Huawei対ZTE事件CJEU判決後の判例法
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Updated 23 1月 2018

LG Mannheim

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

A. Facts

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

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

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

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

B. Court’s Reasoning

1. Notice of Infringement

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

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

2. The SEP Owner’s Licensing Offer

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

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

3. The standard implementer’s reaction

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

C. Other Important Issues

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

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

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

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

Updated 26 1月 2017

Sisvel v Haier

LG Düsseldorf
3 11月 2015 - Case No. 4a O 93/14

  1. Facts
    Claimant, a non-practicing entity, is the proprietor of European patent EP B, originally granted to the applicant “A”, allegedly covering a feature of the GPRS standard, and being part of Claimant’s patent portfolio “H Wireless Patent Program” which purportedly encompasses patents essential to various ICT standards. Defendants “I” and “J” produce and market GPRS-based devices. On 10 April 2013, Claimant made a commitment towards ETSI declaring to grant a license on FRAND terms with regard to, inter alia, patent EP B. By letters as of 20 December 2012, 22 August 2013 and 11 November 2013, as well as in meetings on 17 February 2014 Claimant informed the parent company of Defendants “I” and “J” about the “H Wireless Patent Program” and made an offer but no licensing agreement was concluded. On 29 August 2014 Claimant made another licensing offer which was refused on 1 September 2014 by Defendant “J” without a counter-offer. By letter as of 12 August 2015 Defendants submitted a counter-offer regarding patent EP B which was, in turn, refused by Claimant on 24 August 2015. After Claimant had brought an action against “I” and “J”, Defendants made yet another licensing offer in their court filing as of 21 September 2015 which was refused as well. In the course of the oral hearings on 29 September 2015, Defendants submitted a security in the amount of € 5000 and rendered account in respect of acts of use in the past.
  2. Court’s reasoning
    1. Market power and notice of infringement
      The court left open the question of whether the SEP conferred market power to Claimant since it did, in any case, find no abuse of such potential market power (cf. below). As to the infringement notification, [19] the court did not decide whether the meetings with individual companies of the group to which Defendants belong already satisfied the requirements established by the ECJ. Since, in the present case, Claimant filed its actions before the judgment in Huawei v ZTE was rendered the court considered it sufficient that the infringer was alerted of the infringement through the statement of claims: The rules of conduct established by the German Federal Court (Bundesgerichtshof) in its Orange Book-ruling do not require the patent holder to give notice or submit a licensing offer prior to suing a (purportedly) infringing standard implementer. Although Orange Book addressed a de facto Standard and was heavily criticized by scholars and the EU Commission alike, it was being applied by German lower courts to de jure standards until the ECJ handed down its Huawei decision. In consequence, Claimant could—prior to the Huawei decision—reasonably consider itself to comply with the law by acting in accordance with the Orange Book rules. In terms of content, the District Court left undecided the question whether of the infringement notification must only indicate the patent for which prohibitory injunction is sought, whether—on the contrary—reference to other IP rights with respect to which a license is offered has to be made, or whether such additional reference is relevant only in determining FRAND licensing conditions. The court also left open whether the alleged infringer must accept a FRAND offer since the patent holder has then fulfilled its obligations according to antitrust law and thus there is no room for a counter-offer.

    2. The SEP owner’s licensing offer
      As regards the Huawei requirement to present the alleged infringer with a specific, written offer for a license on FRAND terms, three statements of the district court deserve attention: Firstly, the SEP holder is in compliance with the ECJ conditions if the licensing offer is submitted not to all individual companies within a group but to the group parent only. Secondly, the court did not decide on whether an offer providing for a worldwide portfolio license and encompassing also non-SEPs could be considered as FRAND because, thirdly, the alleged infringers did not comply with their duties of conduct under Huawei (cf. below). [20]

    3. The standard implementer’s reaction
      According to the court even if the patent proprietor’s licensing offer is not FRAND-compliant, a standard implementer would still have to respond to that offer. The question of whether the alleged infringer may respond to a non-FRAND offer in a different manner than by submitting a specific counter-offer, in particular by merely demonstrating that the SEP owner’s offer was not FRAND, was left undecided. [21] Since Defendants decided to submit a counter-offer, the court stated that they were obliged to render account in respect of acts of use and to provide security for potential royalties, both based on their counter-offer and starting with the refusal of the first counter-offer, regardless of whether subsequent offers and counter-offers were formulated. These obligations also apply to “transitional” cases in which the (first) counter-offer has been rejected before the Huawei ruling because the—previously applicable—Orange Book-rules of conduct were even more demanding for the standard implementer. In the present case, Defendants did not comply with this prerequisite because they rejected, on 1 September 2014, the offers presented by Claimant on 17 February and 29 August 2014 without formulating any counter-offer, submitting such a counter-offer only belatedly, on 12 August 2015. [22] Furthermore, Defendants did not comply with their duties to render account and to provide security because they did so only on 29 September 2015, i.e. more than one month after their first counter-offer had been rejected by the claimant on 24 August 2015. [23]

  3. Other important issues
    In addition to its considerations regarding Huawei, the court deliberated on two other important issues: As regards the transfer of a SEP from the original patent proprietor to a non-practicing entity, registration in the patent register in accordance with § 30 (3) PatG establishes presumption of ownership, allowing the proprietor to enforce all rights derived from the SEP as long as the presumption has not been successfully rebutted by Defendants. [24] Furthermore, no patent ambush-defense based on § 242 BGB could successfully be raised because, firstly, Defendants could not substantiate the alleged patent ambush by “A” (being the original SEP proprietor); secondly, the alleged patent ambush would, arguably, have resulted only in a FRAND licensing obligation while, thirdly, Claimant had declared its willingness to grant a license on FRAND terms anyway. [25]
  • [19]  Case No. 4a O 93/14, para. 90-94
  • [20]  Case No. 4a O 93/14, para. 96-98, 125
  • [21]  Case No. 4a O 93/14, para. 98-101
  • [22]  Case No. 4a O 93/14, para. 14, 103-109
  • [23]  Case No. 4a O 93/14, para. 103-111
  • [24]  Case No. 4a O 93/14, para. 37-40
  • [25]  Case No. 4a O 93/14, para. 118-123

Updated 26 1月 2017

Sisvel v ZTE, Tribunale Ordinario di Torino

イタリア裁判所の決定
18 1月 2016 - Case No. 30308/20215 R.G.

  1. Facts
    Claimant (Sisvel Int. S.A.) is the proprietor of European patent EP 1 264 504, originally granted to Nokia Corporation, allegedly covering part of the UMTS standard, and being part of Claimant’s patent portfolio “Sisvel Wireless patents” which purportedly encompasses patents essential to various ICT standards. Defendant I (ZTE Italy S.R.L.) and Defendant II (Europhoto Trading S.R.L.) produce and market UMTS-based devices.
    On 10 April 2013, Claimant made a commitment towards ETSI declaring to grant a license on FRAND terms with regard to patent EP 1 64 504. By letter as of December 2012 Claimant informed ZTE Corporation, parent company of Defendant I, about its ownership in various SEPs, indicated that the teachings of these patents were implemented in Defendant I’s devices and expressed its willingness to grant licenses on FRAND terms. On 19 December 2012, ZTE Corporation requested from Claimant further information in order to be able to assess that offer. On 29 January 2013, Claimant sent a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) which ZTE Corporation signed only about seven months later on 3 September 2013. In the course of meetings in September and October 2013, Claimant and ZTE Corporation entered into licensing negotiations without concluding a licensing agreement. On 25 July 2014, after a break of several months, the licensing negotiations have been reinitiated and ZTE Corporation for the first time addressed a claim chart provided by Claimant about ten months before.
    Claimant, by letter as of 13 October 2014, gave notice of its decision to unilaterally terminate the NDA within thirty days because ZTE Corporation adhered to delaying tactics. At the same time, though, Claimant continued the licensing negotiations. Although ZTE Corporation declared at first, on 5 February 2015, to agree to the terms proposed by Claimant it submitted a counter-offer a few months later. The counter-offer was rejected by Claimant. After the presentation of a draft licensing agreement by Claimant on 11 March 2015 and several meetings of the parties Claimant submitted a final licensing offer on 4 November 2015 being rejected by ZTE Corporation due to its alleged non-conformity with FRAND terms. Since a further licensing offer being presented in December 2015 was equally refused by ZTE Corporation, Claimant commenced litigation against Defendants.
    After Defendant II, a retail company, was informed about the seizure of twenty mobile phones implementing the UMTS-standard, it immediately returned the remaining six devices to its supplier and provided the necessary sales documents to the court.
  2. Court’s reasoning
    Since Claimant only entered into licensing negotiations with and addressed all licensing offers to ZTE Corporation, being the parent company of Defendant I, it did not comply with its Huawei obligations vis-à-vis Defendant I. Claimant neither noticed Defendant I of the alleged infringement prior to initiating litigation nor did it provide the necessary documents indicating the essential character of the patent in question. [26]
    While rejecting all other actions , particularly as to the seizure of devices using the patent-in-suit, raised against Defendant II, who neither became involved into the licensing negotiations between Claimant and ZTE Corporation nor possesses mobile devices implementing the UMTS standard anymore, the court upheld the action for prohibitory injunction because the confirmation of cessation of sales does not completely exclude periculum in mora. [27] Furthermore, the court rejected the preliminary measures raised by Claimant against Defendant I.
    Furthermore, the court stated that the NDA was not validly terminated by Claimant’s unilateral declaration as of 19 December 2014 and that therefore Claimant was not allowed to initiate proceedings against ZTE Corporation or its subsidiaries, such as Defendant I, until 3 September 2016.
  • [26] Case No. 30308/20215 R.G., para. 3
  • [27] Case No. 30308/20215 R.G., para. 5, a-c

