Huawei対ZTE事件CJEU判決後の判例法
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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 [152] 。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 [153]

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 [154] 。 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 [155] 。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 [156] 。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 [157]

2020年5月5日付のこの判決により  [158] (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 [159]

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 [160]

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  [161]

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 [162] 。従って、いくつかの要因を考慮する必要がある [163] 。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 [164]  。

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 [165]

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 [166] 。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  [167] 。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 [168] 。 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 [169]

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 [170] 。 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 [170] 。 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  [170]

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  [171]

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  [171]

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  [172]  。

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  [173] 。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。 [173] 。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。 [174]  。

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) [175]  。
  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 [176]

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 [177] 。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  [178]  。

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 [179]  。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  [179]  。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。 [180]  。

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  [181] [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 [182]  。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 [182]  。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)  [182]  。

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 [183] 。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 [183]

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  [184]  。

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 [185] 。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 [186] 。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  [186]  。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 [186] 。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  [187]  。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  [188]  。

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)  [189]  。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  [189]  。

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  [190]

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 [191]  。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 [191]  。

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  [192]  。

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  [193]  。

 

  • [152] 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。
  • [153] 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。
  • [154] 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。
  • [155] 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。
  • [156] 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)。
  • [157] 連邦裁判所、2020年3月10日付判決、事件番号No. X ZR 44/18。
  • [158] Sisvel 対Haier、連邦裁判所、2020年5月5日付判決、事件番号KZR 36/17。
  • [159] 同判決、第9節以下、及び第59節。
  • [160] 同判決、第52節。
  • [161] 同判決、第54節。
  • [162] 同判決、第56節。
  • [163] 同判決、第 57節以下。
  • [164] 同判決、第58節。
  • [165] 同判決、第59節以下。
  • [166] 同判決、第61節。
  • [167] 同判決、第63節。
  • [168] 同判決、第62節。
  • [169] 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。
  • [170] 同判決、第64節。
  • [171] 同判決、第65節。
  • [172] 同判決、第67節以下。
  • [173] 同判決、第69節。
  • [174] 同判決、第70節。
  • [175] 同判決、第71節。
  • [176] 同判決、第72節。
  • [177] 同判決、第73節以下。
  • [178] 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。
  • [179] 同判決、第74節。
  • [180] 同判決、第74節及び第85節。
  • [181] 同判決、第89節。
  • [182] 同判決、第85節。
  • [183] 同判決、第87節。
  • [184] 同判決、第86 節以下。
  • [185] 同判決、第91節以下。
  • [186] 同判決、第92節。
  • [187] 同判決、第93節以下。
  • [188] 同判決、第94節。
  • [189] 同判決、第83節。
  • [190] 同判決、第95節。
  • [191] 同判決、第96節。
  • [192] 同判決、第98節。
  • [193] 同判決、第97節。

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 [1] . 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 [2] (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 [3] . 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 [5] . 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) [8] .
 

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 [17] . 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 [17] .

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. [18] 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. [19] The fact that a party fails to contribute in negotiations towards a FRAND agreement will regularly be considered to its detriment. [20] 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. [21]

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. [22] Otherwise, competition could be distorted, because the infringer would gain unfair advantages over implementers that have taken a licence in a timely manner. [22]

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. [26]

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. [37] 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 [38] . 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 [38] . 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 [39] . 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. [40]

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 [41] . 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 [43] .

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. [45] 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'. [45]

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 [53] . 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. [60]

What is more, Sisvel's claim for damages was not limited to the amount of a FRAND licensing rate ('licensing analogy'). [61] 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. [60] 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

  • [1] 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).
  • [2] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [3] 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).
  • [4] Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 28 April 2020, Case No. X ZR 35/18.
  • [5] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 5 May 2020, Case No. KZR 36/17.
  • [6] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17 (cited by ).
  • [7] Ibid, paras. 10-43.
  • [8] Ibid, para. 44.
  • [9] Ibid, paras. 48 et seqq.
  • [10] Ibid, para. 49.
  • [11] Ibid, para. 52.
  • [12] Ibid, para. 53.
  • [13] Ibid, para. 54.
  • [14] Ibid, para. 55.
  • [15] Ibid, para. 84.
  • [16] Ibid, paras. 86 et seqq.
  • [17] Ibid, para. 57.
  • [18] Ibid, para. 58.
  • [19] Ibid, para. 59.
  • [20] Ibid, para. 60.
  • [21] Ibid, para. 62.
  • [22] Ibid, para. 61.
  • [23] Ibid, para. 63.
  • [24] Ibid, para. 65.
  • [25] Ibid, para. 68.
  • [26] Ibid, paras. 66 and 68.
  • [27] Ibid, para. 69.
  • [28] Ibid, para. 69. See Nokia v Daimler, District Court of Duesseldorf, order dated 26 November 2020, Case No. 4c O 17/19.
  • [29] Ibid, paras. 70 and 71.
  • [30] Ibid, para. 71.
  • [31] Ibid, para. 72.
  • [32] Ibid, para. 73.
  • [33] Ibid, para. 74.
  • [34] Ibid, para. 76.
  • [35] Ibid, para. 77.
  • [36] Ibid, paras. 79 et seqq.
  • [37] Ibid, para. 83.
  • [38] Ibid, para. 87.
  • [39] Ibid, paras. 88 et seqq.
  • [40] Ibid, para. 89.
  • [41] Ibid, paras. 93 et seqq.
  • [42] Ibid, para. 95.
  • [43] Ibid, paras. 96-99.
  • [44] Ibid, paras. 102 et seqq.
  • [45] Ibid, para. 102.
  • [46] Ibid, paras. 108 et seqq.
  • [47] Ibid, para. 116.
  • [48] Ibid, para. 118.
  • [49] Ibid, paras. 124 et seqq.
  • [50] Ibid, para. 124.
  • [51] Ibid, para. 125.
  • [52] Ibid, para. 126.
  • [53] 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.
  • [54] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17, para. 107.
  • [55] Ibid, para. 56.
  • [56] Ibid, paras. 127 et seqq.
  • [57] Ibid, para. 130.
  • [58] Ibid, para. 131.
  • [59] Ibid, paras. 131 et seq.
  • [60] Ibid, para. 135.
  • [61] Ibid, paras. 134 et seqq.

Updated 7 4月 2021

Sisvel v Wiko

OLG Karlsruhe
9 12月 2020 - Case No. 6 U 103/19

A. Facts

The claimant, Sisvel, holds patents declared as (potentially) essential to the practice of the UMTS and LTE wireless telecommunications standards, which are subject to a commitment to be made accessible to users on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions (standard-essential patents or SEPs). Sisvel also administrates a patent pool, comprising patents of several SEP holders, including Sisvel's own SEPs (patent pool).

The defendants are two companies that are part of the Wiko group (Wiko). [235] Wiko sells mobile phones complying with the LTE standard - among other markets- in Germany.

In June 2015, the patent pool informed Wiko for the first time about the need to obtain a licence. On 1 June 2016, Sisvel (as the patent pool's administrator) offered Wiko a portfolio licence, which also covered the patent in suit. Agreement was, however, not reached.

On 22 June 2016, Sisvel brought an action against Wiko before the District Court (Landgericht) of Mannheim in Germany (District Court) based on one patent reading on the LTE standard (infringement proceedings). Sisvel requested a declaratory judgment confirming Wiko's liability for damages on the merits, as well as information and rendering of accounts.

On 23 June 2016, Sisvel made an offer for a bilateral licence limited to its own SEP portfolio to the German subsidiary of Wiko. This offer was not accepted. Moreover, Wiko filed a nullity action against the SEP in suit before the German Federal Patent Court (nullity proceedings).

In October 2016, Sisvel extended the lawsuit. Claims for injunctive relief as well as the recall and destruction of infringing products were added to the other claims initially asserted.

On 11 November 2016, Wiko made a counteroffer to Sisvel. Some days prior to the oral hearing in the infringement proceedings, Wiko informed the Court that it had provided information to Sisvel and had also deposited a security amount for past uses.

On 8 November 2017, Sisvel made a new offer to Wiko with reduced royalty rates. Wiko did not immediately react to this offer.

On 22 December 2017, Sisvel asked the District Court to order a stay of the infringement proceedings, until the decision of the Federal Patent Court in the parallel nullity proceedings. Wiko agreed with Sisvel's motion. On 30 January 2018, the infringement proceedings were stayed.

On 9 February 2018, Sisvel sent a reminder to Wiko regarding the offer made on 8 November 2017. Wiko responded on 16 February 2018, requesting further claim charts and more time to examine the patents covered by the offer.

On 26 June 2018, during the stay of the infringement proceedings, Sisvel made another licensing offer to Wiko based on a new restructured licensing program (2018 offer). Along with the 2018 offer, Sisvel provided Wiko with claim charts regarding 20 selected patents and a list of existing licensees of both its new licensing program and two pre-existing programs. The list contained the date of the conclusion of each agreement as well as the agreed licence fees. The names of the licensees were, however, redacted.

Wiko did not react to the 2018 offer for more than three months. On 15 October 2018, following a respective reminder sent by Sisvel on 14 September 2018, Wiko replied, without, however, commenting the 2018 offer; it just referred back to its counteroffer dated 11 November 2016. Wiko also criticized the fact that Sisvel did not disclose the names of the existing licensees so far.

In response to that claim, Sisvel shared a draft Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) with Wiko on 22 October 2018, based on which it would be willing to disclose the names of the existing licensees. Wiko refused to sign the NDA proposed by Sisvel.

In October 2018, the Federal Patent Court upheld the SEP in suit in part. Subsequently, the District Court moved on with the infringement proceedings. After the end of the oral hearings in July 2019, Wiko made a new counteroffer to Sisvel and provided the latter with additional information. However, Wiko did not increase the amount of security deposited after its first counteroffer dated 11 November 2016.

In the beginning of September 2019, Sisvel set up an electronic data room containing redacted versions of Sisvel's existing licensing agreements with third parties and granted Wiko respective access rights. Wiko did not make use of this data room at any point in time.

On 4 September 2019, the District Court granted an injunction against Wiko and ordered the removal and destruction of infringing products from the market. It also confirmed Wiko's liability for damages on the merits and ordered Wiko to provide Sisvel with information required for the calculation of damages. Wiko appealed the decision of the District Court.

Shortly after the District Court rendered its decision, the term of the patent-in-suit expired. Sisvel, however, enforced the injunction granted by the District Court.

With the present judgment [236] (cited by http://lrbw.juris.de/cgi-bin/laender_rechtsprechung/list.py?Gericht=bw&GerichtAuswahl=Oberlandesgerichte&Art=en&sid=2b226ea73cc9637362d8e1af04a34d05), the Higher District Court (Oberlandesgericht) of Karlsruhe (Court) predominantly upheld the judgment of the District Court [237] .
 

B. Court's reasoning

The Court found that Wiko could not successfully raise a so-called 'FRAND-defence' based on an alleged abuse of market dominance (Article 102 TFEU) against the claims for injunctive relief and the recall and destruction of infringing products asserted by Sisvel. [238]

This question was still decisive in the present case, despite the fact that the patent-in-suit expired before the start of the appeal proceedings. The Court explained that the expiration of a patent affects only future acts of use (which, then, no longer constitute infringement): On the contrary, claims that had arisen prior to expiration based on acts of use during the lifetime of the patent are not impaired. [239] Whether claims were given before the expiration of the patent-in-suit is of particular importance, especially when the patent holder has enforced a (first-instance) judgment delivered in proceedings conducted within the term of protection of the patent, as it was the case here. [240]
 

Dominant market position

Having said that, the Court agreed with the finding of the District Court that Sisvel had a market dominant position in terms of Article 102 TFEU with respect to the patent-in-suit in the relevant time period prior to its expiration. [241]

The Court followed the District Court also insofar, as it confirmed that, by filing an infringement action, Sisvel had not abused its market dominance.
 

