバルライセンス契約を結ぶことは一般的である [404] 。特許権者は、特定の特許について必須である(と見込まれる)との宣言を行う時点では、開発中の標準におけるその特許の有効性や侵害の有無について知りえない [404]  。その一方で、実施者は、標準を実施する際にどの特許の有効で侵害しているかについて知ってはいない  [404]

この「不可避の不確実性(unavoidable uncertainty)」は、特許権者が宣言した全てのSEPをワールドワイドに網羅したポートフォリオライセンスの締結によって対処され、その対価は「ポートフォリオ中の多くの特許が未検証であるという性質を反映しなければならない 」 [404]  。かかるライセンスを締結することで、実施者は標準への「アクセス」と、その標準に準拠するために必要とされる全技術の使用を許可されているとの「確実性」を「買う」のである [404]

最高裁判所は、商慣習によれば、FRANDライセンスには「未検証 (untested)」の特許が含まれるため、グローバルライセンスの条件の決定はそれに含まれる全特許についての有効性の評価を意味しないとの見解をとった。従って、ワールドワイドポートフォリオ・ライセンスの条件を定める際、英国の裁判所は外国特許に関する有効性及び侵害の有無について判断しておらず、かかる問題は、まさに各特許が認可された国の国内裁判所の専属的管轄権に服するものである [405]  。それ故、実施者が「これらの特許又はいずれかの特許について該当する外国裁判所において異議を申し立てる権利を留保し、結果として、当該ライセンス上でロイヤルティ料率変更のメカニズムを定めるよう求めることは一般に「公平かつ合理的(fair and reasonable)」であると判断された。 [406]

これに関連して、最高裁判所は、前述のアプローチが英国の法理に特有のものではなく、他の管轄区域、特にアメリカ、ドイツ、中国、及び日本で下された判決とも整合性があることを強調した  [407]

2. 適切な法廷地(フォーラム・コンビニエンス)

最高裁判所が扱った第二の争点も英国の裁判所の管轄権に関するものである。原告は、 Conversant対Huaweiの事件において、英国の裁判所は管轄権を辞退して中国の裁判所に渡すか少なくともConversantの中国特許の有効性に対する異議申し立てについて中国の裁判所が判決を下すまで訴訟を一時停止するべきであったと主張した。

最高裁判所は、英国の裁判所には管轄権を辞退し中国の裁判所に渡す義務はないと判断した [408] 。最高裁は、中国の裁判所については(英国の裁判所と異なり)当該紛争の全当事者の合意がないことから、現時点では中国の裁判所にグローバルFRANDポートフォリオライセンスの条件を定める管轄権はなく、本事件には所謂「フォーラム・コンビニエンス(forum conveniens)」の法理が適用されないとした [408]  。更に、最高裁は、現状況下でConversantが中国の裁判所への管轄権付与を承諾するとは合理的に考えにくいと判断した [408]  。 最高裁判所は、本紛争に関わる英国の裁判所には、有効性に関する中国での訴訟の結果を待って英国での訴訟を一時停止する義務もないとの見解を示した [409] 。最高裁は、英国で提起された訴訟がConversantのグローバルSEPポートフォリオについてのFRAND ライセンス条件の決定に関するものであるのに対し、中国での訴訟はConversantの中国特許の有効性のみに関連しているためであるとした  [409]

3. 非差別性

最高裁判所が審理した第三の争点は、FRANDの非差別性要件の解釈に関するものである。この訴訟においては、トライアル開始後にSamsungと合意した条件よりも不利なライセンス条件をHuaweiに対して申し出たことによりUnwired PlanetがFRANDの非差別性の部分に違反していたか否かという問題が生じていた。

最高裁判所は、高等法院及び控訴院の判断を支持し、(Unwired Planetは)違反してはいなかったとした。最高裁は、全ての同様の状況にあるライセンシーに対して同一又は同様の条件を申し出ることを特許権者に義務づけるような、所謂「厳格な(hard-edged)」非差別性の要件をFRANDは暗示してはいないと説明した [410] ] 。

ETSIの IPR ポリシー(第6条第1項)によれば、特許権者はFRAND条件のライセンスを提供することにコミットしなければならないとされている。最高裁判所は、この義務は「単一の一体化された義務(single, unitary obligation)」であり、ライセンス条件の公平性、合理性、及び非差別性に関する別々の3つの義務ではないとの見解を示した  [411]  。よって、条件は「全ての市場参加者に公平なロイヤルティ価格として一般的に提供されるべきものであり」、特定のライセンシーの「個別の特性による調整なしに」SEPポートフォリオの「適正市価(true value)」を反映するべきであるとされた [412]   。