Updated 26 1月 2017

Sisvel v Haier 2

LG Düsseldorf
3 11月 2015 - Case No. 4a O 144/14

  1. Facts
    The facts of the case are very similar to those of LG Düsseldorf, 3 November 2015 – Case No. 4a O 93/14: Claimant, a non-practicing entity, is the proprietor of the European patent EP D, originally applied for by “A” and formerly owned (after various transfers) by “B”, allegedly covering part of the UMTS standard, and being part of Claimant’s patent portfolio “H Wireless Patent Program” which purportedly encompasses patents essential to various ICT standards. Defendants “I” and “J” produce and market UMTS-based devices. On 10 April 2013 Claimant made a FRAND commitment towards ETSI, inter alia regarding patent EP D. By letters as of 20 December 2012, 22 August 2013 and 11 November 2013, as well as in meetings on 17 February 2014, Claimant informed the parent company of Defendants “I” and “J” about the “H Wireless Program” but no licensing agreement was concluded. On 29 August 2014 Claimant made another licensing offer which was refused on 1 September 2014 by “J” without a counter-offer. By letter as of 13 October 2014 one of the Defendants submitted a first counter-offer regarding patent EP D which Claimant refused on 20 October 2014 referring to the ongoing negotiations with the parent company of that Defendant. On 12 August 2015 Defendants “I” and “J” made a second counter-offer which was rejected by Claimant on 24 August 2015. After Claimant had brought a lawsuit Defendants made a last counter-offer in their court filing as of 22 September 2015 that was also refused by Claimant. In the course of the oral hearings of 29 September 2015, Defendants submitted a security (€ 5000) and rendered account in respect of acts of use in the past.
  2. Court’s reasoning
    Except for references to the slightly differing facts of both cases the court’s considerations are identical to those in the decision LG Düsseldorf, 3 November 2015 – Case No. 4a O 93/14.
    1. Market power and notice of infringement
      The court left open the question of whether the SEP conferred market power to Claimant since it did, in any case, find no abuse of such potential market power (cf. below). As to the infringement notification, [28] the court did not decide whether the meetings with individual companies of the group to which Defendants belong already satisfied the requirements established by the ECJ. Since, in the present case, Claimant filed its actions before the judgment in Huawei v ZTE was rendered the court considered it sufficient that the infringer was alerted of the infringement through the statement of claims: The rules of conduct established by the German Federal Court (Bundesgerichtshof) in its Orange Book-ruling do not require the patent holder to give notice or submit a licensing offer prior to suing a (purportedly) infringing standard implementer. Although Orange Book addressed a de facto Standard and was heavily criticized by scholars and the EU Commission alike, it was being applied by German lower courts to de jure standards until the ECJ handed down its Huawei decision. In consequence, Claimant could—prior to the Huawei decision—reasonably consider itself to comply with the law by acting in accordance with the Orange Book rules.

      In terms of content, the District Court left undecided the question whether of the infringement notification must only indicate the patent for which prohibitory injunction is sought, whether—on the contrary—reference to other IP rights with respect to which a license is offered has to be made, or whether such additional reference is relevant only in determining FRAND licensing conditions. The court also left open whether the alleged infringer must accept a FRAND offer since the patent holder has then fulfilled its obligations according to antitrust law and thus there is no room for a counter-offer.
    2. The SEP owner’s licensing offer
      As regards the Huawei requirement to present the alleged infringer with a specific, written offer for a license on FRAND terms, three statements of the district court deserve attention: Firstly, the SEP holder is in compliance with the ECJ conditions if the licensing offer is submitted not to all individual companies within a group but to the group parent only. Secondly, the court did not decide on whether an offer providing for a worldwide portfolio license and encompassing also non-SEPs could be considered as FRAND because, thirdly, the alleged infringers did not comply with their duties of conduct under Huawei (cf. below). [29]
    3. The standard implementer’s reaction
      According to the court, even if the patent proprietor’s licensing offer is not FRAND-compliant, a standard implementer would still have to respond to that offer. The question of whether the alleged infringer may respond to a non-FRAND offer in a different manner than by submitting a specific counter-offer, in particular by merely demonstrating that the SEP owner’s offer was not FRAND, was left undecided. [30] Since Defendants decided to submit a counter-offer, the court stated that they were obliged to render account in respect of acts of use and to provide security for potential royalties, both based on their counter-offer and starting with the refusal of the first counter-offer, regardless of whether subsequent offers and counter-offers were formulated. These obligations also apply to “transitional” cases in which the (first) counter-offer has been rejected before the Huawei ruling because the—previously applicable—Orange Book-rules of conduct were even more demanding for the standard implementer. In the present case, Defendants did not comply with this prerequisite because they rejected, on 1 September 2014, the offers presented by Claimant on 17 February and 29 August 2014 without formulating any counter-offer, submitting such a counter-offer only belatedly, on 12 August 2015. [31] Furthermore, Defendants did not comply with their duties to render account and to provide security because they did so only on 29 September 2015, i.e. more than one month after their first counter-offer had been rejected by the claimant on 24 August 2015. [32]
  3. Other important issues
    In addition to its considerations regarding Huawei, the court deliberated on two other important issues: As regards the transfer of a SEP from the original patent proprietor to a non-practicing entity, registration in the patent register in accordance with § 30 (3) PatG establishes presumption of ownership, allowing the proprietor to enforce all rights derived from the SEP as long as the presumption has not been successfully rebutted by Defendants. [33] Furthermore, no patent ambush-defense based on § 242 BGB could successfully be raised because, firstly, Defendants could not substantiate the alleged patent ambush by “A” (being the original SEP proprietor); secondly, the alleged patent ambush would, arguably, have resulted only in a FRAND licensing obligation while, thirdly, Claimant had declared its willingness to grant a license on FRAND terms anyway. [34]
  • [28] Case No. 4a O 93/14, para. 90-94
  • [29] Case No. 4a O 93/14, para. 96-98, 125
  • [30] Case No. 4a O 93/14, para. 98-101
  • [31] Case No. 4a O 93/14, para. 14, 103-109
  • [32] Case No. 4a O 93/14, para. 103-111
  • [33] Case No. 4a O 93/14, para. 37-40
  • [34] Case No. 4a O 93/14, para. 118-123

Updated 20 4月 2017

Wiko v Sisvel, Tribunal de Commerce de Marseille

フランス裁判所の決定
20 9月 2016 - Case No. RG 2016F01637

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

Updated 10 4月 2019

Huawei 対 ZTE

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

A. 内容

原告Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.は、欧州電気通信標準化機構(ETSI)が開発したLTEE無線通信規格(標準必須特許又はSEP)のプラクティスに関して必須のものとして宣言済みの特許を保有している [35] 。2009年3月、原告は、当該特許を実施者が公平、合理的かつ非差別的(Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory:FRAND)条件で利用できるようにすることをETSIに誓約した [36]

被告ZTE Corp.及びZTE Deutschland GmbHは、LTE規格にかかわる複数のSEPを保有しており [37] 、とりわけ、ドイツにおいては、LTE準拠製品の上市も行っている [38]

2010年11月から2011年3月の間、両当事者は、原告のSEPポートフォリオのライセンス許諾に関し協議していた [38] 。原告が合理的なロイヤルティとみなした金額を示したのに対し、被告は、クロスライセンス契約の締結を求めた [39] 。しかしながら、ライセンス契約の申出は決着しなかった [39]

2011年4月、原告は、被告を相手取り、差止命令、それまでの使用にかかわる計算書の提出、製品のリコール及び特許侵害にかかわる損害賠償を求めて、デュッセルドルフ地方裁判所(地方裁判所)に訴訟を提起した [40] [6]。