Notification of infringement

In the eyes of the Court, Sisvel had sufficiently notified Wiko about the infringement of the patent-in-suit prior to filing a court action. [242] The purpose of the notification of infringement is to draw the implementer's attention to the infringement and the necessity of taking a license on FRAND terms and conditions. [243] In terms of content, the notification must identify the patent infringed, the form of infringement and also designate the infringing embodiments. [243] Detailed technical or legal analysis of the infringement allegation is not required. [243] The production of so-called 'claim charts', which is common in practice, will, as a rule, suffice, but is not mandatory. [243] If the patent holder offers a portfolio licence, respective extended information duties occur. [243]

In the present case, it was not disputed that Sisvel had notified Wiko about the patent-in-suit prior to litigation. [244] As far as Wiko complained that no claim charts were presented before trial, the Court reiterated that no respective obligation of Sisvel existed. [245] What is more, the Court held that the court action initially filed by Sisvel, which did not include claims for injunctive relief and the recall and destruction of infringing products, could also be seen as an adequate notification of infringement. [244]
 

Willingness to obtain a licence

The Court then found that Wiko behaved as an unwilling (potential) licensee both prior and during the infringement proceedings [246] . The Court agreed with the assessment of the District Court that Wiko delayed the licensing negotiations between the parties with the goal to avoid taking a licence for as long as possible, in order to gain economic benefits. [247]

According to the Court, the 'expression of a general willingness to license' is not sufficient for assuming that an implementer is a 'willing licensee'. [248] Moreover, the implementer must 'clearly and unambiguously' declare willingness to conclude a license agreement on FRAND terms, 'whatever FRAND terms may actually look like" [248] . The respective declaration must be 'serious and unconditional'. [248]

The Court highlighted that for the assessment of willingness the overall facts and the particular conduct of the implementer shall be taken into account. [248] Willingness is not 'static': the finding that an implementer was willing (or unwilling) at a certain moment in time does not remain unchanged henceforth. [248]

The implementer must always be willing to obtain a licence and participate in negotiations in a 'target-oriented manner'; since implementers might be inclined to delay negotiations until the expiration of the patent-in-suit, there is a need to make sure that their behaviour in negotiations will not lead to delays. [249] Moreover, it should be expected that a willing implementer would seek a license as soon as possible, in order to shorten the period, in which it makes use of the patent-in-suit or the SEP holder's portfolio without authorisation and without paying licensing fees. [250] Accordingly, a willing licensee would not consider the 'negotiation obligations' of the SEP holder primarily as a means to defend itself against a court action, but as a means to utilize in order to reach a FRAND agreement, if needed. [250]

In the view of the Court, the above requirements are in line with the Huawei v ZTE judgment (Huawei judgment or Huawei) [251] of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU). [252] In Huawei, CJEU focused on the will of the infringer to conclude a license agreement on FRAND terms and emphasized that the latter must not pursue 'delaying tactics'. The Court explained that, although in Huawei the requirement to refrain from 'delaying tactics' is expressly mentioned only with respect to the duty of the implementer to react to a licensing offer of the SEP holder, it applies 'at all times' as long as the implementer uses the patents without a licence; otherwise, the suspension of SEP holder's right to the injunctive relief cannot be justified. [253]

In this context, the Court pointed out that not every 'reluctant involvement' of the implementer in licensing discussions will necessarily allow for the assumption of unwillingness. [254] Such behaviour could be justified in individual cases, especially when the SEP holder does not act in a 'target-oriented' manner itself. [254] Nevertheless, implementers must, as a rule, react timely even to a belated action of the SEP holder. [254] Furthermore, implementers must, in principle, inform the SEP holder of any objections at an early stage and should not wait to raise those much later in court proceedings. [254]

Looking at Wiko's conduct, the Court criticized especially the fact that it became active mostly as a reaction to new developments in the pending infringement proceedings. [255] A willing implementer would have, however, sought a licence independently of the initiation of legal steps and independently of the course of litigation. [256] As an example, the Court highlighted the fact that Wiko's counteroffer dated 11 November 2016 was made only shortly after Sisvel extended the infringement suit by adding a claim for injunctive relief. [257] Wiko also provided information on past acts of infringement only a few days prior to the first oral hearing in February 2017 (and refrained from constantly updating this information afterwards, as it would be expected by a willing licensee). [258]

The Court identified also further facts that indicate that Wiko engaged in delaying tactics. [259] Wiko reacted to Sisvel's licensing offers made during the course of the proceedings always belatedly and only after a reminder by Sisvel (for instance, it took Wiko more than three months to react to the 2018 offer) [260] . It also demanded further claim charts in February 2018, years after the action was filed. [261]

Wiko's refusal to sign the NDA offered by Sisvel -despite multiple reminders of the latter- without providing any reasons was also considered as a sign of unwillingness. [262] According to the Court, it should be expected by a willing licensee, who is not interested in delaying negotiations, to swiftly raise any criticisms regarding an NDA proposed by the SEP holder in writing or by e-mail, and not wait to raise any concerns several months later in the infringement proceedings, as Wiko had done here. [263] The Court also considered the fact that Wiko did not access the electronic data room set up by Sisvel containing redacted versions of Sisvel's third party agreements as an additional indication of unwillingness. [264]

Furthermore, the Court clarified that -contrary to Wiko's view- school holidays and/or staff shortages cannot provide sufficient justification for delays in negotiations. [265] Even if such circumstances occur, a willing implementer would have communicated any obstacles immediately. [265] Wiko failed to do so.
 

SEP holder's offer

Since Wiko was found to have been an unwilling licensee, the Court explained that the question whether Sisvel fulfilled its duty to make and adequately elaborate a FRAND licensing offer, was no longer decisive. [266] In fact, no such duty had arisen in the present case, due to Wiko's unwillingness to obtain a licence. [266] Notwithstanding the above, the Court provided guidance on the content and extend of the respective obligation of the SEP holder.

The Court first explained that FRAND is a 'range', which leaves room for flexibility. [267] As a rule, FRAND is determined in bilateral good faith negotiations between SEP holders and implementers, taking into account the specific circumstances of each individual case [267] ; indeed, parties are best situated to determine the exact content of FRAND in a specific setting. [267]

In order to meet its obligation, an SEP holder must present an offer to a willing licensee, which 'in general' complies with FRAND requirements and is fair, reasonable and not discriminatory with respect to the 'average licensee'. [268] The SEP holder shall further explain its offer in a way that permits the licensee to understand the assumptions, on which the offered rate and further conditions are based. [269] The rationale behind this obligation is to create a sufficient basis of information for the implementer for assessing the offer and eventually formulating a counteroffer. [270]

In this context, the Court made clear that implementers should not expect that the SEP holder individually adapts its (first) offer to the specific circumstances of each particular case. [271] The SEP holder's FRAND commitment does not give rise to such obligation. [271] The (first) offer is intended to launch the negotiations and provide an adequate information basis to the implementer, who will then be in a position to suggest necessary amendments by means of a counteroffer. [271] Accordingly, it will regularly be acceptable that the SEP holder's offer is 'not clearly and evidently' non-FRAND and sufficient information was provided to the implementer. [272]

The Court dismissed the notion that the implementer is obliged to negotiate (and eventually) make a counteroffer, only when the SEP holder's offer was fully FRAND-compliant. [272] This would bring the negotiations to a stand-still and, therefore, conflict with the spirit of the Huawei judgment, which is to encourage the parties to reach agreement on the licensing terms. [273] Moreover, the Court explained that –irrespective of whether the offer triggers an obligation of the implementer to submit a counter-offer– the latter will be regularly required, at least, to analyse the SEP holder's offer in due course and express any objections and queries without delay. [274]

Against this background, the Court found that none of the offers made to Wiko during the infringement proceedings was 'clearly and evidently' non-FRAND. [275] The fact that the offers did not define the start of the contract or the amount of royalties payable for past uses was not considered problematic. [276] The Court also found that the royalty rates offered were not 'evidently non-FRAND', since they were sufficiently substantiated by reference to existing licensing agreements and calculated on basis of a 'top-down' method. [277] A need to calculate royalties on grounds of the costs that incurred for the creation of the patented invention (cost-based approach) was not given, since this factor was not relevant for establishing value. [278]

In addition, the Court did not raise any concerns against the fact that Sisvel's offer concerned a worldwide portfolio licence: On the one hand, agreements with such scope are common in the telecommunications industry. [279] On the other hand, Wiko had worldwide activities, so that a licence with a limited scope would not provide sufficient coverage. [279]

The fact that some of the patents included in Sisvel's portfolio were -allegedly- not standard-essential did not render the offers 'un-FRAND'. [280] The Court stressed that, for the purpose of licensing negotiations and the conclusion of a licence, it is not necessary to conclusively clarify whether each portfolio patent is standard-essential. [281] Implementers can reserve the right to challenge the validity and essentiality of affected patents even after the conclusion of a licensing agreement. [281]

Similarly, the Court had no objections against a clause placing the burden of proof with regard to the exhaustion of licenced patents on Wiko. [282] This rule corresponds with the common allocation of the burden of proof under German law and does not place unreasonable weight on the licensee, since it will be better situated to trace the licensing chain by engaging with its suppliers. [283]

The question whether an adjustment clause is necessary for an offer to be considered FRAND was left unanswered by the Court. [284] Such clause would allow the implementer to adapt the agreed royalties, in case that patents fall out of the scope of the licence (e.g. due to expiration or invalidation). The Court saw no need for a respective contractual provision, since the licences offered by Sisvel would expire and, therefore, be re-negotiated after five years. [284] The Court did not express any concerns against the term of the offered licence or the termination clauses contained therein, either. [285]

Furthermore, the Court made clear that Sisvel had adequately elaborated the licensing rates offered to Wiko. [286] In the infringement proceedings, Sisvel responded to the 'top-down' calculation of Wiko in detail and made relevant clarifications. [287] According to the Court, Sisvel was under no circumstances obliged to elaborate on a cost-based calculation of royalties, as requested by Wiko; such demand was considered just another means to delay negotiations. [288]
 

Implementers' counteroffer

The Court also found that the counteroffers made by Wiko during the course of the first instance infringement proceedings were not FRAND. [289]

The Court highlighted that the obligation of the implementer to submit a FRAND counteroffer to the SEP holder is already triggered, when the previous licensing offer of the latter is not 'clearly and evidently' non-FRAND and sufficient information was provided, enabling the implementer to formulate its counteroffer. [290]

Having said that, the Court took the view that the royalty rates which Wiko offered were very low and, thus, not FRAND-compliant. [291] The Court criticized especially the fact that the rates were significantly lower than the rates which were considered to be adequate in previous court decisions. [292] Notwithstanding the above, the Court explained that, even if Wiko's counteroffer had been FRAND, this would not change the conclusion that Wiko had acted as an unwilling licensee. [293] According to the Court, a willing licensee would not have submitted a counteroffer around one year after receipt of the SEP holder's offer, as Wiko did. [294]
 

C. Other important issues

The Court stressed that for generating pressure-free licensing negotiations during pending infringement proceedings, it will, as a rule, be sufficient, if the proceedings are stayed with a view to parallel nullity proceedings concerning the patent-in-suit. [295] This is particularly true, when the SEP holder takes the respective initiative, as it was the case here. [295] Nevertheless, even if a pressure-free negotiation situation is not given, the infringers is not released from the obligation to act in good faith and engage in licensing negotiations, for instance by analysing a licensing offer of the SEP holder. [295] The refusal of the infringer to act accordingly could, in the eyes of the Court, allow the conclusion that it is an unwilling licensee. [295]

Apart from that, the Court confirmed that Wiko had no legal ground for requesting full disclosure of Sisvel's third party agreements [296] . Even if one would recognize a duty of the SEP holder to share information about the core content of existing licensing agreements (that are still in force), it is questionable whether this duty would also extend to agreements signed by previous patent holders. [297] The Court expressed particular doubts that this applies in cases in which a portfolio was assembled from patents acquired from different patent holders, since the relevance of bilateral or pool licensing agreements of the former patent holder can be limited in this case. [298]

Furthermore, the Court expressed the view that under German law a so-called 'covenant not to sue' does not have the effect of a (royalty-free) licence: such agreements will, as a rule, have only a procedural effect in terms of a pactum de non petendo, excluding only the initiation of court proceedings. [299]

Finally, the Court denied Wiko's motion to order a stay in the appeal proceedings due to the recent referral of several questions regarding the interpretation of the Huawei framework to the CJEU by the District Court of Düsseldorf in the matter Nokia v Daimler [300] . [301] According to the Court, it appears unlikely that the CJEU will establish criteria, by which SEP-based court actions against implementers engaging in delaying tactics would amount to an abuse of market dominance. [302]
 

  • [235] The action was extended to a third defendant, an individual person, who had served as a managing director for both aforementioned companies.
  • [236] Sisvel v Wiko, Higher Regional Court Karlsruhe, judgment dated 9 December 2020, Case-No. 6 U 103/19
  • [237] The claims for injunctive relief, rendering of accounts and damages asserted against the former managing director of the two Wiko companies were limited to the period of time until the end of its tenure; ibid, paras. 265-288.
  • [238] Ibid, para. 289.
  • [239] Ibid, paras. 284 et seqq.
  • [240] Ibid, para. 287.
  • [241] Ibid, paras. 290 et seq. Insofar, the Court made clear that a market dominant position ceases to exist after the expiration of the relevant patent.
  • [242] Ibid, paras. 292 et seqq.
  • [243] Ibid, para. 293.
  • [244] Ibid, para. 297.
  • [245] Ibid, paras. 297 et seq.
  • [246] Ibid, para. 299.
  • [247] Ibid, para. 299 and paras. 320 et seqq.
  • [248] Ibid, para. 301.
  • [249] Ibid, para. 302.
  • [250] Ibid, para. 303.
  • [251] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case-No. C-170/13.
  • [252] Sisvel v Wiko, Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe, judgment dated 9 December 2020, para. 304.
  • [253] Ibid, para. 304.
  • [254] Ibid, para. 305.
  • [255] Ibid, paras. 321 et seqq.
  • [256] Ibid, para. 321.
  • [257] Ibid, para. 322.
  • [258] Ibid, paras. 323 et seq.
  • [259] In addition, the Court found that Wiko’s lack of willingness to obtain a license is also manifested in the fact that it (i) attempted to impede the enforcement of the first instance ruling of the District Court by questionable means (para. 335) and (ii) did not accept the offer of the District Court of The Hague, in which proceedings between the parties were pending in parallel, to engage in settlement negotiations (para. 336).
  • [260] Ibid, paras. 325, 328 and 331.
  • [261] Ibid, para. 327.
  • [262] Ibid, paras. 333 et seqq.
  • [263] Ibid, paras. 334 and 338.
  • [264] Ibid, paras. 337 and 341 et seqq.
  • [265] Ibid, para. 330.
  • [266] Ibid, para. 342.
  • [267] Ibid, para. 307.
  • [268] Ibid, para. 308.
  • [269] Ibid, paras. 308 and 310.
  • [270] Ibid, para. 309.
  • [271] Ibid, para. 310.
  • [272] Ibid, paras. 311 et seqq.
  • [273] Ibid, paras. 311 and 313 et seqq.
  • [274] Ibid, paras. 316 et seqq.
  • [275] Ibid, para. 352.
  • [276] Ibid, para. 353.
  • [277] Ibid, paras. 354 et seqq.
  • [278] Ibid, para. 358.
  • [279] Ibid, para. 359.
  • [280] Ibid, para. 360.
  • [281] Ibid, para. 361.
  • [282] Ibid, para. 362.
  • [283] Ibid, para. 363.
  • [284] Ibid, paras. 365 et seqq.
  • [285] Ibid, paras. 367 et seqq.
  • [286] Ibid, para. 366.
  • [287] Ibid, para. 344.
  • [288] Ibid, para. 346.
  • [289] Ibid, paras. 379 et seqq.
  • [290] Ibid, para. 311.
  • [291] Ibid, paras. 379 et seqq.
  • [292] Ibid, para. 380.
  • [293] Ibid, para. 378.
  • [294] Ibid, para. 384.
  • [295] Ibid, para. 348.
  • [296] Ibid, para. 389.
  • [297] Ibid, paras. 389 et seq.
  • [298] Ibid, para. 391.
  • [299] Ibid, paras. 260 et seqq.
  • [300] Nokia v Daimler, District Court of Düsseldorf, order dated 26 November 2020, Case No. 4c O 17/19.
  • [301] Sisvel v Wiko, Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe, judgment dated 9 December 2020, para. 395.
  • [302] Ibid, para. 395.