最高裁判所は、更に、ETSIのIPRポリシーに基づくFRAND誓約は、所謂「最も有利なライセンス(most favourable license)」の条項を暗示するものではなく、全ての同様の状況にあるライセンシーに対して最も有利な条件と同等の条件でライセンス許諾を行うことを特許権者に義務づけてはいないと明確に示した [413]  。最高裁は、ETSIによるIPRポリシー制定の経緯について詳しく検討した上で、 以前ETSIが前述のような条項をFRAND誓約に含める提案を明確に却下していたとの所見を述べた [414]  。 最高裁は、更に、価格差別化がそれに関わる私的又は公的な利益にとって有害であるとの「一般的推定(general presumption)」は存在しないとした [415]  。最高裁は、むしろ、特定のライセンシーに対するベンチマーク料率よりも低いロイヤルティのオファーをSEP保有者が選択することが商取引上の意味合いから合理的な状況も存在するとした [416]  。 このことは、例えば、所謂「先行者利益(first mover advantage)」にも当てはまる。最高裁は、一番初めのライセンシーとの間で低いロイヤルティ料率を合意することは、SEPから最初の収益を生むだけでなく、締結されたライセンスが当該ポートフォリオを市場において「有効化(validate)」し将来的なライセンシングに資する可能性もあるため、「経済的合理性(economically rational)」と「商取引上の重要性(commercially important)」を有し得ると認めた [416]  。このことは、Unwired PlanetがSamsung とライセンス契約を締結した当時のように、特許権者が自らの商業的な生き残りを確実にするのため低いロイヤルティ料率でのライセンス許諾を強いられる所謂「投売り(fire sales)」の状況にも当てはまるとされた [417]  。

4. 市場における支配的地位の濫用/Huaweiフレームワーク

最高裁判所が審理した第四の争点は、Huaweiに対する侵害訴訟を提起したことにより Unwired Planetが市場における支配的地位を濫用し「EUの機能に関する条約(the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU:TFEU)」 第102条への違反を犯しており、従って差止による救済へのアクセスを認められるべきでないのかという問題である。Huaweiは、この問題について、欧州連合司法裁判所(the Court of Justice of the European Union:CJEU)がHuawei対ZTE事件で確立した要件(Huawei判決又はHuaweiスキーム) にUnwired Planetが従っていなかったため差止命令の請求は却下されるべきであると主張していた [418]  。

最高裁判所は、この主張は当てはまらないと判断した [419] 。Huawei判決は、特許権者が標準の実施者に対して問題となっているSEPの使用が侵害を犯しているとの通知を差止による救済を求める訴訟の提起前に行う義務を定めており、違反した場合には、TFEU第102条における濫用行為に該当するとの見解を最高裁は示した [420] 。しかし、この義務の「性質(nature)」については、個別の事件の状況によって決まるとした  [420]  。最高裁は、Unwired Planetが本侵害訴訟の提起に先立ちHuaweiに妥当な通知を行っていたと判断した  [421]

Huawei判決が定めたその他の義務を考察して、最高裁判所は、Huaweiスキームは「強制的(mandatory)」なものではなく、正確に従えば第102条に違反するリスクを冒さずに [特許権者]が差止命令を求めることができる「ルートマップ(route map)」を示したものであるとの高等法院及び控訴院が以前に示した見解を支持した [422] 。最高裁は、それ以外にも、各当事者にFRAND条件でライセンスを締結する意思があるか否かという極めて重要な問題の評価を助けるいくつかの基準をHuawei判決が定めているとした[1076]。 最高裁判所は、その上でUnwired PlanetにはFRANDライセンスをHuaweiに許諾する意思があったのであり、濫用行為を行ってはいなかったと判断した  [421]  。

5. 損害賠償か差止命令かの問題

最高裁が審理した五番目で最後の争点は、SEPの侵害に対する適切な救済についての問題である。最高裁判所における上告審において、(原告は)Unwired PlanetのSEPに対する侵害への適切かつ相応な(appropriate and proportionate) 救済措置は差止命令ではなく損害賠償の裁定であるとの主張を初めて行った。 最高裁判所は、本事件において損害賠償の裁定を差止命令の代替とする根拠は存在しないと判断した [423] 。最高裁は、Unwired PlanetとConversantのいずれも、裁判所が既にFRANDとして確認していたはずの条件でライセンス許諾を申し出た場合にのみ差止命令を求める権利を得たのであるから「差止命令の威嚇(threat of an injunction)」をHuawei又はZTEに「法外な料金(exorbitant fees)」を課すための方法として用いることはできなかったとした [424]