地方裁判所は、訴訟手続を停止し、EU機能条約(TFEU)第267条に基づく先決裁定を得るため欧州司法裁判所(CJEU)に付託した。簡潔に言えば、地方裁判所は、SEP保有者がSEP実施者に対する禁止的差止命令を求めて訴訟を提起することが支配的地位の濫用でありTFEU第102条に反するとの問題に関し、ドイツ連邦裁判所と欧州委員会が相反する立場を取っていると見られる点に着目した [41] 。オレンジブック判決において、ドイツ連邦裁判所は、SEPにかかわる権利侵害訴訟において、被告は、ライセンス契約締結にかかわる無条件かつ公正な申出を特許保有者に提示しており、過去の使用行為にかかわる計算書を提出しており、かつ、それにより生じるロイヤルティにつき保証金を支払っている限り、TFEU第102条に基づき防御する(それにより差止命令を回避する)権利を有すると判示した [42] 。これに対し、欧州委員会は、複数のEU加盟国においてサムスンがAppleを相手取り権利行使に関連して提起した訴訟において、特許保有者のFRAND誓約に従いFRAND条件でのライセンス契約について協議する意思を被告が実証している限り、SEPに関し差止命令による救済手段を求める訴訟が原則としてTFEU第102条違反になるとの見解を示した [43]

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

  • まず実施者に対し、「当該特許を指し示し、何が侵害にあたるのかを明示することにより」特許侵害を通知している。
  • 次に、申立てを受けた侵害者がFRAND条件でライセンス契約を締結する意思をあらわした場合、「当該条件でのライセンス申出について、とりわけ、そのロイヤルティ及び計算方法を明示した上で、当該侵害者に書面で明確に提示している」 [44]

これに対しSEP実施者は、特許保有者が禁止的差止命令又は製品リコールを求めた訴訟について、SEP保有者の申出に遅滞なく回答した場合に限り、当該訴訟の不適切性を訴えることができる [45] 。実施者は、当該申出を拒絶した場合、次の行為をしなければならない。

  • 「FRAND条件に対応する明示的なカウンターオファーを、速やかに、かつ、書面にて」特許保有者に送付し [46] 、かつ、
  • カウンターオファーが拒絶された場合、「銀行保証又は必要な預り金等を差し出す等して」、特許の実施に必要な担保を差し出す [47]

CJEUは、過去の使用行為に関しSEP保有者によりなされる損害賠償請求又は計算書提出の請求に上記の枠組みを適用しないことを明確にした。このような請求にかかわる行為は、標準的な準拠製品の上市又は市販継続が可能かどうかを左右するものでないため、TFEU第102条の侵害にあたらない [48]

B. 判決理由

CJEUは、SEP保有者の基本的な知的財産権(IPR)を司法により有効に保護することと、自由で歪みのない競争における公益との均衡を保つ必要性を強調した [49]

両当事者は、原告の市場における支配的地位の有無については争っていなかったため、裁判所の分析ではTFEU第102条に定める「濫用」の有無に焦点が当てられた [50] 。CJEUによれば、IPRの行使が支配的地位を保有する引受行為であるとしても、「元来」濫用になりえない [51] 。さらには、IPRの行使行為が支配的地位の濫用を構成するのは、「例外的な状況」に限られる [52]

SEPが関係する事例については、他のIPR関連事例と区別する。第一に、特許がSEPにあたる場合、その特許保有者は、「競合会社の製品の上市又は市販継続を妨げ、これにより、問題の製品の製造を留保できる」ことになる [53] 。これに加え、FRAND誓約により、特許保有者は、当該規格を実装する第三者に対しFRAND条件でSEPを利用できるとの「正当な期待」をもたらしている[19]。「正当な期待」がもたらされたことにより、権利侵害を訴えられた特許実施者は、SEP保有者がFRAND条件でのライセンス許諾を拒絶していた場合、原則として、TFEU第102条に依拠して防御することができる [54]

SEP保有者が法的手続を頼ってIPRの保護を求める権利を剥奪されることはないが、CJEUは、FRANDの引受けが、差止命令による救済手段を求めるに際し特定要件を遵守する義務をSEP保有者に負わせる根拠となると判示した [55] 。特に、TFEU第102条違反を回避するには、SEP保有者は、次の条件を満たさなければならない。すなわち、(a) 禁止的差止命令を求める訴訟を提起する前に、「当該特許を指し示し、何が侵害にあたるのかを明示することにより」侵害について実施者に通知しなければならず [56] 、かつ、(b) 実施者が当該ライセンス契約を締結する意思を表明している場合、FRAND条件でのライセンス申出について、「そのロイヤルティ及び計算方法」を明示した上で、当該実施者に書面で明確に提示しなければならない [57] 。この状況において、CJEUは、SEP保有者がそのような申出をするよう期待されうると認めた。これは、原則として、一般向けの規格ライセンス契約は存在せず、また、SEP保有者が第三者と締結した既存契約の条件は公開されていないことから、被疑侵害者に比べ非差別的な条件に従った申出であるかどうか確認する方が有効であるためである [58]

その一方で、(被疑)侵害者は、SEP保有者の申出に対し、注意を払った上で「業界で認められた商慣習に従い、誠実に」対応しなければならない[11]。応じるかどうかは、とりわけ「引き延ばし戦略」が黙示されない「客観的要素」に基づき確証しなければならない。 侵害者は、条件案において特許保有者のFRAND誓約がなされていないとしてSEP保有者のライセンス申出を拒絶することとした場合は、SEP保有者にFRAND条件に基づき書面による明示的なカウンターオファーをSEP保有者に送付しなければならない[12]。当該カウンターオファーが拒絶された場合において、(被疑)侵害者がライセンスを取得せずに当該SEPを既に使用しているときは、当該(被疑)侵害者は、業界で認められた商慣習に従い、銀行保証又は必要な預り金等を差し出す等して、適切な担保を差し出す義務を負う [47] 。担保の算定においては、とりわけ、「過去のSEP使用件数」を含めなければならず、被疑侵害者は、当該使用行為にかかわる計算書を提出できるよう用意しなければならない [47] 。(被疑)侵害者によるカウンターオファーにもかかわらず合意に至らなかった時点で、CJEUは、両当事者が「共通合意」により、「独立の第三者の遅滞なき決定により」ロイヤルティを決定するよう要請するオプションを有することを指し示した [59]

最後に、CJEUは、(被疑)侵害者がライセンス契約の協議と並行してSEP保有者の特許の有効性若しくは必須性又はこれを実際に使用することにつき異議を申し立てるか、将来これを行う権利を留保することができることを明確にした [60]

 

  • [35] Huawei対ZTE、欧州司法裁判所2015年7月6日判決、第22節。
  • [36] 同判決、第22節。
  • [37] 同判決、第40節。
  • [38] 同判決、第24節。
  • [39] 同判決、第25節。
  • [40] 同判決、第27節。
  • [41] 同判決、第29節以下。
  • [42] 同判決、第30節以下。
  • [43] 同判決、第34節以下。
  • [44] 同判決、第77節。
  • [45] 同判決、第65節。
  • [46] 同判決、第66節。
  • [47] 同判決、第67節。
  • [48] 同判決、第72節以下。
  • [49] 同判決、第42節。
  • [50] 同判決、第43節。
  • [51] 同判決、第46節。
  • [52] 同判決、第47節。
  • [53] 同判決、第53節。
  • [54] 同判決、第53節以下。
  • [55] 同判決、第58節以下。
  • [56] 同判決、第61節。
  • [57] 同判決、第63節。
  • [58] 同判決、第64節。
  • [59] 同判決、第68節。
  • [60] 同判決、第69節。