Updated 6 6月 2019

Koninklijke Philips N.V.対Asustek Computers INC.、ハーグ控訴裁判所

オランダ裁判所の決定
7 5月 2019 - Case No. 200.221.250/01

A. 事実

本件は、消費者向け電子機器製造業者であり欧州電気通信標準化機構(European Telecommunications Standards Institute: ETSI)が開発した様々な標準の実施において潜在的に必須であるとして宣言済みの特許(標準必須特許又はSEP)のポートフォリオの保有者であるPhilipsと、ラップトップ、タブレット、及びスマートフォン等の無線機器の製造業者であるAsusとの間の紛争に関するものである。

Philipsは、公平、合理的、かつ非差別的(Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory: FRAND)な条件で標準の使用者がPhilipsのSEPにアクセスできるようにするとの誓約をETSIに対して行っていた。特に、Philipsは1998年に自社のSEPへのアクセスをFRAND条件でオファーするとの一般的(包括的)な誓約をETSIに対して行っていた。

2013年、Philipsは3G-UMTS及び4G-LTEの無線通信標準に包含される自社のポートフォリオについてAsusに通知し、ライセンス契約を提案した。両当事者間のその後の話し合いにおいて、Philipsは自社の特許の詳細を更に示し自社の特許及び対応する標準をマッピングしたクレームチャートを提供した。またPhilipsは、自社の標準ライセンス契約(Philipsのライセンスプログラムにおける標準ロイヤルティ料率とその計算方法を含む)もAsusに提出した。

2015年、交渉は決裂し、Philipsは欧州の様々な法域(即ち、イングランド、フランス、及びドイツ)において、とりわけ欧州特許1 623 511 (EP 511)に基づき侵害訴訟を提起した。Philipsは、EP 511特許が3G-UMTS及び4G-LTE標準に(潜在的に)必須であるとの宣言を行っていた。イングランド・ウェールズ高等法院は、EP 511 特許の有効性を支持する予備的評決(preliminary verdict)を下した。

Philipsは、オランダでは、とりわけ差止命令を求めてAsusに対する訴訟をハーグ地方裁判所(地方裁判所)において提起していた。地方裁判所は、EP 511特許に基づくPhilipsの差止請求を棄却した [404] 。Philipsは、ハーグ控訴裁判所(控訴裁判所)に控訴した。

本判決では、控訴裁判所がEP 511の有効性及び必須性を支持し、TFEU第102条に基づきFRAND違反を主張するAsusの抗弁(FRAND defense)を退け、Asusに対して係争中の特許を侵害している製品についての差止命令を出した [405]


B. 判決理由

控訴裁判所はEP 511特許の新規性及び進歩性を認め当該特許の有効性に対するAsusの異議を棄却した [406] 。更に、控訴裁判所は、当該特許が必須であり侵害されていると認めた [407]

控訴裁判所は、Asusの主張、即ち、Philipsが差止による救済を求めて侵害訴訟を提起する上でETSI に対する契約上のFRAND義務に違反しており、欧州司法裁判所(Court of Justice of the EU: CJEU) がHuawei対ZTE事件において定めた要件(Huawei要件)を遵守しなかったことによりTFEU第102 条 に違反したとの主張を審理した [408] 。特に、Asusは、(a) ETSI のIPR Policyに従った適切かつ適時なEP 511の開示をPhilipsが行なわず、また(b)提示した条件がFRANDである根拠を明確に示さなかったことでPhilipsがHuawei要件に反していたと主張した。

控訴裁判所は、前者について、EP 511の付与から2年後に当該特許が(潜在的に)必須であるとPhilipsが宣言したことは、SEPの「適時の開示(timely disclosure)」を求めるETSI IPR Policy第4.1条に基づく契約上の義務への違反に当たらないとした。

控訴裁判所は、ETSIの開示義務の根底にある一般的な目的について、ETSI標準に利用可能な最高の技術を組み入れることであって、Asusが主張したようにETSI 標準への参加者が最低のコストで(必須の)技術ソリューションを選択できるようにすることではないとした [409]  。また、宣言を行う義務の目的は、むしろ、使用者にとって事後的に実施できないSEPが現れないようにリスクを減らすことであるとした [410]

その上で控訴裁判所は、Philipsが行った一般的かつ包括的な宣言はETSIのIPR Policyに基づく義務を果たすために十分であったとした。この点について、控訴裁判所は、Philipsが特定のSEPの宣言を遅く行ったことは(必須でない特許を含めた)超過宣言(over-declaration)を招くとのAsusの主張を退け、逆に控訴裁判所は、早期開示ではETSI 標準に必須でない特許が含まれてしまう可能性の方が高いとした [411]  。更に、控訴裁判所は、欧州委員会の水平的協調行為に関するガイドライン(Horizontal Guidelines )によれば包括的宣言はEU競争法の目的上許容されるSEP宣言の形式の1つであり、Philipsの包括的宣言はTFEU第101条違反に当たらないと指摘した  [412]

FRAND違反を主張するAsusの抗弁(FRAND defense)の第一の根拠を退けた上で、控訴裁判所は、両当事者が交渉上Huawei要件に従っていたか否かについて評価した。控訴裁判所は、前置きとして、Huawei 事件におけるCJEUの判決は、Huawei要件に従わない特許保有者が自動的にTFEU第102条違反を犯したものとされる厳格な要件のセットを定めてはいないと述べた [413]  。このため、控訴裁判所は、本事件の特定の状況と両当事者の行為を評価する必要があるとした。

その次に控訴裁判所は、Huawei要件の第一ステップである侵害者への適切な通知の義務をPhilipsが遵守したか否かを審理した。控訴裁判所は、侵害を受けているとされる特許のリストとそれらが必須である標準をPhilipsが提出したこと及びFRAND条件でライセンスをオファーする意思をPhilipsが宣言したことによりAsusへの通知義務をPhilipsが明確に果たしていたと事件記録が示しているとの見解をとった。 [414]  また、その後の技術的議論において、Philipsは自社のポートフォリオとライセンスプログラムについての更なる詳細(クレームチャート及び標準ライセンスでのロイヤルティ料率を含む)を提供していた [415] 。これに対して、AsusはFRAND条件でのライセンスを受ける意思を表示しなかった。控訴裁判所は、交渉が常にPhilipsの側から始められ、AsusはPhilipsのポートフォリオを評価できる技術専門家を交渉に参加させていなかったと事実認定した [416] 。控訴裁判所は、交渉においてAsusが提起した技術的問題が交渉を遅らせることだけを目的としており「ホールドアウト(hold-out)」と言われる行為に当たるとした  [417]

この時点で既に、控訴裁判所はAsusがHuawei要件に基づく義務に違反しており、Philipsは差止命令を求める権利を有していると判断していたが、更に踏み込んでHuaweiフレームワークの第二ステップ以降の遵守についても検討した。控訴裁判所は、 Philipsが自社の標準ライセンス契約を提示したことは、具体的であり提示した料率の計算法も説明している点でCJEU要件を完全に満たしているとした [418] 。更に、控訴裁判所は、ドイツにおいて訴訟が提起された後にAsusが出したカウンターオファー自体は、PhilipsがHuawei要件を遵守しており従って差止命令を求める権利を有するとの結論を変えるものではないとした [419] 。最後に、控訴裁判所はPhilipsが交わしている比較可能なライセンス契約がFRAND適格であるかを評価するためにそれらへのアクセスを求めたAsusの弁護士による要求を却下した。控訴裁判所は、ETSIのIPR Policy、TFEU第102条、及びHuawei フレームワークの何れも当該要求の根拠とはならないとした [420]

  • [404] Koninklijke Philips N.V.対Asustek Computers INC、ハーグ地方裁判所、2017年、事件番号C 09 512839 /HA ZA 16-712。
  • [405] Koninklijke Philips N.V.対Asustek Computers INC、ハーグ控訴裁判所、2019年5月7日判決、事件番号200.221.250/01。
  • [406] 同判決、第4.63節、第4.68節、第4.75節、第4.80節、第4.82節、第4.93節、第4.100節、及び第4.117節。
  • [407] 同判決、第4.118節 以下。
  • [408] Huawei対ZTE、欧州司法裁判所、2015年7月16日判決、事件番号C-170/13。
  • [409] Koninklijke Philips N.V.対Asustek Computers INC、ハーグ控訴裁判所、2019年5月7日判決、事件番号200.221.250/01、第4.153節以下。
  • [410] 同判決、第4.155節及び第4.157節。
  • [411] 同判決、第4.159節。
  • [412] 同判決、第4.164節。
  • [413] 同判決、第4.171節。
  • [414] 同判決、第4.172節。
  • [415] 同判決。
  • [416] 同判決、第4.172節ないし第4.179節。
  • [417] 同判決、第4.179節。
  • [418] 同判決、第4.183節。
  • [419] 同判決、第4.185節。
  • [420] 同判決、第4.202節以下。

Updated 20 10月 2020

Sisvel v Wiko

LG Mannheim
4 9月 2019 - Case No. 7 O 115/16

A. 内容

原告Sisvelは、公平、合理的かつ非差別的(FRAND)な条件にて規格実施者に利用を認めるとの約束に基づき、UMTS及びLTE無線通信の規格に必須である(と見込まれる)と宣言された特許を保有している(標準必須特許又はSEP)。Sisvelは、自らのSEPを含め、複数のSEP保有者の特許で構成されるパテントプールを管理している(パテントプール)。

被告は、Wikoグループのフランスに所在する親会社及びドイツに所在する子会社(Wiko)である。Wikoは、LTE規格を実施する携帯電話を特にドイツにおいて販売している。

2015年6月、Sisvelは、パテントプールの存在及びライセンス取得が必要である旨をWikoに通知した。両当事者は、ライセンス契約の協議に入った。Sisvelは、パテントプールに含まれるSEPの情報について、その複数の特許の規格必須性を示したクレームチャートを添えてWikoに提出した。2016年6月1日、Sisvelは、当該パテントプールを対象とするライセンスについてWikoに申出を行ったが、合意には至らなかった。

2016年6月22日、Sisvelは、1つの特許がLTE規格に抵触していることに基づき、Wikoを相手方として、ドイツのマンハイム地方裁判所(本裁判所)に訴訟を提起した(権利侵害訴訟)。Sisvelは、実体的事項に関するWikoの損害賠償責任を確認する宣言的判決とともに、情報及び計算書の提出を求めた。 2016年6月23日、Sisvelは、Wikoのドイツ子会社に対して自己のSEPのみを対象とする双務的ライセンスをオファーしたが、このオファーは、承諾されなかった。さらにWikoは、SEPの無効確認を訴えて、ドイツ連邦特許裁判所に訴訟を提起した(無効確認訴訟)。

2016年10月4日、Sisvelは、侵害訴訟での訴えを変更し、差止命令による救済手段、並びに侵害性を有する製品の市場からの排除及びその後の破棄を追加的に求めた。

2016年11月11日、WikoはSisvelにカウンターオファーを申し出た。その後、Wikoは、当該カウンターオファーに従い、保証金及び情報をSisvelに提供した。

訴訟手続中に、Sisvelは、プールライセンスに関し、ロイヤルティ料率を含めた新たな申出をWikoに行った。Wikoはこれについても拒絶した。2017年12月22日、Sisvelは、並行して行われていた特許の無効確認訴訟においてドイツ連邦特許裁判所によるSEPの有効性にかかわる判断が下るまで、権利侵害訴訟手続の停止を命じるよう本裁判所に申し立てた。Wikoは、Sisvelの申立てに同意した。2018年1月30日、権利侵害訴訟手続の停止が本裁判所により命じられた。

2018年6月26日、権利侵害訴訟手続の停止中に、Sisvelは、自らが策定した、新たな内容のライセンスプログラムに基づき、あらためてWikoにライセンスオファーを申し出た(2018年オファー)。

2018年オファーと同時に、Sisvelは、―とりわけー選定した20件の特許に関するクレームチャート及び新規ライセンスプログラムと既存の2つのプログラム双方の既存のライセンシーのリストをWikoに提供した。当該リストには、各契約の締結日と合意されたライセンス料が記載されていた。しかし、ライセンシーの名は黒塗りされていた。

Wikoは3か月超にわたり2018年オファーに対応しなかった。2018年10月15日、WikoはSisvelに回答したが、2018年オファーの内容に対しては意見を述べず、2016年11月11日付のカウンターオファーを引用するにとどまった。さらにWikoは、Sisvelが2018年オファーの際に提出したリストの中で既存のライセンシーの名を開示しなかったことを批判した。

この主張に応じ、Sisvelは、2018年10月22日、Wikoに秘密保持契約(NDA)の草案を送付した。Sisvelは、WikoがNDAに署名する時点で既存のライセンシーの名を開示するつもりであった。しかしながら、Wikoは、Sisvelから提案されたNDAに署名することを拒否した。

2018年10月、ドイツ連邦特許裁判所は、係争中のSEPを部分的に認めた。爾後、本裁判所は、権利侵害訴訟手続に取り掛かり、特にFRAND関連問題について協議した。