更に、最高裁は、(損害賠償訴訟の場合)SEP保有者は実施者に対して特許毎かつ国毎に訴訟を提起することを余儀なくされ実際的ではない(impractical)と考えられるため、損害賠償の裁定が「差止命令の裁定を差し控えることにより失われるものに対する適切な代替手段となり得る可能性は低い」との見解を示した [425]  。更に、最高裁判所は、(損害賠償が適切な救済とされれば)標準の実施者が「特許毎かつ国毎にロイヤルティの支払いを強制されるまで侵害を続けることへの誘因」を得るのであり、自発的にライセンス契約を締結することは侵害者にとって「経済的に意味がなくなる」ため、FRANDライセンシングがより困難なものになるだろうと指摘した [426]  。

それに対し、差止命令であれば「より効果的な救済となり得る」と最高裁は判断した。差止命令は、侵害を全体的に禁止することにより、「侵害者が市場に留まろうとするなら」 SEP保有者の申し出たFRAND条件を受け入れる以外には侵害者に「ほとんど選択肢を与えない」ためである[1081]。このような理由により、最高裁判所は、差止命令が「正義を成すために必要(necessary in order to do justice)」であると強調した [427]

  • [395] Unwired Planet対Huawei、イングランド・ウェールズ高等法院、2017年4月5日判決、事件番号 [2017] EWHC 711(Pat)。
  • [396] Unwired Planet対Huawei、英国控訴院、2018年10月23日判決、事件番号 [2018] EWCA Civ 2344。
  • [397] Conversant対Huawei及びZTE、イングランド・ウェールズ高等法院、2018年4月16日判決、事件番号 [2018] EWHC 808 (Pat)。
  • [398] Conversant対Huawei及びZTE、英国控訴院、2019年1月30日判決、事件番号 [2019] EWCA Civ 38。
  • [399]  Unwired Planet対Huawei、Conversant対Huawei及びZTE、英国最高裁判所、2019年1月30日判決、事件番号 [2019] EWCA Civ 38。
  • [400] 同判決、第49節以下。
  • [401] 同判決、第61節。
  • [402] 同判決、第58節。
  • [403] 同判決、第62節。
  • [404] 同判決、第60節。
  • [405] 同判決、第63節。
  • [406] 同判決、第64節。
  • [407] 同判決、第68節ないし第84節。
  • [408] 同判決、第97節。
  • [409] 同判決、第99節以下。
  • [410] 同判決、第112節以下。
  • [411] 同判決、第113節。
  • [412] 同判決、第114節。
  • [413] 同判決、第116節。
  • [414] 同判決、第116節以下
  • [415] 同判決、第123節。
  • [416] 同判決、第125節。
  • [417] 同判決、第126節。
  • [418] Huawei対ZTE、欧州連合司法裁判所、2015年7月16日判決、事件番号 C-170/13。
  • [419] Unwired Planet対Huawei、Conversant対Huawei及びZTE、英国最高裁判所、2019年1月30日、事件番号 [2019] EWCA Civ 38、第149節以下。
  • [420] 同判決、第150節。
  • [421] 同判決、第158節。
  • [422] 同判決、第157節及び第158節。
  • [423] 同判決、第163節。
  • [424] 同判決、第164節。
  • [425] 同判決、第166節。
  • [426] 同判決、第167節。
  • [427] 同判決、第169節。

Updated 3 2月 2021

HEVC (Dolby) v MAS Elektronik

LG Düsseldorf
7 5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. [428]

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. [429]


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) [430] .

In the eyes of the Court, Dolby holds a dominant position [431] . The Court highlighted that owning a patent, even a standard-essential patent, does not constitute per se a condition for market dominance [432] . 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. [432] In the present case, the implementation of the HEVC was required to make a competitive offering in the STB market [433] .

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) [434] .


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. [435]

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. [436] 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. [436]

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. [437] 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. [438]

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. [439] 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. [440] 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. [441]

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 [442] . For this, no strict requirements apply, in terms of content or form; moreover, also an 'implicit behaviour' can suffice [443] . The implementer is, however, required to react in due course. [444] Furthermore, 'willingness' must still exist when the patent holder makes his licensing offer [442] .

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. [445]

On the other hand, MAS had not been willing to obtain a bilateral licence from Dolby. [439] The Court emphasized that the whole conduct of the implementer must be assessed; a 'genuine' willingness to obtain a license must be demonstrated. [446] 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. [447] 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. [448] 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. [449] 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. [450]

Furthermore, HEVC Advance had sufficiently explained the royalty calculation, in line with the Huawei judgment. [451] 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). [452] 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. [453] The more standard licensing agreements signed are shared by the patent holder, the stronger the assumption is, that the offered rates are FRAND. [454]

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. [455] 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. [456] Accordingly, the Court found that the forty third party agreements disclosed by Dolby in the proceedings were enough in the present case. [457]