Updated 26 1月 2017

NTT DoCoMo v HTC

LG Mannheim
29 1月 2016 - Case No. 7 O 66/15

  1. Facts
    Claimant owns the patent EP 1 914 945, declared to be essential with regard to ETSI’s UMTS standard. Defendant markets devices implementing the UMTS standard (in particular the HSUPA/EUL technology). On 19 March 2014 Claimant sent to Defendant’s group parent a detailed licensing offer and explained its conditions at several instances before filing suit in April 2015. As of 7 April 2014 and 15 July 2014, Claimant communicated to Defendant’s group parent company claim charts in order to demonstrate standard-essentiality of its patent and further explained the issue in a presentation on 8 July 2014. Defendant submitted its first counter-offer on 30 October 2015. The counter-offer envisaged a 3 year-license limited to some of the countries in which Defendant markets its products. Claimant rejected the counter-offer on 12 November 2015. Defendant did not provide security but merely promised to do so, based on a calculation including sales of relevant devices in Germany only. Claimant rejected this and demanded security based on worldwide sales.
  2. Court’s reasoning
    1. General meaning of the Huawei framework
      Prior to discussing specific conduct requirements established by the Huawei ruling, the court sketches its approach in a general manner. [61] According to the court the Huawei decision establishes a set of rules of due conduct in SEP licensing negotiations. Based on whether the parties comply with these rules the respective court can determine whether an SEP owner’s seeking of an injunction and a recall of products constitutes an abuse of a position of market dominance or a justified reaction to a standard implementer’s delaying tactics. In consequence, the respective court does not—unless it has to decide a claim for the payment of licensing fees and not claims for injunction and recall of products—have to rule on the substance of the offered licensing conditions or their being FRAND. [62] This is in line with recognized commercial practice according to which reasonable parties will not usually want courts to determine their licensing conditions. Furthermore, the ECJ has—from the perspective of the Mannheim District court—stressed that the exercise of the exclusive rights conveyed by a patent will be barred only in very exceptional circumstances. As a result, it is up to the standard implementer to show that such exceptional circumstances are present. [63]
    2. Market power and notice of infringement
      The court does not elaborate on the market power issue. As part of the notice of infringement [64] the court deems it necessary for the proprietor to identify the (allegedly) violated patent, including the patent number, and to inform that the patent has been declared standard-essential. Furthermore, the proprietor has not only to name the standard but to specify the pertinent part of the standard and the infringing element of the implementer’s products in a way that enables the standard implementer to assess whether its use of the standard infringes on the patent-in-suit. The level of detail required must be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending mainly on the expertise of – or available to – the implementer. Presenting claim charts corresponding to recognized commercial practice for licensing negotiations is, in principle, an acceptable way to give notice of the alleged infringement. In casu the court considered the proprietor’s notice as sufficient. [65] In particular, notice was given before the bringing of an action for infringement and the proprietor had submitted claim charts not only with regard to the patent-in-suit but also with regard to six other patents from the portfolio offered for license, a sample which the court deemed in accordance with recognized commercial practice. Sufficient notice having taken place, the court left open the question whether, (1) the Huawei rules applied at all in spite of the action being brought before the ECJ’s decision, and whether (2) the proprietor was obliged to submit claim charts for other patents than the patent-in-suit.
    3. The SEP proprietor’s licensing offer
      The court’s general understanding of the Huawei rules of conduct (cf. above) has a considerable impact on the way it intends to react to a SEP proprietor’s licensing offer: [66] The offer must specify the relevant conditions in a way that, in order to conclude a licensing agreement, the standard implementer has merely to state his acceptance of the offer. The calculation of the license fee, in particular, must be explained in a manner that enables the standard implementer to objectively assess its FRAND conformity. Even if the standard implementer disputes the FRAND character of the offer it is not the court’s business to determine whether the licensing conditions are actually FRAND. Neither is the SEP proprietor prohibited from offering conditions slightly above the FRAND threshold. A differing view of the parties on what constitutes FRAND is to be expected and provides no reason for cartel law-based intervention. An exploitative abuse of market power can, however, be present where the proprietor, after having made a FRAND declaration, offers conditions that are, under the circumstances of the case and without objective justification, manifestly less favorable (in an economic sense) than the conditions offered to other licensees. Correspondingly, the respective court is only required to determine, based on a summary assessment, whether the proprietor’s licensing offer evidently violates the FRAND concept. In casu the court accepted the Huawei compliance of the licensing offer, [67] in particular because the proprietor had explained its calculation of the licensing fee based on the percentage of patents in the WCMA/SIPRO and the VIA patent pools held by the proprietor. The proprietor was not required to prove its share in the patent pools. The parties disagreed over whether the smallest saleable unit forms an appropriate basis for royalty calculation and whether it is acceptable to look only at the size, not the quality of a proprietor’s share in a relevant patent pool. The court, however, considered these issues as not decisive for the Huawei-conformity of the licensing offer.
    4. The standard implementer’s reaction
      As a further consequence of the court’s general approach, the standard implementer’s duty to diligently react to the proprietor’s licensing offer is not removed only because the offer does not fully comply with FRAND. [68] . An exception applies only where it can be established by a mere summary assessment that the offer evidently violates FRAND. If a reaction of the alleged infringer is due, the “diligence”, i.e. timeliness, of this offer has to be determined cases-by-case, based on the principles of good faith and recognized commercial practice. In casu the standard implementer’s reaction was insufficient (1) because a counter-offer was made only 1.5 years after receiving the licensing offer and 0.5 years after the bringing of the proprietor’s action, (2) because security was merely promised, not provided, and (3) because the amount of security offered fell short of the court’s suggestions.
  3. Other important issues
    The court underlines that a SEP proprietor has to respect the Huawei rules of conduct only with regard to an action for prohibitory injunction or the recall of products. It is, however, free from their grip when bringing an action seeking the rendering of accounts in relation to past acts of use or an award of damages in respect of those acts of use.
  • [61] Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 53 et seq.
  • [62] Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 56
  • [63] Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 53
  • [64] Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 57
  • [65] Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 65-69
  • [66] Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 58
  • [67] Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 70-72
  • [68] Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 59 et seq