2019年7月の口頭審理終了後、WikoはSisvelに新たなカウンターオファーを申し出、追加情報をSisvelに提供した。しかしWikoは、2016年11月11日付の初回のカウンターオファー後には、保証金額を増額しなかった。

本判決において [421] 、本裁判所は、Wikoに差止命令を下すと共に、侵害性を有する製品を市場から排除し、滅失させるよう命じた。さらに本裁判所は、実体的事項に関するWikoの損害賠償責任を確認し、損害額の算定に必要な情報をSisvelに提供するようWikoに命じた。


B. 判決理由

本裁判所は、Wikoの製品が係争中の特許を侵害していると認めた [422] 。係争中の特許の必須性は、両当事者間で争われなかった [423]

さらに本裁判所は、EU機能条約(TFEU)第102条により、Sisvelが差止命令による救済手段及び権利侵害訴訟において侵害性を有するとされる製品のリコール及び破棄を求める請求権の行使を妨げられるものではないと判示した。Wikoは現訴訟の申立てにより、SisvelがTFEU第102条に反して市場での支配的な地位を濫用していたと異議を申し立てた。

本裁判所の見解によれば、SisvelはHuawei対ZTE事件 [424] においてEU司法裁判所(CJEU)が定めた行動義務(Huaweiフレームワーク又は義務)を履行していたため、本件は支配的な地位の濫用にあたらない。これに対しWikoは、Huaweiフレームワークを遵守していなかった。

Huaweiフレームワーク

これまでの判例法から外れて、本裁判所は、権利侵害訴訟手続の過程で両当事者がHuawei義務を是正することが可能であるとの見解を示した [425] 。しかしながら、これには、CJEUにより要請される通り、両当事者間で圧力のない協議ができるようになることが必要である。このため、両当事者は、並行する無効確認訴訟において連邦特許裁判所の決定がなされるまで、審理停止の申立て [426] 又は同意を得た上での手続停止等の利用可能な手続文書を使用して、訴訟手続の一時停止を求めなければならない [427]

上記を背景に、本裁判所は、権利侵害訴訟手続開始後Huaweiフレームワークに基づき情報開示義務の是正を求めるSEP保有者に対し、審理停止を申し立てるよう求めた [427] 。当該申立てがなされた場合には、「誠実意思を有する実施者は訴訟手続停止に同意するであろう」と本裁判所は期待している [427]

本裁判所は、係争中の権利侵害訴訟手続の過程でHuawei義務の欠点を是正する機会を両当事者に与えることは、英国控訴院(Unwired Planet対Huawei) [428] とハーグ控訴裁判所(Philips対Asus) [429] の双方で採用された「セーフハーバー」方式に準じていると述べた。上記裁判所はいずれも、Huaweiフレームワークについて厳密に実施すべき強制的な正式手続とみなしておらず、したがって、CJEUにより定められた協議の枠組みから逸脱したとしても、必ずしも、特許保有者による差止命令の請求を排除する濫用的な行動にはあたらない [430] 。さらに、これに該当するかどうかは、ケースバイケースで評価する必要がある [431]

権利侵害通知

その上で本裁判所は、Sisvelが係争中のSEPの侵害について権利侵害訴訟手続開始前にWikoに通知するHuawei義務を履行していたと認めた。

SEP保有者の各通知の内容に関し、本裁判所は基本的に、従前の決定と同じ要件を適用した。本裁判所は、当該通知において (1) 係争中の特許についてその特許番号を含めて記載し、(2) 当該特許が規格に必須として関連標準化機関に宣言されていることを通知し、(3) どの規格について当該特許が必須であるのかを示し、かつ、(4) 実施者の製品又はサービスのうち当該規格を実施する技術的機能を説明しなければならないと認めた [432] 。適切とする詳細の水準については、ケースバイケースで判断する [432] 。本裁判所は、原則として、特許保有者が、SEPライセンス許諾の交渉において慣習的に用いられるクレームチャートを実施者に提供することにより、その通知義務を履行したことになる旨を確認した [432] 。本裁判所はさらに、企業グループの親会社に通知が送付された場合、通常、Huaweiフレームワークにおいて十分であることを再確認した [432]

SEP保有者の申出

本裁判所は、SisvelがまたWikoに対して書面による明確なFRAND条件でのライセンスの申出を行うHuawei義務を履行していたことも認めた。各評価に関し、本裁判所は、権利侵害訴訟手続停止中にSisvelからWikoに対してなされた最後の申出である2018年オファーのみを検討した [433]

まず、本裁判所は、どの具体的なライセンス料や追加的な契約条件がFRANDの「客観的側面に該当する」のかについて、侵害を管轄する裁判所がこれを判断する義務を負うものではないとする自らの立場を重ねて強調した [434] 。カールスルーエ高等地方裁判所(superior Higher District Court of Karlsruhe)が以前に示した見解に反し、本裁判所は、CJEUが差止命令及び製品リコールに関する訴訟手続についてFRAND条件の「正確な数量的判断(precise mathematical determination)」を「負わせる」つもりはなかったとの考えを支持した [435] 。さらに、FRANDへの該当が見込まれる条件には「幅」があるため、差止命令の要求がTFEU第102条に抵触するのは、特段の交渉状況及び市況に鑑みて、SEP保有者の申出が「搾取的な濫用」にあたるような場合に限られる [434] 。すなわち、本裁判所の認識は、英国控訴院のUnwired Planet対Huaweiと共通であった [428]

上記にかかわらず、本裁判所は、権利侵害を管轄する裁判所がSEP保有者のライセンスの申出がFRANDに適合するか否かにつき、単なる「表面的」な評価ではなく、それ以上の評価を行うべきであることを明確にした。権利侵害を管轄する裁判所は、具体的な申出の全体的な内容について、両当事者の交渉上の立場における典型的な当初の違いにかかわらず、誠実に行為する実施者に対し当該申出に応じることを要求するものであるか否かを検討しなければならない [436] 。原則として、このような義務は、SEP保有者が自らの申出がFRAND条件での申出であると判断する理由を立証する方法でロイヤルティの算定を説明する場合に生じる [437] 。プールライセンシングプログラム又は標準ライセンシングプログラムが存在する場合は、通常、各プログラムが市場で受け入れられていることを立証すれば十分である。プールごとに十分な数のライセンスが許諾されている場合、特許保有者は、当該プールに包含される特許に言及した適切な数量のクレームチャートを提示して、当該プールの構成を概説すれば良い [438]

この状況において、本裁判所は、特許保有者の申出がFRANDに適合するか否かに関し実施者が申立てをする場合、原則として、個別の契約条項の違法性(の主張)を根拠として申立を行うことができない旨を指摘した。さらに、申出がFRANDに適合しているか否かについては、包括的な契約の概要に基づき評価しなければならない [439] 。例外が適用されるのは、特定の条項が「容認できない効果(unacceptable effect)」を有する場合に限られる [439] 。本件において、本裁判所は、2018年オファーのいずれの条項にもこのような効果がないと判断した [439] 。 とりわけ、本裁判所は、ライセンシー(ここではWiko)に申し出がなされたライセンスの対象たる特許の消尽に関する立証責任を定めた条項が許容されると判断した [440] 。同様の事件におけるデュッセルドルフ地方裁判所の見解とは対照的に、本裁判所は、ライセンシーがサプライヤーを関与させることによりライセンス網を追跡しやすい立場にあることから、関連の事実を確証するようライセンシーに要請することが適切であると論じた [440]

また、本裁判所は、提示されたライセンスの期間を5年に制限する条項が反トラストの観点から「容認できない効果(unacceptable effect)」を有するとは判断しなかった。本裁判所は、その5年の期間について、急速な技術の発展を特徴とする無線通信業界において実勢的な慣行に準じたものであると判示した [441]

さらに本裁判所は、ライセンシーによる報告義務の違反や30日を超える支払遅延が生じた場合のライセンス契約の例外的な終了を求める権利を定めた条項について、上記の「容認できない効果(unacceptable effect)」がないことを指摘した [441]

本裁判所は、2018年オファーにおいて、契約期間中、対象特許の数に変更が生じた場合に合意済みロイヤルティ料率の調整について定めた条項が含まれていなかったことに異議を唱えなかった。本裁判所の見解によれば、FRAND条件でのライセンスに当該条項を含めることは求められていない [441] 。しかしながら、プールを構成する特許の多数がライセンス期間締結後間もなく満了する場合には、例外が認められるべきである [441] 。一般的に、ライセンスの申出において、契約目的の履行不能性を理由にライセンスの調整を要請する両当事者の制定法上の権利(ドイツ民事法典第313条1項)が制限又は排除されていない場合には特に、「調整」条項がなくとも問題にならない [441]

非差別性/秘密保持

FRANDライセンスの申出の非差別的要素に関して、本裁判所は、TFEU第102条においては、係争中の権利侵害訴訟手続において、被告に対する申出が同様の状況に置かれた競業者に比べて被告を差別するものでないことを証明する特許保有者の義務(二次的な)が定められているとの見解を示した [438]

上記にかかわらず、本裁判所は、いかなる事例においても上記の義務が法的に「全面的な透明性」を伴うわけではないことを明確にした [438] 。SEP保有者の反トラスト義務により、法的保護に値する被告の秘密保持上の権利が常に重視されるものではない。さらに言えば、個々の事例の特別な状況により、秘密性を保護しなければならない可能性がある [438]

本裁判所は、SEP保有者と同様の状況に置かれた第三者たるライセンシーとの間の既存のライセンス契約(類似契約)に定められた情報を特段に参照した上で、当該契約を開示する特許保有者の義務については、侵害を管轄する裁判所により、訴訟手続における両当事者の訴答を考慮した上で、ケースバイケースで判断されるべきであるとの見解を示した [438]

本裁判所によれば、特許保有者は、保護されるべき秘密保持上の権利の存在を確立しなければならない。類似契約に秘密保持条項が適用されるというだけでは、本来的には、特許保有者の開示義務の範囲を制限する根拠とはならない [442] 。これに対し被告は、特許保有者のライセンスの申出がFRANDに該当するか否かを評価するに際し、要請した情報が必要であった理由を説明しなければならない [442] 。被告は、SEP保有者の差別的と見られる行動を示し、具体的な事実を確証しなければならない [443]

この点を考慮し、本裁判所は、いかなる場合においてもSEP保有者が権利侵害訴訟手続において既存の類似契約書すべてを提出する義務を負うとのデュッセルドルフ裁判所の見解に異議を申し立てた [444] 。とりわけ、特許保有者が実施者との間で標準的なライセンス契約のみを締結している場合、当該契約の条件が公開されているのであれば、本裁判所には、訴訟手続において(膨大な)同一の契約書を提出する義務を特許保有者に負わせる理由がない。すなわち、それまでに締結した(標準的な)ライセンス契約の件数を開示すれば十分である [444]

したがって、本裁判所は、2018年オファーに際しSisvelからWikoに提出された既存ライセンシーのリストについて、ライセンシーの名が黒塗りされていたとしても、当該オファーのFRAND該否の確証に十分であったと認めた。本裁判所の見解において、Wikoは、2018年オファーのFRAND該否を評価するために既存ライセンシーの身元情報が必要であった理由を説明していなかった [445] 。さらに本裁判所は、Wikoが既存ライセンシーの身元開示を目的として訴訟手続が停止されている間、Sisvelから提示されたNDAの締結を拒絶していた事実も考慮した [446] 。2018年オファーのFRAND該否に異議がなかったため、本裁判所は、WikoによるNDAの締結の拒絶がHuaweiフレームワークを準拠する意思のないこととみなされるかどうかについて判断を下さなかった。しかしながら、本裁判所は、実施者が適切なNDAの締結を拒絶した場合は原則としてこれをSEP保有者の申出の評価に関連して検討すべきとの、この点に関しデュッセルドルフ裁判所が示した見解に同意した [446]

さらに、本裁判所は、ドイツ民事訴訟手続法(Zivilprozessordnung, ZPO)第142条に従い管轄裁判所により発せられた文書提出命令を通じ、権利侵害訴訟手続において類似契約の使用を促す可能性についても検討した [443] 。このオプションは、特に、類似契約に定められた秘密保持条項により、裁判所命令が発せられた場合に限り契約の開示が認められる個別の事例において侵害を管轄する裁判所により検討される。本裁判所によれば、当該秘密保持条項は、それ自体では反トラスト法に反するものでないことから、特許保有者が訴訟手続において保護に値する秘密保持上の利益を確証できない場合を除き、尊重されるべきである [443] 。特許保有者が、秘密保持条項の拘束を受け、審理に際し類似契約書を提出する意思がある場合には、侵害を管轄する裁判所は、各案件の具体的な状況に基づき、ZPO第142条に従い文書提出命令を発する [443] 。特許保有者が当該命令に従わない場合、当該裁判所は、Huaweiフレームワークにおける両当事者の行為を全体的に評価する上で、その行動を不誠実さの顕れであると判断する場合がある [443] 。ZPO第142条に従い発せられた裁判所命令に基づき類似契約書の閲覧が認められた後、実施者が訴訟手続停止に同意しない場合も、同様に適用される [443]

実施者のカウンターオファー

本裁判所は、WikoがSisvelに対し、正当な過程でFRAND条件の対案(カウンターオファー)を行うHuawei義務を履行していなかったと認めた。各評価に関し、本裁判所は、2018年オファーに対するWikoの対応に注目した [447]

本裁判所は、申出がFRANDに該当するとみなしているか否かにかかわらず(通常はあてはまる)、実施者が具体的な事実に基づき、SEP保有者のライセンスオファーに対応する義務を負っていると明言した [443] 。さらに、実施者は、各事例の事実、特定分野での業界慣行及び誠実な原則を検討の上、可能な限り早急に対応しなければならない [427]