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. [458] As fair and reasonable can be considered terms offered to a willing party, without exploiting a dominant position. [459] Apart from the royalties, the offer must also prove reasonable with regard to the other terms as well (scope, territory etc.). [459]

Having said that, the Court held that the royalties charged by HEVC Advance's standard licensing agreement are fair and reasonable. [460] 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'. [461] 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. [462]

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. [463] 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). [464]

Also, in the eyes of the Court, MAS was not able to prove that the lack of an adjustment clause is unreasonable [465] . 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. [466] 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. [467]

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. [468] The same clause was agreed in many other licensing agreements signed by HEVC Advance with third parties. [469] In fact, MAS agreed to a similar one in its license agreement with the MPEG LA pool. [469]


Non-discrimination

Besides that, the Court was unable to establish any discrimination against MAS through the licence offered by HEVC Advance. [470] 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. [471] 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. [472] Therefore, not every difference in the terms and conditions of a licence can be seen as abusive. [473] According to the Court, the same principle also applies to the licensing of SEPs. [474]

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. [475] 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. [476] 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. [476] On the contrary, the new royalty calculation leads to a lower licensing burden. [476]

The Court also took the view, that there is also no discrimination in the way the patent-in-suit is enforced. [477] 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. [478] In the case of HEVC Advance, the initial phase of its existence and limitation of resources are relevant for this assessment. [479]

Moreover, no discrimination with respect to the amount of the royalty rate or the scope offered was found. [480] 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. [481]

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. [482] 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. [483]

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. [484] 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 [485] .

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. [486]


Implementer's counteroffer

The Court found that MAS' counteroffer was not FRAND. [487] 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. [488]

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. [489]


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. [490] The quantification of the damages will be possible with the rendering of accounts by MAS. [491]

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. [492]

  • [428] 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.
  • [429] Ibid, paras. 157-184.
  • [430] Ibid, paras. 186 et seqq.
  • [431] Ibid, paras. 189 et seqq.
  • [432] Ibid, paras. 194 et seqq.
  • [433] Ibid, para. 197.
  • [434] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [435] 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.
  • [436] Ibid, para. 210.
  • [437] Ibid, paras. 229 et seqq.
  • [438] Ibid, para. 233.
  • [439] Ibid, para. 759.
  • [440] Ibid, paras. 236 et seqq.
  • [441] Ibid, paras. 760 et seqq.
  • [442] Ibid, para. 237.
  • [443] Ibid, para. 237 and para. 761.
  • [444] Ibid, para. 760.
  • [445] Ibid, para. 238.
  • [446] Ibid, para. 763.
  • [447] Ibid, para. 764.
  • [448] Ibid, para. 765.
  • [449] Ibid, paras. 241 et seqq.
  • [450] Ibid, para. 242.
  • [451] Ibid, paras. 244 et seqq.
  • [452] Ibid, para. 245.
  • [453] Ibid, para. 248.
  • [454] Ibid, para. 255.
  • [455] Ibid, para. 250.
  • [456] Ibid, para. 253.
  • [457] Ibid, para. 249.
  • [458] Ibid, paras. 257 and 258.
  • [459] Ibid, para. 260.
  • [460] Ibid, paras. 264 et seqq.
  • [461] Ibid, para. 268.
  • [462] Ibid, paras. 271 et seqq.
  • [463] Ibid, paras. 280 et seqq.
  • [464] Ibid, para. 284.
  • [465] Ibid, paras. 286 et seqq.
  • [466] Ibid, para. 295.
  • [467] Ibid, para. 298.
  • [468] Ibid, paras. 301 et seqq.
  • [469] Ibid, para. 304.
  • [470] Ibid, paras. 306 et seqq. and paras. 314 et seqq.
  • [471] Ibid, para. 308.
  • [472] Ibid, paras. 308 et seq.
  • [473] Ibid, para. 310.
  • [474] Ibid, para. 311.
  • [475] Ibid, paras. 314 et seqq.
  • [476] Ibid, para. 318.
  • [477] Ibid, para. 321.
  • [478] Ibid, para. 322.
  • [479] Ibid, para. 323.
  • [480] Ibid, paras. 325 et seqq. as well as paras. 443 et seqq.
  • [481] Ibid, para. 326.
  • [482] Ibid, paras. 328 et seqq.
  • [483] Ibid, paras. 329 et seqq.
  • [484] Ibid, paras. 334 et seqq.
  • [485] Ibid, paras. 526 et seqq.
  • [486] Ibid, paras. 665 et seqq.
  • [487] Ibid, paras. 751 et seqq.
  • [488] Ibid, paras. 754.
  • [489] Ibid, para. 756.
  • [490] Ibid, para. 773.
  • [491] Ibid, para. 774.
  • [492] Ibid, paras. 781 et seqq.