Updated 26 1月 2017

Saint Lawrence v Vodafone

LG Düsseldorf
31 3月 2016 - Case No. 4a O 73/14

  1. Facts
    Since 28 August 2014 Claimant, a non-practicing entity, is the proprietor of the European patent EP 1 125 276 B1 “J”, originally granted to applicants “Voiceage, and allegedly covering part of the AMR-WB standard. Defendant is a company active in the telecommunications sector and which markets AMR-WB-based devices, inter alia devices produced by the Intervener in this case. After the adoption (“freeze”) of AMR-WB by ETSI on 10 April 2001, Claimant (who was not an ETSI member during the setting of the AMR-WB standard) made, on 29 May 2001, a commitment towards ETSI to grant licenses on FRAND terms inter alia for patent EP J. Claimant and its parent company “O” offer the SEP and all other patents of the same family to third parties by means of a portfolio license. Licensing conditions are accessible on the Internet and various producers in the sector have taken a license under these conditions. Prior to the submission of the patent infringement action on 23 July 2014 and to the advance payments on costs on 29 July 2014, Claimant alerted neither Defendant nor the manufacturer of the contested embodiments, who acted as an intervener in the present proceedings and became aware of the lawsuit in August 2014. By e-mails on 31 July and (as a reminder) on 9 December 2014, the first of which included a copy of the statement of claims and reached the defendant before it was formally served with the statement, Claimant notified the alleged patent violation to Defendant. After Defendant’s reply as of 12 January 2015, Claimant presented a draft licensing agreement to Defendant by letter as of 22 April 2015. On 9 December 2014, the Intervener (HTC) declared willingness to take a license for that patent, inter alia for the patent-in-suit, provided infringement was found in Mannheim’s District Court. It further declared that it would accept royalties determined by a court or arbitration tribunal. Claimant, in turn, offered a licensing agreement by letters as of 12 January 2015 and 25 March 2015 respectively. In the course of meetings taking place since 23 January 2014, [69] Claimant offered a license to the Intervener. On 23 February 2015 and on 2 April 2015 respectively, the Intervener made two licensing offers, including third party determination (arbitration panel or English court) of the amount of royalty, for the whole German patent portfolio of Claimant. An additional offer for a licensing agreement, limited to Germany and implementing a royalty of USD 0.0055 per patent by reference to the “WCDMA Patent Pools”, was made by the Intervener on 6 March 2015 and 24 September 2015 respectively, but it was finally refused by Claimant on 4 October 2015. Moreover, the Intervener provided a bank “guarantee of payment” as of 3 September 2015, being modified by letter as of 10 November 2015, and also rendered account of past and prospective sales in Germany since 2011.
  2. Court’s reasoning
    1. Market power and notice of infringement
      The court leaves open the question of whether the SEP conferred market power to Claimant since it did, in any case, find no abuse of such potential market power. [70] The court declared the Huawei rules applicable to claims for the recall of products. [71] As regards the Huawei requirement to alert the standard user of the infringement, the decision arrived at various findings of interest: Firstly, the judges found that—in “non-transitional” cases where the lawsuit was brought after the Huawei decision—the infringement notification has to take place before the action is filed, or the latest before the advance payment on costs is made. In transitional cases, such as the present case, a delayed infringement notification, taking place after the advance payment on costs as well as the submission of the court action, but before the statement of claims is served, is admissible. [72] Moreover, an infringement notification could possibly be omitted (in particular) if—as in the present case—the patent user already disposes of all necessary information and lacks willingness to license. [73] In non-transitional cases, however, the court doubts whether it is possible to rectify an omitted infringement notification without withdrawing the action. [74] Secondly, the court specified the minimum content of the infringement notification which has to indicate at least the number of the patent, the contested embodiments and the alleged acts of use performed by the standard implementer. The court did not decide whether additional information has to be provided, in particular regarding the interpretation of the patent claims or on which part of the standard the patent reads, but it stated that such additional information is not harmful to the patent proprietor. [75] Lastly, the court detailed on the particular situation of the Intervener, being Defendant’s manufacturer and supplier in the present case: Even though a FRAND defense successfully raised by the Intervener would in general also cover subsequent levels of the distribution chain, the Huawei requirements apply only indirectly to suppliers of contested embodiments which have not been sued themselves. Accordingly, the SEP proprietor is not obliged to notify the patent infringement to third parties, but as soon as a request to grant a license on FRAND terms is submitted the (adapted) Huawei procedure applies. [76] In casu, no separate infringement notice vis-à-vis the Intervener was required since the Intervener was, since August 2014, aware of the action having been brought.
    2. The SEP owner’s licensing offer
      Since the patent user did not express its willingness to conclude a licensing agreement in due time, the court found Claimant to comply with the Huawei requirement to submit a licensing offer on FRAND terms even though the offer was made in the course of the ongoing litigation. For transitional cases, as the present one, this holds true even if infringement notification and court action take place at the same time. [77] Besides, the court analyzed under which circumstances licensing conditions can be considered as FRAND according to Huawei. In the opinion of the judges, the more licensing agreements implementing comparable terms the SEP proprietor has already concluded, the stronger is the presumption that these conditions are FRAND, unless factual reasons—which are to be demonstrated by the patent user—justify modified terms. Recognized commercial practice in the relevant sector has to be considered when defining the admissible scope of the licensing agreement. If patent portfolios are usually covered by group or worldwide licenses in the relevant market, a (worldwide) portfolio license will be FRAND unless the circumstances of the specific case, e.g. the SEP proprietor’s market activity being limited to one geographic market, require a modification. [78] Accordingly, Claimant’s (worldwide) licensing offer to Defendant for the whole AMR-WB pool, demanding royalties of USD 0.26 per mobile device that implemented the standard and was produced or marketed in countries in which the SEP was in force, and complying with Claimants existing licensing practice (accessible on the Internet and already implemented in 12 licensing agreements) was declared FRAND. While the court considered that comparable licensing agreements “represent an important indicator of the adequacy of the license terms offered” it clarified that the significance of a patent pool as an indication of FRAND conformity is “limited”. Defendant and the Intervener failed to show that the portfolio comprised (non-used) non-SEPs as well. [79] They further failed to show that the pre-concluded licensing agreements provided no valid basis for comparison as they were concluded under the threat of pending litigation. [80] In order to fulfill the Huawei obligation of specifying the calculation of royalties, the SEP proprietor only has to provide the information necessary to determine the amount of royalties to be paid, e.g. the royalty per unit and the products covered by the license. While the court left undecided whether additional indications, e.g. concerning the FRAND character of the licensing offer, are necessary to comply with Huawei, it found that the SEP proprietor’s duty to inform should not be interpreted too strictly as FRAND does regularly encompass a range of values that will be fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory. [81] Claimant’s licensing offer presented to the Intervener was considered as being FRAND for the same reasons. Furthermore, the court emphasized that the contractual clause allowing for judicial review of the royalties offered could be a possible way to avoid abusive practices and to ensure that licensing offers correspond to FRAND terms. [82]
    3. The standard implementer’s reaction
      The court found that the more details the infringement notification contains, the less time remains for the standard user to examine the patent(s) at issue and to express its willingness to conclude a licensing agreement on FRAND terms. In the present case, Defendant did not comply with Huawei because it took more than five months to react and then only asked for proof of the alleged infringement. Given this excessive delay, the court did not decide whether Defendant’s reaction satisfied the Huawei requirements in terms of content. It denied the possibility to remedy a belated reaction by a subsequent declaration of willingness to license. On the contrary, and as a consequence of the patent user’s non-compliance, the SEP proprietor may continue the infringement action without violating Article 102 TFEU, but it still has to grant licenses on FRAND terms. [83] Whether the Intervener satisfied the ECJ criteria was left undecided. [84] The court made some further remarks of interest as to the Huawei requirements concerning the standard implementer: Firstly, it left undecided whether the obligation of the patent user to diligently respond is caused also by a (potentially) non-FRAND licensing offer. [85] Secondly, a standard user who has taken a license is not prevented from challenging validity and essentiality of the SEP afterwards, nor is the SEP proprietor entitled to terminate the license if such a challenge takes place. However, the standard implementer may not delay the (unconditional) conclusion of the licensing agreement until a final court decision on these issues has been rendered. While validity and standard-essentiality is litigated, the licensee remains obliged to pay royalties and it cannot request to insert into the licensing contract a clause entitling it to reclaim paid royalties in case of its success in court. [86] Thirdly, as, in the present case, no specific counter-offers satisfying FRAND terms were submitted and Defendant could not establish that Claimant had waived this requirement the court did not decide on whether a SEP proprietor is obliged to negotiate further although itself and the patent user have submitted FRAND offers. [87] None of the counter-offers of the Intervener were FRAND in terms of content. They were either inadmissibly limited to Germany, contained no precise royalty, were not submitted “promptly” because the standard user had waited until the oral pleadings in the parallel procedure, or they proposed royalties per device which the court considered as too low. [88] While it was therefore held to be irrelevant whether, in the first place, the Intervener duly declared its willingness to license, the court emphasized that the Intervener’s readiness to take a license only after the SEP infringement was determined in court did not satisfy the Huawei standard of conduct. [89] Moreover, the obligation imposed by Huawei to provide appropriate security and to render account was not fulfilled. While Defendant refrained from taking any of these actions, the Intervener waited several months after the counter-offers were refused in order to submit its bank “guarantee of payment”, which was not recognized as “appropriate security” due to its amount and its limitation to acts of use in Germany. [90] Neither was the Intervener’s initial proposal to have the security—if requested by Claimant—determined by an arbitration tribunal or by an English court accepted as an appropriate way to provide security. [91]
  3. Other important issues
    According to the court, the Huawei requirements apply to both non-practicing entities and other market participants. [92] Suing a network operator instead of the undertakings producing devices operating in the network constitutes (at least under the circumstances of this case and absent selective enforcement) no violation of competition law even though this strategy might aim at using the action against the network operator as a “lever” to obtain licensing commitments from the device suppliers. On the other hand, device manufacturers are entitled to a FRAND license as well and can raise the FRAND defense if such a license is not granted. In consequence, the court perceives a fair balance of interests as the SEP proprietor can choose on which level of the chain of production to sue while the undertakings in the chain of production can choose on which level to take a license. [93] Furthermore, no patent ambush-defense based on § 242 BGB could be raised because, firstly, Defendant and the Intervener could not substantiate the alleged patent ambush by “Y” and “C”, being the original SEP proprietors; secondly, they could not show that a different patent declaration conduct would have resulted in a different version of the standard excluding the patent-in-suit; thirdly, the alleged patent ambush would, arguably, have resulted only in a FRAND-licensing obligation and, fourthly, Claimant had declared its willingness to grant a license on FRAND terms anyway. [94]
  • [69] This is the date mentioned by the Court although “23 January 2015” may seem more plausible and the date given by the Court may result from a scrivener’s error.
  • [70] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 184
  • [71] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 187
  • [72] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 195 et seq.
  • [73] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 208-210
  • [74] Case No. 4a O 126/14, para. IV, 3, a, bb, 2, c
  • [75] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 193
  • [76] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 270 et seq.
  • [77] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 222 et seq.
  • [78] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 225 et seq.
  • [79] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 225 et seq. On the relevance of the SIPRO-pool royalty rates, cf. LG Düsseldorf, 31 March 2016 – Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 245-248. On the facts indicating that a worldwide license was appropriate LG Düsseldorf, 31 March 2016 – Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 249-255.
  • [80] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 234-242. The court argued that it is questionable in principle how much the threat of a claim for injunctive relief can (inadmissibly) affect license agreement negotiations, since the Orange Book case law of the BGH (German Federal Court of Justice), the Motorola decision of the European Commission, and now the CJEU judgment in the Huawei Technologies/ZTE Case could be and can be invoked against inappropriate demands that are in breach of antitrust law.
  • [81] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 256 et seq.
  • [82] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 279 et seq.
  • [83] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 214-220
  • [84] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 214-220; 278
  • [85] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 266
  • [86] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 185 et seq.; 262 et seq.
  • [87] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 264
  • [88] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 291 et seq.
  • [89] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 278
  • [90] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 267 et seq.; 299 et seq.
  • [91] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 304
  • [92] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 189
  • [93] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 309-313
  • [94] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 317 et seq.