Wikoが3か月を超える期間、2018年オファーに一切対応しなかったことに鑑み、本裁判所は、Wikoが上記の義務に違反すると判示した [423] 。本裁判所の見解では、Wikoは時間の引き延ばし戦術をとったとされる [423] 。本裁判所は、フランスの休校期間や、(Wikoの陳述によれば)ライセンス関連業務を担当した従業員がわずか2名であったという事実が、Wikoによる対応の遅延の十分な根拠になるとは認めなかった [447] 。国際的な業務に携わる会社として、Wikoは、今後、各問題に対処できるよう十分な人材を確保すべきである [447]


C. その他の重要事項

差止命令並びに侵害性を有する製品の市場からの排除及び破棄を求めたSisvelの請求とは別に、本裁判所は、実体的事項に関するWikoの損害賠償責任を認め、宣言的判決を下した [448]

本裁判所は、Wikoが係争中の特許を著しく侵害したと判断した。とりわけ、Wikoは、少なくとも過失的行為をなした [448] 。Wikoは、極めて複雑な標準化技術(特に、規格に組み込まれる膨大な数の特許)が極めて複雑であるため、知的財産権に関する状況を評価することが困難になった(よって、過失を除外すべき)と主張した。しかしながら本裁判所は、基盤となる技術がより一層複雑になったために、実施者側に対するデューディリジェンス要件がさらに拡大したことを明言した [449]

  • [421] Sisvel対Wiko、マンハイム地方裁判所2019年9月4日、事件番号7 O 115/16。
  • [422] 同判決、17~31頁。
  • [423] 同判決、46頁。
  • [424] Huawei対ZTE、EU司法裁判所2015年7月16日判決、事件番号C-170/13。
  • [425] Sisvel対Wiko、マンハイム地方裁判所2019年9月4日、事件番号7 O 115/16、42頁。
  • [426] 同判決、43頁及び51頁以下。
  • [427] 同判決、42頁。
  • [428] Unwired Planet対Huawei、英国控訴院2018年10月23日判決、[2018] EWCA Civ 2344、第282節。
  • [429] Philips対Asus、ハーグ控訴裁判所2019年5月7日、事件番号200.221 .250/01。
  • [430] Sisvel対Wiko、マンハイム地方裁判所2019年9月4日、事件番号7 O 115/16、44頁。
  • [431] 同判決、44頁。
  • [432] 同判決、37頁。
  • [433] 同判決、47頁及び53頁。
  • [434] 同判決、38頁。
  • [435] 同判決、37頁。以下。
  • [436] Sisvel対Wiko、マンハイム地方裁判所2019年9月4日、事件番号7 O 115/16、39頁。
  • [437] 同判決、39頁。
  • [438] 同判決、40頁。
  • [439] 同判決、53頁。
  • [440] 同判決、54頁。
  • [441] 同判決、55頁。
  • [442] 同判決、40頁及び49頁。
  • [443] 同判決、41頁。
  • [444] 同判決、49頁。
  • [445] 同判決、50頁。
  • [446] 同判決、51頁。
  • [447] 同判決、47頁。
  • [448] 同判決、35頁。
  • [449] 同判決、35頁以下。

Updated 12 3月 2019

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (MPEG-LA) v ZTE

LG Düsseldorf
9 11月 2018 - Case No. 4a O 15/17

A. Facts

The Claimant, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Angewandten Forschung, holds a patent essential to the practice of the AVC/H.264 standard concerning the compression of video data (Standard Essential Patent of SEP) [452] . The patent holder committed towards the relevant standardization body to make this patent accessible to users on Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions. The Claimant contributed the SEP in question to a patent pool administered by MPEG LA LLC (MPEG LA), comprising more the 5,000 patents referring to the AVC/H.264 standard (MPEG LA pool) [453] .

The Defendant, a German subsidiary of a Chinese group of companies, sells – among other things – mobile phones manufactured by its parent company (parent company) which practise the AVC/H.264 standard in Germany [454] .

MPEG LA uses a standard licensing agreement, which is publicly available at its website [455] . It has signed licensing agreements with approx. 1,400 implementers [455] .

By e-mail dated 8 September 2011, MPEG LA sent a copy of its standard licensing agreement to the Defendant’s parent company and informed the latter that its “mobile handset and tablet products” infringe patents included in its “AVC patent portfolio” (without indicating, however, either the concrete patent numbers or the specific infringing products) [456] .

On 15 September 2011, the parent company asked MPEG LA to send any relevant documents by mail to its IPR Manager [457] . A copy of MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement reached the parent company in late September 2011 [458] .

In 2012, the parent company acquired patents included in the MPEG LA pool [453] .

Since MPEG-LA and the parent company could not reach an agreement on a licence covering the MPEG LA pool [459] , the Claimant brought an action against the Defendant before the District Court of Düsseldorf in Germany (Court), requesting for injunctive relief, information and rendering of accounts, the destruction and the recall of infringing products as well as for a declaratory judgement confirming Defendant’s liability for damages on the merits [460] .

During the proceedings, the Defendant declared its willingness to obtain a licence for the patent in suit and other SEPs of the Claimant referring to the AVC/H.264 standard [461] . Moreover, the Defendant sent to MPEG LA two signed copies of MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement, along with a statement of accounts of its past sales and a bank guarantee [462] . MPEG LA did not countersign this agreement. It insisted, instead, on a licence that would cover all companies belonging to the same group as the Defendant [463] .

With the present judgment, the Court granted Claimant’s requests.


B. Court’s reasoning

The Court held that the mobile phones sold by the Defendant in Germany infringe Claimant’s SEP in suit [464] . It also found that by filing the present suit the Claimant did not abuse its dominant market position in violation of Article 102 of the Treaty for the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), since it had fully complied with the conduct obligations stipulated by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) in the matter Huawei v ZTE [465] (Huawei obligations or framework) with respect to dominant undertakings [466] .

1. Dominant market position

The Court found that the Claimant holds a dominant market position in terms of Article 102 TFEU [467] .

The Court defined the relevant market for the assessment of dominance as the market for licences for any given patent [468] . A dominant market position can further also exist, when the patent holder can hinder competition in downstream markets for standard-compliant products and services [468] .

The Court made, however, clear that ownership of a SEP does not per se establish market dominance [469] . A dominant market position is given, when the use of the SEP is required for entering the market [469] . The same is true, if the patent user could not market competitive products or services, without access to the respective SEP [469] .

Based on these considerations, the Court saw no ‘reasonable’ doubt that the Claimant was a dominant undertaking: It was undisputed that almost all mobile phones available worldwide use the AVC/H.264 standard and that no “realistic” alternative to the MPEG LA pool existed in the licensing market for patents essential to this standard [470] .

2. Huawei framework

The Court found, however, that the Claimant did not abuse its dominant position by suing the Defendant in the present case, since its conduct was in line with the Huawei framework [471] . The Huawei framework establishes mutual conduct obligations for both SEP holders and SEP users, which need to be fulfilled step by step and one after another (meaning that each party’s obligation to act arises only after the other party has fulfilled its own obligation) [472] . Subject to the Huawei framework is not only the patent holder’s claim for injunctive relief, but also the claim for the destruction of infringing products [473] .

In this context, the Court pointed out that the Huawei framework applies, irrespective of whether a ‘well-established’ licensing practice concerning the asserted patents already existed before the CJEU delivered the Huawei judgment, or not [474] . The Claimant had argued that, in the present case, the Court should apply the (German) legal standard that preceded the Huawei framework (which was based on the so-called ‘Orange-Book-Standard’ ruling of the Federal Supreme Court [475] ), since with respect to the SEP in suit a ‘routine’ practice already existed prior to the Huawei judgement [476] . The Court explained that the Huawei judgment does not contain either an explicit or an implicit limitation of its scope of application [477] . Furthermore, even if a ‘well-established’ licensing practice existed, the need to apply the Huawei framework will still be given, in order to bridge the nevertheless existing information gap between patent holder and implementer concerning the (potential) infringement of SEPs [478] . Finally, it would be very challenging for courts to distinguish whether a ‘well-established’ licensing practice excluding the application of the Huawei framework is at hand, or not [479] . Notwithstanding the above, according to the Court, the actual licensing practice of the patent holder could be of ‘particular significance’ when assessing the compliance of the latter with the Huawei obligations: Such practice could, for instance, serve as an indicator of the appropriateness of SEP holder’s licensing offer to the implementer [480] .

Having said that, the Court found no flaws in Claimant’s conduct. In the Court’s view, the Claimant had met its Huawei obligation to notify the Defendant about the infringement of its patent as well as the obligation to present the Defendant with a written licensing offer covering also the patent in suit. The Defendant, on the other hand, adequately expressed its willingness to enter into a licence, failed, however, to make a FRAND counter-offer to the Claimant. Since an adequate counter-offer was missing, the Court did not take up the question whether the bank guarantee provided by the Claimant to MPEG LA constitutes an adequate security in terms of the Huawei framework [481] .

Notification of infringement

The Court ruled that the Claimant had adequately notified the Defendant about the infringement of the SEP in suit through the e-mail sent by MPEG LA to the parent company on 8 September 2011 [482] .

The fact that this e-mail was not addressed to the Defendant, but to the parent company, did not raise any concerns as to the compatibility of the notification with the Huawei framework. The Court explained that a notification of infringement addressed only to the parent company of a group of companies is sufficient, as far as it can be assumed that the notification will be forwarded to the subsidiaries con­cerned [483] . The sole fact that a company belongs to a group justifies such an assumption, unless indications to the contrary exist [483] . This was, however, not the case here.

Besides that, the Court did not consider it inappropriate that the aforementioned e-mail was not sent to the parent company by the Claimant, but by MPEG LA (which is not the holder of the SEP in suit) [484] . The Court held that MPEG LA is entitled to perform legal actions in connection with the licensing of the MPEG LA pool on behalf of the Claimant [485] . The Defendant could not contest that this was not the case, since MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement, which it is aware of, contains an indication about MPEG LA’s respective capacity [486] . In addition, the Defendant’s parent company was also aware of MPEG LA’s capacity to act on behalf of the Claimant, since it joined the MPEG LA pool as a patent holder in 2012 [487] .

The Court further ruled that, in terms of content, a notification of infringement must – at least – name the patent in suit (including the patent number) and indicate the contested embodiments as well as the (allegedly) infringing acts of use [488] . A detailed (technical and/or legal) explanation of the infringement is not required; the implementer needs just to be put in the position to assess the infringement allegations, if necessary, by seeking expert advice [489] . A notification of infringement is, therefore, not necessary, when it constitutes just a ‘pointless formality’ [489] . This is true, when according to the overall circumstances of the case, one can safely assume that the implementer is aware of the infringement, so that claiming that the SEP holder failed to provide adequate notification prior to the initiation of court proceedings would appear to be abusive [489] . The respective test is, however, subject to strict conditions [489] .

Based on the above considerations, the Court found that MPEG LA’s e-mail to the parent company dated 8 September 2011 should be considered – as an exception – to constitute a sufficient notification of infringement, although it did not contain the minimum information required (particularly the patent number and a reference to the specific infringing embodiments) [490] . The overall circumstances of the case (especially the fact that the parent company acquired patents included in the MPEG LA pool in 2012 and had also previously been in contact with MPEG LA regarding a standard licensing agreement) [491] , give rise to the assumption that the parent company had already been aware of the MPEG LA pool and the fact that AVC/H.264-compliant products need to be licensed [492] .

Willingness to obtain a FRAND-licence

The Court held that the parent company had adequately expressed its willingness to obtain a FRAND-licence through the e-mail sent to MPEG LA on 15 September 2011 [493] .

In the eyes of the Court, this e-mail indicates the parent company’s intention to deal with issues concerning the licensing of patents referring to the AVC/H.264 standard. This is sufficient under the Huawei framework [494] . The implementer is not required to refer to a specific licensing agreement [494] .

SEP holder’s licensing offer

The Court further found that the standard licensing agreement sent by MPEG LA to the parent company presents an offer accountable to the Claimant which is in line with the Huawei framework in terms of both form and content [495] .

The fact that the offer was addressed to the parent company and not to the Defendant was not relevant, since the parties were discussing about a licensing agreement on group level and the parent company had itself requested to receive the draft agreement [496] .

Furthermore, the fact that the draft agreement sent to the parent company did not directly provide for the licensing of all subsidiaries (including the Defendant) was also not considered as harmful [497] . Insofar, the Court held that under the Huawei framework it is, as a rule, acceptable that the patent holder enters into licensing negotiations only with the parent company within a group of companies [498] . Whether subsidiaries can (or should) also be licensed, will be the object of these negotiations [499] . An exception would apply only then, when it is made clear already at the beginning of the licensing negotiations that the offer made to the parent company cannot include its subsidiaries [500] . This was, however, not the case here, since the standard licensing agreement sent to the parent company indicates MPEG LA’s willingness to grant licences also to the subsidiaries of the former [501] .

Besides that, the Court did not consider the fact that the standard licensing agreement sent to the parent company did not cover the sale of licensed products to wholesalers and retailers (but regarded only sales to end users) to be in conflict with the Huawei framework, although the Defendant was engaged also in this business [502] . According to the Court, sales to wholesalers and retailers would be covered by the effects of patent exhaustion, even without an express provision in a potential licensing agreement [503] .

The Court further ruled that the Huawei requirement, according to which the SEP holder’s licensing offer must specify the royalty calculation, was met, although the draft standard licensing agreement sent to the parent company does not contain detailed explanation of the way the royalties were calculated [504] . In the Court’s view, the respective explanation does not require a ‘strict mathematical derivation’ of the royalty; moreover, it will, as a rule, suffice to demonstrate that the (standard) royalty rates offered have been accepted in the market by presenting existing licensing agreements with third parties (comparable agreements) [505] . If a sufficient number of comparable licences is presented, then the SEP holder will usually not be required to provide further information regarding the appropriateness of its licensing offer [505] . It will need, however, to provide information on all essential comparable agreements, in order to rule out the risk that only agreements supporting the offered royalty level are presented [505] . In this context, the Court noted that it cannot be required from the SEP holder to present all comparable agreements along with the licensing offer to the implementer; a respective industry practice does not exist [506] .