Updated 26 1月 2017

Pioneer v Acer

LG Mannheim
8 1月 2016 - Case No. 7 O 96/14

  1. Facts
    Claimant owns the patent EP 1 267348, allegedly essential to the DVD standard and administered with regard to its licensing by the patent pool “A”. Early in 2013 “A” and the Defendant’s group parent were in contact regarding “A” ’s DVD licensing activity, but no concrete notice of infringement was made and no licensing negotiations ensued. After having been sued for patent infringement Defendant submitted, on 6 October 2014, an offer to license the patent-in-suit for Germany at FRAND conditions, with the exact royalty rate to be determined by Claimant pursuant to § 315 German Civil Code. Furthermore, Defendant declared to be willing to negotiate a portfolio license for all German patents of Claimant and, in case the negotiations were to fail, to have the licensing conditions determined by a state court or arbitration tribunal. In order to indicate what Defendant considered to be a FRAND royalty rate Defendant submitted an expert opinion. As of 28 November 2014, Claimant proposed to modify the conditions to the effect that Defendant’s group parent was supposed to take a worldwide portfolio license comprising all Claimant’s portfolio patents administered by “A”. Claimant made a (perhaps: additional) FRAND declaration with regard to the patent and informed Defendant thereof in December 2014. After Defendant had rejected this offer, Claimant offered, on 13 March and 13 April 2015, a worldwide portfolio license to Defendant’s group parent company. To the offer were added claim charts for two pool patents, as well as information on how Claimant deduced the royalty from the overall royalty rates of the “A”-patent pool. On 5 May 2015, Defendant’s group parent requested claim charts regarding all patents to be licensed as well as further information on royalty calculation. Claimant sent, on 7 August 2015, claim charts for five additional patents declaring its willingness to provide further information as soon as constructive technical discussions would be taken up. In a filing to the court as of 20 November 2015, Claimant explained its royalty calculation in greater detail and submitted an expert opinion on the issue.
  2. Court’s reasoning
    1. General meaning of the Huawei framework and applicability to transitory cases
      As to the court’s general take on the Huawei rules cf. LG Mannheim, 29 January 2016 - 7 O 66/15 (above). Where an action for prohibitory injunction and recall of products has been brought before the ECJ handed down its ruling it has, in the opinion of the court, no negative effect on the action if Claimant fulfills its Huawei conduct obligations only after filing the lawsuit. [95] According to the extensive analysis undertaken by the court this is because, inter alia, the SEP proprietor could not be expected to comply with the – then future and unknown – conduct requirements established by Huawei but rather with the legal framework set by the German Federal Court (BGH) in Orange Book. Hence, a proprietor’s conduct that respected Orange Book but deviated from Huawei cannot be taken to signal inappropriate economic goals or lack of willingness to grant FRAND licenses. Furthermore, it seems more in line with the ECJ’s core intention of furthering successful licensing negotiations if the parties get the chance to perform their Huawei conduct obligations even though litigation is already underway.
      Where, however, the action is brought after the Huawei ruling a violation of the conduct requirements established therein bars—as a matter of substantive law, not of procedural law—Claimant from enforcing its patent-based rights to prohibitory injunction or recall of products. [96] Although Claimant’s action will then be dismissed, Claimant is free to catch up on its Huawei obligations and re-file the action if the standard user fails to comply with Huawei.
    2. Market power and notice of infringement
      Leaving open whether Claimant was market dominant, the court formulates general considerations identical to those in the decision LG Mannheim, 29 January 2016 - 7 O 66/15 (cf. above). The court doubts whether the initial contact between the patent pool “A” and Defendant’s group parent qualifies as an appropriate notice of infringement. In any case, such notice has been given by and after bringing the infringement lawsuit. Claimant’s statement of claims, in particular, contained all information necessary. Producing the original document in which Claimant made its FRAND declaration or proving that a FRAND declaration has been properly made during the standard-setting procedure is not required as long as the SEP proprietor considers itself bound by a FRAND licensing obligation. Not least because the lawsuit had been suspended for several months and some more months elapsed between the ECJ’s Huawei ruling and the oral hearings in the case at issue, there was ample time for the standard user to fulfill its Huawei duties and negotiate a license unburdened by the pressure created by an impending prohibitory injunction. [97] Even if it were justified to request—the court seems to doubt this—claim charts for a sample of patents where a worldwide portfolio license is offered, Claimant would have met this obligation, in particular because Defendant did not communicate that or why it considered the sample insufficient. It was not necessary for Claimant to impart to Defendant a documentation of the standard at issue. [98]
    3. The SEP proprietor’s licensing offer
      The court’s general considerations are identical to those in the decision LG Mannheim, 29 January 2016 - 7 O 66/15 (cf. above): The court’s general understanding of the Huawei rules of conduct (cf. above) has a considerable impact on the way it intends to react to a SEP proprietor’s licensing offer: [99] The offer must specify the relevant conditions in a way that, in order to conclude a licensing agreement, the standard implementer has merely to state his acceptance of the offer. The calculation of the license fee, in particular, must be explained in a manner that enables the standard implementer to objectively assess its FRAND conformity. Even if the standard implementer disputes the FRAND character of the offer it is not the court’s business to determine whether the licensing conditions are actually FRAND. Neither is the SEP proprietor prohibited from offering conditions slightly above the FRAND threshold. A differing view of the parties on what constitutes FRAND is to be expected and provides no reason for cartel law-based intervention. An exploitative abuse of market power can, however, be present where the proprietor, after having made a FRAND declaration, offers conditions that are, under the circumstances of the case and without objective justification, manifestly less favorable (in an economic sense) than the conditions offered to other licensees. Correspondingly, the respective court is only required to determine, based on a summary assessment, whether the proprietor’s licensing offer evidently violates the FRAND concept.
      In casu the court considered Claimant’s offer as sufficient, [100] in particular because a worldwide license, granted to the parent of a group, corresponded to recognized commercial practice in the field. It was no evident FRAND violation to calculate the royalties based on the licensing conditions of the patent pool “A” and Claimant’s share in the patents of this pool. It was further appropriate to demand a lump sum for past use of the patents to be licensed without specifying (in the licensing offer) the exact amount for lack of accessible information on the extent of the use. The information provided by Claimant on how the royalties were calculated was deemed sufficient. It was not necessary to impart to Defendant licensing contracts concluded with other market participants since “A” ’s model contracts were accessible on the Internet and no circumstances indicated unequal treatment of licensees absent objective justification such as differing turnovers.
    4. The standard implementer’s reaction
      The court’s general considerations are identical to those in the decision LG Mannheim, 29 January 2016 - 7 O 66/15 (cf. above). In casu the court considered Defendant’s counter-offer to be evidently non-FRAND, mainly because the license would have—inappropriately, given the facts of the case and recognized commercial practice—been limited to Germany. [101] Furthermore, Defendant neither rendered account nor provided security for its use of the patent in the past. The fact that Defendant has—allegedly—terminated its use of the patent does not remove these obligations for past periods of use. [102] As the court explains in some detail, [103] an overall assessment of the conduct of the parties indicates that Defendant engaged in delaying tactics while Claimant was not trying to use the infringement action for extorting excessive royalties.
  3. Other important issues
    The court underlines that a SEP proprietor has to respect the Huawei rules of conduct only with regard to an action for prohibitory injunction or the recall of products (cf. LG Mannheim, 29 January 2016 - 7 O 66/15, above). Regarding claims for rendering of accounts it mentions, but does not decide the question whether the existence of a FRAND declaration has an impact on the content of such claims. [104]
    Even if the standard-setting at issue had—due to the lack of a timely FRAND commitment by Claimant—violated Art. 101 TFEU, this would not bar Claimant from enforcing its patents within the limits set by Art. 102 TFEU and the Huawei ruling. [105]
    Neither competition law nor the general principle of good faith required Claimant to primarily address entities that produce standard-implementing components of Defendant’s products. [106] On the contrary, Claimant was free to immediately demand the taking of a license from Defendant, all the more so because Defendant was not only engaged in marketing and selling third-party devices but also devices produced by Defendant’s group of companies using the standard-implementing components.
  • [95] Case No. 7 O 96/14, para. 84-107
  • [96] Case No. 7 O 96/14, para. 81-83
  • [97] Case No. 7 O 96/14, para. 109 et seq.
  • [98] Case No. 7 O 96/14, para. 114-117
  • [99] LG Mannheim, 29 January 2016 – Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 58
  • [100] Case No. 7 O 96/14, para. 118-129
  • [101] Case No. 7 O 96/14, para. 131-133
  • [102] Case No. 7 O 96/14, para. 134 et seq.
  • [103] Case No. 7 O 96/14, para. 136-141
  • [104] Case No. 7 O 96/14, para. 142
  • [105] Case No. 7 O 96/14, para. 144 et seq.
  • [106] Case No. 7 O 96/14, para. 146

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 [107] 。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 [108]

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 [109] 。 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 [110] 。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 [111] 。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 [112]

2020年5月5日付のこの判決により  [113] (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 [114]

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 [115]

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  [116]

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 [117] 。従って、いくつかの要因を考慮する必要がある [118] 。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 [119]  。

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 [120]

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 [121] 。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  [122] 。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 [123] 。 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 [124]