Against this background, the Court did not consider it to be harmful that the standard licensing agreement sent to the parent company by MPEG LA did not include a detailed explanation of the royalty calculation in the above sense [507] . On the one hand, the parent company was aware that this (standard) agreement had been accepted in the market by a great number of licensees [507] . On the other hand, the parent company was also adequately aware of the way the offered royalties were calculated, since it held patents included in the MPEG LA pool itself [508] .

Apart from the above, the Court held that the standard licensing agreement offered to the parent company was FRAND also in terms of content.

According to the Court, a licensing offer cannot be considered as fair and reasonable, if the patent holder requests royalties that go significantly beyond the (hypothetical) price that would have been formed in an effectively competitive market, unless there is a commercial justification for the royalty level requested [509] . Particularly in connection with the licensing of SEPs, an offer can lie outside the FRAND-scope, if the cumulative royalty burden imposed on the implementer would not be tenable in commercial terms [509] . The Court made clear that in this context, no exact mathematical derivation of a FRAND-conform royalty rate is required; moreover, an approximate value is to be determined based on assessments and estimations [509] . In this respect, comparable agreements can serve as an ‘important indicator’ of the fair and reasonable character of the offered royalty rates [509] .

Regarding to the non-discriminatory element of FRAND, the Court pointed out that it applied only to similar situated cases; an unequal treatment is allowed, as long as it is objectively justified [510] . Limitations in this context may especially occur, when the implementation of the patent is necessary for entering a downstream market or when a product becomes competitive only when it uses the patent’s teachings [510] . As a rule, the burden of proof with respect to the discriminatory character of a licensing offer rests on the implementer. Since the latter will usually not be aware of the existence or the content of comparable agreements of the patent holder, it may seem appropriate to request the patent holder to provide the implementer with respective details, as far as this is reasonable [511] . The information to be shared should cover all existing licensees and include which (concretely designated) company with which importance in the relevant market has obtained a licence on which conditions [511] .

Looking at the standard licensing agreement sent to the parent company, the Court observed that the fact the MPEG LA sought for a licence covering all companies within the group, to which the Defendant belonged, was not violating FRAND principles [512] . In the electronics and mobile communications industries, licences covering a group of companies are in line with the industry practice [513] . Patent holder have a special interest in concluding such licences particularly in cases, in which – as in the present case – the parent company manufactures products which are sold worldwide by its subsidiaries. This is because licences at group level makes sure that patent holders can enforce their rights effectively, without having to distinguish between licenced and unlicenced products within a group of companies [514] .

In addition, the Court made clear that pool licences, as the one offered to the parent company, are appropriate under the Huawei framework [515] . An offer for a pool licence cannot per se be seen as abusive (Article 101 TFEU) [516] . On the contrary, such licences usually serve the interest of potential licensees to be granted access to the whole standard on uniform conditions under one roof, without having to seek a licence from every single patent holder separately [516] .

Implementer’s counter-offer

The Court found that the Defendant failed to make a FRAND counter-offer [517] .

Sending signed copies of MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement back to MPEG LA can be regarded as a counter-offer [518] . The fact, however, that this offer concerned a licence limited to the Defendant and, thus, not covering the parent company (and all further companies belonging to the same group) was not FRAND conform [519] . The Court accepted that licences at group level mirror the industry practice in the field in question; accordingly, no objections can be raised when a patent holder contributing its patents to a pool is willing to grant only licences covering all group companies [520] .

Since the counter-offer was not FRAND in terms of content, the Court did not have to decide, whether it was made in due time, or not [521] .

  • [452] Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (MPEG-LA) v ZTE, District Court of Düsseldorf, judgement dated 9 November 2018, cited by www.nrwe.de, para. 56.
  • [453] Ibid, para. 58
  • [454] Ibid, para. 57
  • [455] Ibid, para. 59
  • [456] Ibid, paras. 61 et seqq. and 340
  • [457] Ibid, para. 65
  • [458] Ibid, para. 66
  • [459] Ibid, para. 73
  • [460] Ibid, para. 42
  • [461] bid, para. 74
  • [462] Ibid, paras. 75 et seq
  • [463] Ibid, para. 75
  • [464] Ibid, paras. 127 – 254
  • [465] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13
  • [466] Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (MPEG-LA) v ZTE, District Court of Düsseldorf, judgement dated 9 November 2018, cited by www.nrwe.de, Ibid, para. 280
  • [467] Ibid, para. 283 and paras. 291 et seqq
  • [468] Ibid, para. 286
  • [469] Ibid, para. 287
  • [470] Ibid, paras. 291 et seqq
  • [471] Ibid, para. 296
  • [472] Ibid, para. 300
  • [473] Ibid, para. 302
  • [474] Ibid, para. 308
  • [475] Under the ‘Orange-Book-Standard’ regime, in order to avoid an injunction, the implementer was required to make a licensing offer to the patent holder, which the latter could not refuse without acting in an anticompetitive manner; see Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof), judgment dated 6 May 2009, Case No. KZR 39/06
  • [476] Ibid, para. 305
  • [477] Ibid, paras. 306 et seqq
  • [478] Ibid, para. 310
  • [479] Ibid, para. 311
  • [480] Ibid, para. 312
  • [481] Ibid, para. 421
  • [482] Ibid, para. 314
  • [483] Ibid, para. 320
  • [484] Ibid, para. 318
  • [485] Ibid, para. 329
  • [486] Ibid, paras. 336 et seq
  • [487] Ibid, para. 338
  • [488] Ibid, para. 198
  • [489] Ibid, para. 315
  • [490] Ibid, paras. 340 et seq
  • [491] Ibid, paras. 342 et seqq
  • [492] Ibid, para. 344
  • [493] Ibid, para. 346
  • [494] Ibid, para. 348
  • [495] Ibid, para. 352
  • [496] Ibid, para. 367
  • [497] Ibid, para. 369
  • [498] Ibid, para. 370
  • [499] Ibid, para. 378
  • [500] Ibid, para. 371
  • [501] Ibid, para. 374
  • [502] Ibid, para. 376
  • [503] Ibid, para. 377
  • [504] Ibid, para. 380
  • [505] Ibid, para. 381
  • [506] Ibid, para. 386
  • [507] Ibid, para. 382
  • [508] Ibid, para. 387
  • [509] Ibid, para. 391
  • [510] Ibid, para. 392
  • [511] Ibid, para. 393
  • [512] Ibid, para. 397
  • [513] Ibid, para. 398
  • [514] Ibid, para. 399
  • [515] Ibid, para. 402
  • [516] Ibid, para. 404
  • [517] Ibid, para. 410
  • [518] Ibid, para. 413
  • [519] Ibid, para. 416
  • [520] Ibid, para. 417
  • [521] Ibid, para. 411

Updated 2 8月 2019

Philips v Wiko, Court of Appeal of The Hague

オランダ裁判所の決定
2 7月 2019 - Case No. C/09/511922/HA ZA 16-623

A. Facts

By letter dated 13 October 2013, the Claimant, Koninklijke Philips N.V. (“Philips”), informed the Defendant, Wiko SAS (“Wiko”), that it holds patents declared essential to the UMTS and LTE mobile telecommunication standards (Standard Essential Patents or “SEPs”) towards the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (“ETSI”). The letter included a list of some of Wiko’s products and invited Wiko to discuss a FRAND licensing agreement [450] . Wiko did not react to the letter [451] .

On 28 July 2015, Philips sent Wiko claim charts and a licensing agreement [452] . The communication remained unanswered by Wiko [451] .

On 19 October 2015, Philips started the present proceedings against Wiko [453] . On 25 August 2016, Wiko made a counteroffer [454] . Since 2016, it has also provided information about worldwide units sold and blocked an amount of EUR 895.000 into an escrow account [451] .

After the present proceedings were filed, Philips brought a further action against Wiko before the District Court of Mannheim (Mannheim Court), Germany (German proceedings). On 2 March 2018, the Mannheim Court honoured Wiko’s FRAND defence and dismissed Philips’ action.

In an interlocutory decision dated 16 April 2019, the Court of Appeal of The Hague (Court) held that the patent in suit EP1 623 511 (EP 511) is valid and that Wiko is infringing this patent [455] . Wiko claimed that, as this patent is a SEP and Philips has not complied with its contractual duties, Philips is abusing its dominant position by initiating infringement proceedings against Wiko [451] .

With the present judgment, the Court granted Philips’ request for injunctive relief [456] , destruction [457] and the recall of products [458] , but partly invalidated EP 511, insofar it goes beyond the claims of the second auxiliary request [459] .

B. Court’s reasoning

German Proceedings and Lis Pendens

Since the Court of Manheim in Germany had honoured its FRAND defence, Wiko argued that Articles 29 and 30 of Brussels Regulation 1215/2012 on jurisdiction and enforcement of judgements (Brussels Regulation) are applicable and that the Court is not competent for the present case [460] .

The Court rejected this argument, underlying that each national proceedings are based on a national counterpart of a European patent. For each national counterpart, the concerned national jurisdiction is exclusively competent [461] .

The fact the same FRAND defence has been raised in the German proceedings does not prevent the Court from moving on with its proceedings. The application of Articles 29 and 30 of the Brussels Regulation on cases with same object requires that the filed claims, not the raised defences, are identical [460] .

The Court concluded that recognition of the Mannheim decision would not affect the pending proceedings, as the patents at stake were not the same [462] .

Patent essentiality and infringement

Philips had declared EP 511 as essential to HSUPA (part of UMTS standard) towards ETSI on 26 November 2009 [463] . The fact that EP 511 is essential to HSUPA was not challenged by Wiko [464] .

Moreover, the interlocutory decision of the Court dated 16 April 2019 confirmed that claims 1, 9 and 12 of EP 511 are implemented in the UMTS standard [451] .

FRAND negotiations and application of the Huawei steps

The Court considers that the Huawei decision [465] does not set up strict rules, but rather guidelines for FRAND negotiations in good faith between the parties [466] .

Regarding the first step of the Huawei decision, that is the SEP-holder’s obligation to notify the implementer of the patents at stake and the infringement [467] , the Court underlines that this approach is different than what had been previously decided in a Dutch case prior to the Huawei decision, Philips v. SK Kassetten [468] .

Moving on to the next step, the Court found that Wiko had not fulfilled its duty as it did not react to Philips’ notification [469] . The Court, therefore, held that Philips was not obliged to make a licensing offer to Wiko, before starting proceedings against Wiko [451] .

FRAND offer

Nevertheless, Philips had made an offer to Wiko on 28 July 2015 [470] . This offer was for a worldwide licence under Philips’ UMTS and LTE SEPs [471] .

Philips’ expert explained that the offered rate amounting to USD 1,0 per product (non-compliant rate) and USD 0,75 per product (compliant rate) was justified in view of all UMTS and LTE SEPs [451] .

However, Wiko argued that Philips’ offer is not FRAND for the following reasons: Philips did not specify that its offer was FRAND compliant and did not explain how the offer was FRAND [472] .

Contrary to German courts, the Court held that the Huawei steps do not imply a substantiation duty [473] , but solely the duty to specify the amount of the rate and the way it is calculated [474] . It bases this reasoning on the fact that the Huawei decision has to be read in light of a previous German decision, the Orange Book Standard decision, where the German Supreme Court decided it was up to the implementer to make a first FRAND offer [451] . The Court interprets the Huawei decision as requiring the SEP-holder, as it is in a better position to do so, to make a first FRAND offer after the implementer has demonstrated itself to be a “willing licensee” [451] . But it does not require the SEP-holder to substantiate its FRAND offer and give insights on why he believes the offer is FRAND. The Court also considers there is no duty for the SEP-holder to justify its rate in view of what other licensees are paying [475] .

Wiko also challenged specific terms of the license, i.e. the suggested duration (until expiry of the last patent), the coupling of UMTS and LTE SEPs, as well as the requested fixed licence fees [476] . The Court held, however, that Wiko did not provide any evidence to support its position that Philips’ offer is not FRAND [451] . Additionally, the Court attached importance to the fact that Philips had expressed its willingness to discuss the offer and specific circumstances with Wiko [477] . Philips had even asked Wiko to make a counteroffer, which the latter did not [478] .

The Court further pointed out that the fact that there are different terms and conditions with other parties does not necessarily imply that the offer made to Wiko is discriminatory [479] . It stressed that “non-discriminatory” does not mean that every licensee must be offered the same structure and rate; the “non-discriminatory” nature of an offer depends on the facts and circumstances of the specific case [451] .

Wiko’s counteroffer

Wiko GmbH, an entity legally independent from other Wiko entities, had made a counteroffer to Philips [480] . However, the Court did not consider this counteroffer as a counteroffer made by the Defendant of the present proceedings to Philips [451] .

Besides that, the Defendant had also made a counteroffer to Philips after the start of the present proceedings [481] . This offer was based on the following estimates: the total number of UMTS and LTE SEPs was 12.000, out of which Wiko estimated that Philips holds 97 families, and the aggregated royalty rate for all SEPs amounted to 12% [482] . Wiko derived a rate of 0.001% per SEP family and made the following counteroffer to Philips [451] :

- 0.042% for the compliant rate (EUR 0.027)

- 0.066% for the non-compliant rate (EUR 0.043)

- 0.0315% for past sales (EUR 0.020).

Subsequently, Wiko made a further offer to Philips of 0.084 (which, in Philips‘ eyes, referred to a percentage) [451] .

The Court held that Wiko’s counteroffers were not FRAND. It found that the counteroffer included too many patents into the total SEPs pool, because it included base station and infrastructure patents, while Philips portfolio was focused on cellphone patents [483] . Consequently, the Court concluded that Philips held a higher percent of SEPs than estimated by Wiko [451] . It also highlighted that Wiko did not provide any explanation with respect to a proposed discount of the initially estimated rate of 0.097% and the aggregated royalty rate [483] . The Court also noticed that, while Wiko stated Philips’ rate should account for the technical and economic value of Philips’ SEPs, this analysis was missing from Wiko’s counteroffer [484] . It added that Wiko’s counteroffer did not account for the value of Philips’ SEPs in view of other SEPs for the same standard [485] .

Abuse of a dominant position

The Court held that the Huawei case requires that the facts and circumstances of a case have to be assessed to determine if there is an abuse of a dominant position [466] . Furthermore, the Court also referred to the decision of the UK High Court of Justice in Unwired Planet v. Huawei to note that the fact that the circumstances of a case diverge from the Huawei scheme does not automatically lead to the conclusion of an abuse of a dominant position, if the SEP-holder, nonetheless, files an action against an implementer [451] .

The Court expressly pointed out that if starting proceedings is considered as an abuse of a dominant position, then implementers have no incentives to comply with the Huawei steps and can just delay the negotiations [486] .

With respect to the asserted claims for injunction and recall of products, the Court found that the facts and circumstances of this case were different from the German proceedings, where the Mannheim Court viewed Wiko as a “willing licensee” [487] .

Wiko did not demonstrate itself to be a “willing licensee”, as it did not react to Philips’ notification, and did not comply with the required Huawei steps. Therefore, the Court rejected Wiko’s FRAND defence and granted Philips’ request for an injunction and recall of products.

  • [450] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 2.1
  • [451] Ibidem
  • [452] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 2.2
  • [453] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 2.3
  • [454] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 2.4
  • [455] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 3.1
  • [456] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 5.1
  • [457] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 5.4
  • [458] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 5.3
  • [459] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 5.8
  • [460] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.1
  • [461] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.2
  • [462] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.3
  • [463] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraphs 4.5 and 4.6
  • [464] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.5
  • [465] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgement dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [466] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.14
  • [467] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.10
  • [468] Case reference: Court of The Hague, Philips v. SK Kassetten, 17 March 2019, referred to in Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.10.
  • [469] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.15
  • [470] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.16
  • [471] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.27
  • [472] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.17
  • [473] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.18 and 4.19
  • [474] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.18
  • [475] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.19
  • [476] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.31
  • [477] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraphs 4.26, 4.31, 4.32, 4.36
  • [478] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.36
  • [479] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.34
  • [480] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.20
  • [481] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 2.4
  • [482] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.38
  • [483] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.40
  • [484] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.39
  • [485] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.41
  • [486] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.21
  • [487] Court of Appeal of The Hague, judgement dated 2 July 2019, paragraph 4.22

Updated 2 8月 2019

Tagivan (MPEG-LA) v Huawei

LG Düsseldorf
15 11月 2018 - Case No. 4a O 17/17

A. Facts

The Claimant, Tagivan II LLC, holds a patent essential to the practice of the AVC/H.264 standard concerning the compression of video data (Standard Essential Patent, or SEP). The patent in question is subject to a FRAND commitment (FRAND stands for Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory terms and conditions) made towards the relevant standardisation body. It was included into a patent pool administered by MPEG LA LLC (MPEG LA), comprising more the 5,000 patents referring to the AVC/H.264 standard (MPEG LA pool) [761] .

The Defendant, a German subsidiary of a Chinese group of companies, sells – among other things – mobile phones in Germany that practise the AVC/H.264 standard [762] .

MPEG LA uses a standard licensing agreement, which is publicly available at its website [763] . Since 2004, MPEG-LA has signed approx. 2,000 agreements with implementers [764] , 1,400 of which are still in force [763] .

In 2009, MPEG LA and the Defendant’s parent company (parent company) started discussions about a potential licence covering other standards, especially the MPEG-2 standard. On 6 September 2011, MPEG LA informed the parent company about the possibility to obtain a licence also regarding the AVC/H.264 standard, by sending PDF-copies of its standard licensing agreement to the parent company via email [765] . On 15 September 2011, the parent company suggested to arrange a call on this issue [766] . In February 2012, MPEG LA sent the pool’s standard licensing agreement for the AVC/H.264 standard to the parent company also by mail [767] .

In November 2013, the discussions between MPEG LA and the parent company ended without success [768] . The parties resumed negotiations in July 2016; again, no agreement was reached [768] .

The Claimant then brought an action against the Defendant before the District Court of Düsseldorf in Germany (Court), requesting for injunctive relief, information and rendering of accounts, the destruction and the recall of infringing products as well as for a declaratory judgement confirming Defendant’s liability for damages on the merits [769] .

In November 2017, during the course of the present proceedings, the Defendant made a counteroffer to the Claimant for a licence, which – in contrast to MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement – was limited to the Claimant’s patent portfolio and established different royalty rates for different regions, in which the Defendant sold products [770] .

In March and September 2018 (again during the proceedings), the Defendant provided bank guarantees to the Claimant covering past and future sales of (allegedly) infringing products. The security amounts were calculated based on the Defendant’s counteroffer dated November 2017 [771] . Furthermore, the Defendant made a second counteroffer to the Claimant shortly after the last oral hearing before the Court [772] .

With the present judgment, the Court granted Claimant’s requests.

B. Court’s reasoning

The Court found that the patent in suit was valid [773] , standard essential [774] and infringed by the products sold by the Defendant in Germany [775] . Furthermore, the Court held that by filing the present suit the Claimant did not abuse its dominant market position in violation of Article 102 of the Treaty for the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), since it had fully complied with the conduct obligations stipulated by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) in the matter Huawei v ZTE [776] (Huawei obligations or framework) with respect to dominant undertakings [777] .

Dominant market position

The Court found that the Claimant holds a dominant market position in terms of Article 102 TFEU [778] .

The Court defined the relevant market for the assessment of dominance as the market, in which licences for any given patent are offered [779] . A dominant market position can further also exist, when the patent holder can hinder competition in downstream markets for standard-compliant products and services [779] .

The Court made clear that ownership of a SEP does not per se establish market dominance [780] . A dominant market position is given, when the use of the SEP is required for entering the market [781] . The same is true, if the patent user could not market competitive products or services, without access to the respective SEP [782] .

Based on these considerations, the Court saw no ‘reasonable’ doubt that the Claimant was a dominant undertaking: It was undisputed that almost all mobile phones available worldwide use the AVC/H.264 standard and that no ‘realistic’ alternative to the MPEG LA pool existed in the licensing market for patents essential to this standard [783] .

Huawei framework

The Court found, however, that the Claimant did not abuse its dominant position by suing the Defendant in the present case, since its conduct was in line with the Huawei framework [784] . The Huawei framework establishes mutual conduct obligations for both SEP holders and SEP users, which need to be fulfilled step by step and one after another (meaning that each party’s obligation to act arises only after the other party has fulfilled its own obligation) [785] . Subject to the Huawei framework is not only the patent holder’s claim for injunctive relief, but also the claim for the destruction of infringing products [786] .

In this context, the Court pointed out that the Huawei framework applies, irrespective of whether a ‘well-established’ licensing practice concerning the asserted patents already existed before the CJEU delivered the Huawei judgment, or not [787] . The Claimant had argued that, in the present case, the Court should apply the (German) legal standard that preceded the Huawei framework (which was based on the so-called ‘Orange-Book-Standard’ ruling of the Federal Supreme Court [788] ), since with respect to the SEP in suit a ‘routine’ practice already existed prior to the Huawei judgement. The Court explained that the Huawei judgment does not contain either an explicit or an implicit limitation of its scope of application [789] . Furthermore, even if a ‘well-established’ licensing practice existed, the need to apply the Huawei framework will still be given, in order to bridge the, nevertheless, existing information gap between patent holder and implementer concerning the (potential) infringement of SEPs [790] . Finally, it would be very challenging for courts to distinguish whether a ‘well-established’ licensing practice excluding the application of the Huawei framework is at hand, or not [790] . Notwithstanding the above, according to the Court, the actual licensing practice of the patent holder could be of ‘particular significance’ when assessing the compliance of the latter with the Huawei obligations: Such practice could, for instance, serve as an indicator of the appropriateness of SEP holder’s licensing offer to the implementer [791] .

Having said that, the Court found no flaws in Claimant’s conduct. In the Court’s view, the Claimant had met its Huawei obligation to notify the Defendant about the infringement of its patent as well as the obligation to present the Defendant with a written FRAND licensing offer covering also the patent in suit. The Defendant, on the other hand, adequately expressed its willingness to enter into a licence, failed, however, to make a FRAND counteroffer to the Claimant. Since an adequate counteroffer was missing, the Court did not take up the question whether the bank guarantees provided by the Defendant constitute an adequate security in terms of the Huawei framework.

Notification of infringement

The Court ruled that the Claimant had adequately notified the Defendant about the infringement of the SEP in suit through the email sent by MPEG LA to the parent company on 6 September 2011 [792] .

The fact that this email was not addressed to the Defendant, but to the parent company, did not raise any concerns as to the compatibility of the notification with the Huawei framework. The Court explained that a notification of infringement addressed only to the parent company of a group of companies is sufficient, as far as it can be assumed that the notification will be forwarded to the subsidiaries concerned [793] . The sole fact that a company belongs to a group justifies such an assumption, unless indications to the contrary exist [794] . This was, however, not the case here.

Besides that, the Court did not consider it inappropriate that the aforementioned e-mail was not sent to the parent company by the Claimant, but by MPEG LA (which is not the holder of the SEP in suit) [795] . The Court held that MPEG LA is entitled to perform legal actions in connection with the licensing of the MPEG LA pool on behalf of the Claimant. The Defendant could not contest that this was not the case, since MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement, which it is aware of, contains an indication about MPEG LA’s respective capacity [796] . In addition, the Defendant’s parent company was most likely aware of MPEG LA’s capacity to act on behalf of the Claimant, since it had entered into direct negotiation with MPEG LA already in 2009, that is almost two years prior to the notification of infringement [797] .

The Court further ruled that, in terms of content, a notification of infringement must – at least – name the infringed patent (including the patent number) and indicate the contested embodiments as well as the (allegedly) infringing acts of use [798] . A detailed (technical and/or legal) explanation of the infringement is not required; the implementer needs just to be put in the position to assess the infringement allegations, if necessary, by seeking expert advice [798] . A notification of infringement is, therefore, not necessary, when it constitutes just a ‘pointless formality’ [798] . This is true, when according to the overall circumstances of the case, one can safely assume that the implementer is aware of the infringement, so that claiming that the SEP holder failed to provide adequate notification prior to the initiation of court proceedings would appear to be abusive [798] . The respective test is, however, subject to strict conditions [798] .

Based on the above considerations, the Court found that MPEG LA’s email to the parent company dated 6 September 2011 should be considered – as an exception – to constitute a sufficient notification of infringement, although it did not contain the minimum information required (particularly the patent number and a reference to the specific infringing embodiments) [799] . The overall circumstances of the case (especially the fact that the parent company had been in negotiations with MPEG LA already since 2009 and, therefore, should have been aware that MPEG LA has granted licences for the AVC/H.264 standard to the implementers mentioned at its website), give rise to the assumption that the parent company had been conscious of the fact that AVC/H.264-compliant products need to be licensed [800] .

Willingness to obtain a licence

The Court held that the parent company had adequately expressed its willingness to obtain a FRAND-licence through the email sent to MPEG LA on 15 September 2011 [801] .

In the eyes of the Court, this email indicates the parent company’s intention to deal with issues concerning the licensing of patents referring to the AVC/H.264 standard, especially if it is seen in the context of the negotiations between MPEG LA and the parent company that had commenced in 2009 [801] . This is sufficient under the Huawei framework: A general, informal statement suffices [802] . The implementer is not required to refer to a specific licensing agreement (on the contrary, this could be considered harmful under certain circumstances) [802] .

SEP holder’s offer

The Court further found that the standard licensing agreement sent by MPEG LA to the parent company in February 2012 presents an offer accountable to the Claimant which is in line with the Huawei framework in terms of both form and content [803] .

The fact that the standard licensing agreement was not tailored to the parent company but was designed for use towards a large number of (potential) licensees (the name of the licensee ought to be added in each case separately), was not criticized by the Court. MPEG-LA had made clear that the documents sent by mail in February 2012 would serve as the basis for negotiations and a future agreement with the parent company [804] .

In addition, the Court did not take an issue with the fact that the offer was addressed to the parent company and not to the Defendant, since the parties were discussing about a licensing agreement on group level and the parent company had been involved in the communications from the beginning [805] .

The Court further ruled that the Huawei requirement, according to which the SEP holder’s licensing offer must specify the royalty calculation, was met, although the draft standard licensing agreement sent to the parent company did not contain a detailed explanation of the way the royalties were calculated [806] . The Court found that, in the present case, it was sufficient that the parent company was aware that the (standard) agreement presented to her had been accepted in the market by a great number of licensees [807] . In the Court’s view, the explanation of the royalty calculation does not require a ‘strict mathematical derivation’ of the royalty; moreover, it will, as a rule, suffice to demonstrate that the (standard) royalty rates offered have been accepted in the market by presenting existing licensing agreements with third parties (comparable agreements) [808] . If a sufficient number of comparable licences is presented, then the SEP holder will usually not be required to provide further information regarding the appropriateness of its licensing offer [808] . It will need, however, to provide information on all essential comparable agreements, in order to rule out the risk that only agreements supporting the offered royalty level are presented [808] . In this context, the Court noted that it cannot be required from the SEP holder to present all comparable agreements along with the licensing offer to the implementer; a respective industry practice does not exist [809] .