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 [125] 。 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 [125] 。 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  [125]

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  [126]

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  [126]

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  [127]  。

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  [128] 。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。 [128] 。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。 [129]  。

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) [130]  。
  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 [131]

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 [132] 。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  [133]  。

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 [134]  。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  [134]  。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。 [135]  。

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  [136] [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 [137]  。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 [137]  。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)  [137]  。

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 [138] 。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 [138]

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  [139]  。

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 [140] 。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 [141] 。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  [141]  。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 [141] 。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  [142]  。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  [143]  。

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)  [144]  。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  [144]  。

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  [145]

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 [146]  。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 [146]  。

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  [147]  。

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  [148]  。

 

  • [107] 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。
  • [108] 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。
  • [109] 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。
  • [110] 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。
  • [111] 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)。
  • [112] 連邦裁判所、2020年3月10日付判決、事件番号No. X ZR 44/18。
  • [113] Sisvel 対Haier、連邦裁判所、2020年5月5日付判決、事件番号KZR 36/17。
  • [114] 同判決、第9節以下、及び第59節。
  • [115] 同判決、第52節。
  • [116] 同判決、第54節。
  • [117] 同判決、第56節。
  • [118] 同判決、第 57節以下。
  • [119] 同判決、第58節。
  • [120] 同判決、第59節以下。
  • [121] 同判決、第61節。
  • [122] 同判決、第63節。
  • [123] 同判決、第62節。
  • [124] 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。
  • [125] 同判決、第64節。
  • [126] 同判決、第65節。
  • [127] 同判決、第67節以下。
  • [128] 同判決、第69節。
  • [129] 同判決、第70節。
  • [130] 同判決、第71節。
  • [131] 同判決、第72節。
  • [132] 同判決、第73節以下。
  • [133] 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。
  • [134] 同判決、第74節。
  • [135] 同判決、第74節及び第85節。
  • [136] 同判決、第89節。
  • [137] 同判決、第85節。
  • [138] 同判決、第87節。
  • [139] 同判決、第86 節以下。
  • [140] 同判決、第91節以下。
  • [141] 同判決、第92節。
  • [142] 同判決、第93節以下。
  • [143] 同判決、第94節。
  • [144] 同判決、第83節。
  • [145] 同判決、第95節。
  • [146] 同判決、第96節。
  • [147] 同判決、第98節。
  • [148] 同判決、第97節。

Updated 1 4月 2021

InterDigital v Xiaomi, District Court (Landgericht) Munich I

LG Munich
25 2月 2021 - Case No. 7 O 14276/20

A. Facts

The claimants are two US-based companies that are part of InterDigital Group (InterDigital). InterDigital Group holds a portfolio of patents declared as (potentially) essential, to various wireless telecommunications standards (standard essential patents, or SEPs) developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). The claimants hold German SEPs which are subject to a commitment to be made accessible to standard users on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions, in accordance with the ETSI IPR Policy.

The defendants are four companies belonging to the Xiaomi group that has its headquarters in China (Xiaomi). Xiaomi produces and sells -among other products- smartphones that comply with ETSI standards worldwide.

On 9 June 2020, Xiaomi filed an action against InterDigital before the Intermediate People’s Court in Wuhan, China (Wuhan Court). In its complaint, Xiaomi asked the Wuhan Court to determine specific rates or a range of rates for the licensing of InterDigital’s worldwide 3G/UMTS and 4G/LTE SEP portfolio (Chinese main proceedings). On 28 July 2020, Xiaomi, for the first time, informed InterDigital by telephone that it had filed a case in China. However, the Xiaomi representative did not provide any details regarding the filing.

On the 29 July 2020, InterDigital filed an infringement action against Xiaomi before the High Court of Delhi, India (Delhi Court) with a request for injunctive relief (Indian proceedings). In addition, InterDigital requested a preliminary cease-and-desist order against Xiaomi.

On 4 August 2020, Xiaomi, applied for an anti-suit injunction (ASI) before the Wuhan Court.

On 23 September 2020, the Wuhan Court issued its ASI order, ordering InterDigital to withdraw or suspend the actions in the pending Indian proceedings (Wuhan ASI). InterDigital was also ordered to refrain from filing infringement actions on its 3G and 4G SEPs for (1) permanent and/or temporary injunctions or (2) FRAND rate determinations against Xiaomi in any country of the world during the pendency of the Chinese main proceedings. The Wuhan Court ordered a fine amounting to RMB 1,000,000 per day in case of violation of the above order. InterDigital was advised of the issued ASI for the first time when the Wuhan court sent an email to several InterDigital email addresses on 25 September 2020.

On 29 September 2020, InterDigital filed an action for an anti-anti-suit injunction (AASI) before the Delhi Court. On 9 October 2020, the Delhi Court issued an AASI, restraining Xiaomi from enforcing the Wuhan ASI (Delhi AASI).

On 30 October 2020, InterDigital filed a motion for an AASI before the District Court of Munich I (Munich District Court or Court) as well.

On 9 November 2020, the Munich District Court issued an AASI ordering Xiaomi to refrain from pursuing the Wuhan ASI or take further (court and/or administrative) measures against InterDigital, intended to directly or indirectly prevent InterDigital from prosecuting infringement proceedings based on its SEPs in Germany (Munich AASI). Each violation of the Munich AASI order triggers a fine amounting up to EUR 250,000 or detention up to six months.

On 22 December 2020, Xiaomi filed an appeal of the Munich AASI and also requested a stay of the enforcement of this order. On 24 January 2021, the Munich District Court rejected the request for a stay of the enforcement of the AASI.

With the present judgment dated 25 February 2021, the Munich District Court dismissed Xiaomi’s appeal on the merits and confirmed the Munich AASI. [149] (cited by www.gesetze-bayern.de/Content/Document/Y-300-Z-BECKRS-B-2021-N-3995?hl=true)
 

B. Court’s reasoning

The Munich District Court held that InterDigital had a claim for preliminary injunction and that sufficient grounds for issuing an AASI were given. [150]
 

Claim for preliminary injunction

The Court explained that the filing, prosecution and enforcement of an ASI in China with the goal to prevent the assertion of claims for injunctive relief against patent infringement in Germany impairs the ‘property-like legal position’ of the patent holder and constitutes a tortious act (in terms of Section 823 para. 1 of the German Civil Code). [151] The same is true with respect to court orders, which restrain a party from initiating AASI-proceedings in Germany (so-called ‘anti-anti-anti-suit injunctions’, or AAASI). [151]

In the eyes of the Munich District Court, the Wuhan ASI had the aforementioned effect. According to its wording and reasoning, the Wuhan ASI attempted to have a global reach and would also have impacted those InterDigital Group entities holding German SEPs that were involved in the present proceedings. [152] The fact that these companies did not directly face fines or other sanctions imposed by the Wuhan Court, did not change the fact that the Wuhan ASI tried to impair their legal position: These measures threatened other affiliated companies within InterDigital Group and, thus, created a coercive situation in an attempt to limit the freedom of the companies that actually hold German SEPs to act for their protection of their rights. [152]

In addition, the Court expressed the view that InterDigital was in a position to invoke the right for self-defence against the Wuhan ASI. [151] Section 227 of the German Civil Code provides that any action, which is necessary for averting a present illicit attack, is not unlawful.

 

Grounds for preliminary injunction

Furthermore, the Munich District Court found that there was sufficient justification for ordering interim measures. [153]

First, it could not be requested from InterDigital to defend itself against the Wuhan ASI in regular (main) court proceedings. [154] Given that injunctions are available only for the limited lifetime of a patent, regular proceedings against an ASI would not sufficiently protect patent holders’ rights; the latter would be, effectively, deprived of the right to injunctive relief for a considerable period of time, at least until the enforcement of the first instance decision of the German court. [155] This limitation would occur irrespective of the fact that a foreign ASI violates public order (ordre public) and, thus, does not have any legal effect in Germany. [154] The Court repeated that sanctions imposed or threatened in foreign jurisdictions can place the patent holder under pressure and stand in the way of effective patent enforcement in Germany. [154] This applies equally, when a foreign court has granted an AAASI, preventing a party to seek for protective measures in the form of a AASI in Germany, as was the case with the order of the Wuhan Court. [156]

Second, the Munich District Court held that the urgency required for interim measures was given. [157] Inter-digital had filed the request for an AASI in a timely fashion. [158] As a rule, Munich courts require that requests for preliminary injunctions concerning patents must be filed within a deadline of one-month of knowledge of the act. [159] The Munich District Court suggested that this deadline, basically, also applies to AASIs (refraining, however, from a final assessment of this question). [160]