Apart from the above, the Court held that the standard licensing agreement offered to the parent company was FRAND also in terms of content [810] .

According to the Court, a licensing offer cannot be considered as fair and reasonable, if the patent holder requests royalties that go significantly beyond the (hypothetical) price that would have been formed in an effectively competitive market, unless there is a commercial justification for the royalty level requested [811] . Particularly in connection with the licensing of SEPs, an offer can lie outside the FRAND-scope, if the cumulative royalty burden imposed on the implementer would not be tenable in commercial terms [811] . The Court made clear that, in this context, no exact mathematical derivation of a FRAND-conform royalty rate is required; moreover, an approximate value is to be determined based on assessments and estimations [811] . In this respect, comparable agreements can serve as an ‘important indicator’ of the fair and reasonable character of the offered royalty rates [811] .

Non-discrimination

Regarding to the non-discriminatory element of FRAND, the Court pointed out that it applied only to similar situated cases [812] . Even then, an unequal treatment is allowed, as long as it is objectively justified [812] . Limitations may, nevertheless, occur, especially when the implementation of the patent is necessary for entering a downstream market or when a product becomes competitive, only when it uses the patent’s teachings [812] . As a rule, the burden of proof with respect to the discriminatory character of a licensing offer rests on the implementer. Since the latter will usually not be aware of the existence or the content of comparable agreements of the patent holder, it may, however, seem appropriate to request the patent holder to provide the implementer with respective details, as far as this is reasonable [813] . The information to be shared should cover all existing licensees and include which (concretely designated) company with which importance in the relevant market has obtained a licence on which conditions [813] .

Against this background, the Court found that the offer made by MPEG LA to the parent company was not discriminatory. The Defendant had argued that seeking a licence also covering sales in China violated FRAND, since not every other competitor in the Chinese market was licensed by MPEG LA [814] . The Court observed that the selective assertion of patents against only a part of the competitors in a downstream market might, in principle, be discriminatory [815] . This was, however, not the case here, because the Claimant had already sued another company active in China and was attempting to persuade other companies to obtain a licence [816] . Due to the high cost risk associated with court proceedings, the patent holder is not obliged to sue all potential infringers at once; choosing to assert its patents against larger implementers first was considered by the Court as reasonable, since a win over a large market player could motivate smaller competitors to also obtain a licence (without litigation) [817] .

Furthermore, the Court did not consider the fact that the offered standard licensing agreement contained a cap for the annual licensing fees payable to the MPEG LA pool to be discriminatory [818] . The Defendant had argued that the respective cap disproportionally favoured licensees with high volume sales which offered not only mobile phones, but also other standard compliant products in the market. The Court made, however, clear that Art. 102 TFEU does not establish a ‘most-favoured-licensee’ principle (meaning that the patent holder must offer the same conditions to all licensees) [819] . It is not per se discriminatory to use sale volumes as a criterion for discounts, especially if a company has managed to open up a larger market than its competitors [820] . Discounts can further hardly be discriminatory, if they are offered to every (potential) licensee under the same conditions [820] .

Besides that, the Court dismissed the Defendant’s argument that MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement is discriminatory, because it is offered to both MPEG LA pool members and third licensees. The Court found that the share of the licensing income paid to pool members, who have also signed a MPEG LA licence, reflects their contribution to the pool and, therefore, does not discriminate the latter against third licensees (who have not contributed any patents to the pool) [821] . In this context, the Court also pointed out that the clauses contained in MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement, providing for deductions or instalment payments are not discriminatory, particularly because they are offered to all licensees [822] .

The Court was further not convinced that the parent company was discriminated by MPEG LA’s offer, because the MPEG LA pool had refrained from requesting a licence at group level from a competitor, but had only granted a licence to a subsidiary within the respective group, instead. In the Court’s eyes, the Claimant had managed to establish that this exception was objectively justified, since only the subsidiary granted a licence had activities concerning the patents included in the pool [823] .

Fair and reasonable terms

With respect to the assessment of whether MPEG LA’s offer to the parent company was also fair and reasonable, the Court placed particular emphasis on the existing licensing agreements between the MPEG-LA pool and third licensees. The Court took the view, that existing licences can establish the actual presumption that the terms offered (as well as the scope of the licence) are fair and reasonable [824] . Moreover, the fact that licences regarding the same patent portfolio have already been granted for similar products prima facie suggests that the selection of the patents included in the pool was adequate [824] .

Based on these premises, the Court found that the approx. 2,000 standard licensing agreements concluded by the MPEG LA pool provide a ‘strong indication’ (‘erhebliche Indizwirkung’) that the underlying licensing terms are fair and reasonable [825] . In the Court’s view, the Defendant had failed to show sufficient facts that could rebut this indication.

In particular, the Court did not accept Defendant’s claim that, as a rule, licences for products sold in the Chinese market are subject to special conditions. On the contrary, the Court found that the existing MPEG LA pool licences allow the assumption that setting worldwide uniform licence fees corresponds to industry practice [826] . Accordingly, the Court rejected Defendant’s argument, that the royalties offered by MPEG LA to the parent company would hinder the Defendant from making profits with its sales in China, since the overall licensing burden (including licences needed from third parties) would be too high. The Court noted that the price level for Defendant’s sales in China does not significantly differ from the price level in other regions [827] . What is more, the Defendant did not show that further licences are needed with respect to the AVC/H.264 standard [828] . The Court further did not recognise a need to apply special conditions for the Chinese market, because – compared to patents from other regions – a lower number of Chinese patents is contained in the MPEG LA pool. According to the Court, the number of patents in a specific market should not be ‘overestimated’ as a factor for assessing the FRAND conformity of an offer, since even a single patent can block an implementer from a market, generating, therefore, the need for obtaining a licence [829] .

Apart from the above, the Court did not criticise that MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement did not contain an adjustment clause. Such clauses can secure that the agreed licensing fees remain reasonable, in case that the number of patents contained in the pool changes during the term of the licensing agreement. They are, however, in the Court’s view, not the only mean to reach this goal: Moreover, the clause contained in MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement, according to which the agreed royalties will not be adjusted either when more patents are added to the pool or when patents are withdrawn from the pool, offers an adequate balance of risk and is, therefore, FRAND compliant [830] . This assumption is also confirmed by the fact that all existing licensees have accepted this clause [831] .

In addition, the Court made clear that pool licences, as the one offered to the parent company, are, in general, appropriate under the Huawei framework. An offer for a pool licence cannot per se be seen as abusive (Article 101 TFEU) [832] . On the contrary, such licences usually serve the interest of potential licensees to be granted access to the whole standard on uniform conditions under one roof, without having to seek a licence from every single patent holder separately [832] .

An offer for a pool licence can, nevertheless, violate FRAND in ‘special circumstances’ [833] , for instance, if not all patents included in the pool are used by the licensee [834] . According to the Court, the fact that the Defendant – as well as mobile phone manufacturers in general – usually use only one of four available profiles of the AVC-Standard does not, however, render the standard licensing agreement offered by MPEG LA unreasonable [835] . This is particularly the case, since Defendant’s products – and especially its latest smartphones – have the technical capability to implement more than one available profile [836] . Besides that, it is reasonable to offer one single licence covering all profiles, since modern products incorporate functionalities of several types of devices (e.g. smartphones offer also digital television functionalities) [836] .

In this context, the Court dismissed Defendant’s arguments that the licence offered by MPEG LA was not FRAND, because it allegedly covered both standard-essential and non-essential patents. The Court recognised that the ‘bundling’ of essential and non-essential patents in a patent pool could, in principle, be incompatible with FRAND, if it is done with the intention to extract higher royalties from licensees by increasing the number of patents contained in the pool [837] . The Defendant failed, however, to present any reliable evidence that this was the case with the MPEG-LA pool [838] .

In the Court’s eyes, the Defendant also failed to establish that the rates offered by MPEG LA would lead to an unreasonably high total burden of licensing costs (‘royalty stacking’) [839] . The theoretical possibility that the Defendant might need to obtain licences also for patents not included in a pool does not per se lead to royalty stacking; the Defendant would have been obliged to establish that the total amount of royalties actually paid does not allow to extract any margin from the sale of its products [840] .

The Court further pointed out that MPEG-LA’s offer did not violate FRAND principles, because it referred to a licence covering all companies within the group, to which the Defendant belonged [841] . In the electronics and mobile communications industries, licences on a group level are in line with the industry practice and, therefore, FRAND-compliant [842] .

Implementer’s counteroffer

Having said that, the Court found that the Defendant failed to make a FRAND counteroffer [843] .

In particular, the counteroffer made in November 2017 after the commencement of the present proceedings violated the FRAND principles in terms of content, because it was limited to a licence covering solely the Claimant’s patent portfolio and not all patents included in the MPEG LA pool [844] . Furthermore, the counteroffer established different licensing rates for different regions (especially for China) without factual justification [845] .

Furthermore, the second counteroffer made by the Defendant after the end of the last oral hearing was belated and, therefore, not FRAND. The Court held that the Claimant was not given sufficient time to respond to that counteroffer, so that there was no need for any further assessment of its content [772] . On the contrary, the Court expressed the view that the purpose of this counteroffer was most likely to delay the infringement proceedings [772] .

Provision of security

Since Defendant’s counter-offers were not FRAND in terms of content, the Court did not have to decide, whether the security provided in form of bank guarantees was FRAND or not. The Court noted, however, that the amounts provided were insufficient, since they were calculated on basis of Defendant’s counteroffer from November 2017, which itself failed to meet the FRAND requirements [846] .

  • [761] Tagivan (MPEG-LA) v Huawei, District Court of Düsseldorf, 9 November 2018, para. 36.
  • [762] Ibid, para. 35.
  • [763] Ibid, para. 37.
  • [764] Ibid, para. 453.
  • [765] Ibid, para. 39.
  • [766] Ibid, para. 43.
  • [767] Ibid, para. 44.
  • [768] Ibid, para. 53.
  • [769] Ibid, para. 2.
  • [770] Ibid, para. 54.
  • [771] Ibid, para. 65.
  • [772] Ibid, para. 716.
  • [773] Ibid, paras. 143-208.
  • [774] Ibid, paras. 209-293.
  • [775] Ibid, paras. 295-302.
  • [776] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [777] Tagivan (MPEG-LA) v Huawei, District Court of Düsseldorf, 9 November 2018, paras. 304 et seqq.
  • [778] Ibid, para. 307.
  • [779] Ibid, para. 310.
  • [780] Ibid, para. 310. In this respect, the Court pointed out that – vice versa – also a non-essential patent might confer a dominant position, if the patented invention is superior in terms of technological merit and/or economical value, para. 312.
  • [781] Ibid, paras. 310 et seq.
  • [782] Ibid, para. 311.
  • [783] Ibid, paras. 315 et seqq.
  • [784] Ibid, para. 321.
  • [785] Ibid, para. 326.
  • [786] Ibid, para. 327.
  • [787] Ibid, para. 330.
  • [788] Under the ‘Orange-Book-Standard’ regime, in order to avoid an injunction, the implementer was required to make a licensing offer to the patent holder, which the latter could not refuse without acting in an anticompetitive manner; see Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof), judgment dated 6 May 2009, Case No. KZR 39/06.
  • [789] Ibid, paras. 331 et seqq.
  • [790] Ibid, para. 335.
  • [791] Ibid, para. 337.
  • [792] Ibid, para. 339.
  • [793] Ibid, para. 343.
  • [794] Ibid, para. 345.
  • [795] Ibid, para. 356.
  • [796] Ibid, paras. 357 et seqq.
  • [797] Ibid, paras. 366 et seqq.
  • [798] Ibid, para. 340.
  • [799] Ibid, para. 341.
  • [800] Ibid, paras. 395 et seqq.
  • [801] Ibid, paras. 400 et seqq.
  • [802] Ibid, para. 399.
  • [803] Ibid, para. 405.
  • [804] Ibid, paras. 411-417.
  • [805] Ibid, para. 419.
  • [806] Ibid, para. 421.
  • [807] Ibid, para. 425.
  • [808] Ibid, para. 422.
  • [809] Ibid, paras. 426 et seqq.
  • [810] Ibid, para. 429.
  • [811] Ibid, para. 431.
  • [812] Ibid, para. 432.
  • [813] Ibid, para. 433.
  • [814] Ibid, para. 438.
  • [815] Ibid, para. 443.
  • [816] Ibid, para. 444.
  • [817] Ibid, para. 445.
  • [818] Ibid, para. 579.
  • [819] Ibid, para. 582.
  • [820] Ibid, paras. 583 et seqq.
  • [821] Ibid, para. 564.
  • [822] Ibid, paras. 568 et seqq.
  • [823] Ibid, paras. 573 et seqq.
  • [824] Ibid, para. 451.
  • [825] Ibid, para. 449.
  • [826] Ibid, para. 454.
  • [827] Ibid, paras. 487 et seqq.
  • [828] Ibid, para. 491.
  • [829] Ibid, para. 495.
  • [830] Ibid, paras. 591 et seqq., particularly para. 596.
  • [831] Ibid. para. 597.
  • [832] Ibid. para. 504.
  • [833] Ibid. para. 508.
  • [834] Ibid. para. 514.
  • [835] Ibid. paras. 511 et seqq.
  • [836] Ibid. para. 524.
  • [837] Ibid, para. 528.
  • [838] Ibid, paras. 531-543.
  • [839] Ibid, paras. 545 et seqq.
  • [840] Ibid, para. 546.
  • [841] Ibid, para. 599.
  • [842] Ibid, para. 600.
  • [843] Ibid, para. 603.
  • [844] Ibid, paras. 605 et seqq.
  • [845] Ibid, paras. 617 et seqq.
  • [846] Ibid, para. 625.