In case that an AASI is directed against an ASI already granted by a foreign court (risk of repetition), the respective request should be filed within a month after the patent holder obtained ‘secure knowledge’ of the foreign court order, irrespective of whether formal service took place or not. [161] For assuming ‘secure knowledge’, it can be required that the patent holder gets access to the ASI request as well as the evidence used in the foreign proceedings, especially when the court order itself does not contain clear information about the parties, the content and the legal grounds of the order. [162]

If a request for an AASI is filed before a foreign ASI has been issued, that is when only a ‘risk of first infringement’ of a violation of SEP holder’s ‘property-like’ rights exists, the one-month deadline begins at the moment in time, in which the patent holder gains ‘secure knowledge’ of the filing of an ASI request before the foreign court or of the existing risk of such measures, which is especially materialized, when the implementer threatens with respective action. [163] In this context, the Court clarified that filing early countermeasures before a grant of an ASI is only an option; patent holders are, basically, free to wait for the outcome of foreign ASI proceedings, before filing a request for an AASI. [163]

Having said that, the Munich District Court outlined that it will, as a rule, assume that a required risk of a first infringement’, which could result in an AASI, is present, if the one of the following circumstances occur:

  • The implementer has threatened to file a request for an ASI;
  • The implementer has filed a request for an ASI;
  • The implementer has filed a (regular) action for the grant of a licence or the determination of reason-able global licensing rates in a jurisdiction, in which ASIs can, in principle, be granted;
  • The implementer has already threatened an ASI or filed a respective request against other patent holders and the party filing an AASI in Germany has no indication that the implementer will refrain from such actions against it in the future;
  • The implementer failed to declare in text form within a short deadline set by the patent holder (e.g. with the first notification of infringement) that it will not file a request for an ASI. [164]
ASI and implementer’s willingness to obtain a licence

The Munich District Court further made clear that an implementer who threatens an ASI or files a respective request, can, as a rule, not be treated as a ‘willing licensee’ within the meaning of the Huawei v ZTE ruling (Huawei v ZTE) [165] of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) and the recent case-law of the German Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) in the Sisvel v Haier [166] cases. [167] According to the Court, an implementer truly willing to obtain a FRAND-licence would regularly refrain from actions impairing SEP holder’s ‘property-like’ rights even further than the past and ongoing acts of patent infringement (such as the filing of a request for an ASI). [168]

Looking particularly at the negotiation framework established in Huawei v ZTE, the Munich District Court noted that balanced negotiations on an equal footing -as envisioned by the CJEU- can only be ensured if the parties have equal access to legal remedies: The implementer’s ability to attack patent validity should be counterbalanced by the patent holder’s ability to assert its patent rights before court. [169] This is no longer the case when the judicial assertion of claims against patent infringement is precluded based on an ASI. [169] In this context, the Court noted that an ASI directly violates the SEP holders’ right to have access to courts which is established in both European law (Article 47 para. 1 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights) and German constitutional law. [169]

Furthermore, the Munich District Court expressed the view that an implementer who has been notified about the infringement of SEPs can be required not only to adequately demonstrate willingness to obtain a FRAND-licence, but also to declare that it will not file a request for an ASI against the patent holder. [168] The Court explained that, otherwise, the negotiation process set forth by Huawei v ZTE could not be followed. [170] In particular, the SEP holder could no longer be obliged to notify the implementer about the infringement before filing a court action. [170] By making a notification of infringement, the patent holder exposes itself to an ASI. If an ASI is granted, then the patent holder will in many cases be de facto prevented from exercising its right to injunctive relief even towards implementers unwilling to take a licence. [171] According to the Court, this result conflicts with the so-called EU IPR Enforcement-Directive (Articles 9-11) [172] as well as the case law of the CJEU. [173]

The Court also added that SEP holders cannot be expected to pre-emptively prepare countermeasures against potential future ASIs [168] . Even when SEP holders seek global portfolio licences, preparing the filing of AASIs in many different jurisdictions would lead to disproportionate high costs at a point in time, in which neither the risk nor the impact of an ASI could be reliably assessed. [168]
 

Balance of interests

After weighing the interests of the parties against each other, the Munich District Court held that an AASI was justified. [174]

On the one hand, the Court recognized that InterDigital had an interest to be granted the requested AASI. Although the Wuhan ASI violated public order and could not be enforced in Germany, InterDigital had an interest to limit the reach of the Chinese order as far as German SEPs are concerned; otherwise, the threat of sanctions that could be imposed in China would de facto prevent InterDigital from enforcing its patent rights in Germany for an unforeseeable period of time. [175]

On the other hand, the Court highlighted that a German AASI would not impair the rights of Xiaomi. [176] The AASI would only oblige Xiaomi to withdraw the Wuhan ASI and, therefore, have no impact on the Chinese main proceedings. [176] The Chinese main proceedings would also not be impaired, in case that InterDigital filed infringement proceedings against Xiaomi in Germany, following the grant of an AASI. The Munich District Court expects that German infringement proceedings would not revolve around the same question raised in the Chinese proceedings, that is the determination of the global rate for InterDigital’s SEP portfolio. [176] On the contrary, German infringement courts would probably not examine the amount of an adequate global licensing rate, because it is very unlikely that they would examine a FRAND defence raised by Xiaomi on the merits. [176] The Court reasoned that the very act of requesting an ASI, or threatening to do so, is evidence that the implementer is an unwilling licensee, such that a FRAND defence raised by Xiaomi in German infringement proceedings would hardly have any prospects of success. [176]

In addition, the Court took the view that Xiaomi’s interest to avoid infringement trials in Germany during the pendency of the Chinese main proceedings was not worthy of protection. [177] Xiaomi did neither constantly monitor the IPR landscape, as it is obliged to, nor obtain necessary licences before starting production. [177] What is more, Xiaomi refused to do so for more than seven years, such that InterDigital can no longer be expected to further wait to assert its rights. [177]

 

C. Other issues

The Munich District Court also confirmed that InterDigital had a legitimate interest in legal remedies. [178] Under German law, this is a prerequisite for any court action and is, basically, given, when the claims asserted by the claimant have not been fulfilled by the defendant yet. [179] The fact that InterDigital could defend itself against the ASI also in so-called ‘reconsideration proceedings’ before Chinese courts did not remove InterDigital’s legitimate interest that its case is heard by German courts. [180] The Court held that such proceedings could not sufficiently protect InterDigital’s ‘property-like’ rights in Germany, especially since a reliable assessment of the prospects of success of such legal remedy is very challenging. [180]

Furthermore, the Court confirmed that the pendency of the Chinese and Indian proceedings did not prevent German courts from hearing the case in question (no lis pendens). [181]

Finally, the Court also found that the Munich AASI had been served to Xiaomi within the relevant deadline, which under German law is a prerequisite for such orders to remain in force. [182]

  • [149] InterDigital v Xiaomi, District Court (Landgericht) Munich I, judgment dated 25 February 2021, Case-No. 7 O 14276/20.
  • [150] Ibid, para. 75.
  • [151] Ibid, para. 120.
  • [152] Ibid, para. 121.
  • [153] Ibid, para. 129.
  • [154] Ibid, para. 130.
  • [155] Ibid, para. 130. The Munich District Court highlighted that the right to injunctive relief is the ‘essential feature’ of exclusionary rights, such as patent rights, and the ‘sharpest weapon’ against infringement. Patents would be ‘worthless’, if the patent holder would be denied the possibility to enforce its rights by way of court proceedings.
  • [156] Ibid, para. 131.
  • [157] Ibid, para. 132.
  • [158] Ibid, para. 132 as well as paras. 151 et seqq.
  • [159] Ibid, para. 133.
  • [160] Ibid, paras. 134-135.
  • [161] Ibid, para. 134.
  • [162] Ibid. para. 136.
  • [163] Ibid, para. 138.
  • [164] Ibid, para. 142.
  • [165] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [166] Sisvel v Haier I, Bundesgerichtshof, judgment dated 5 May 2020, Case No. KZR 36/17 and Sisvel v Haier II, Bundesgerichtshof, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17.
  • [167] InterDigital v Xiaomi, District Court (Landgericht) Munich I, judgment dated 25 February 2021, Case-No. 7 O 14276/20, para. 146.
  • [168] Ibid, para. 146.
  • [169] Ibid. para. 148.
  • [170] Ibid, para. 147.
  • [171] Ibid, para. 149.
  • [172] Directive 2004/48/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the enforcement of intellectual property rights (OJ L 157, 30.4.2004).
  • [173] InterDigital v Xiaomi, District Court (Landgericht) Munich I, judgment dated 25 February 2021, Case-No. 7 O 14276/20, para. 149.
  • [174] Ibid, para. 168.
  • [175] Ibid, para. 169.
  • [176] Ibid, para. 170.
  • [177] Ibid, para. 173.
  • [178] Ibid, para. 75.
  • [179] Ibid, para. 107.
  • [180] Ibid, para. 108.
  • [181] Ibid, paras. 75 and 109.
  • [182] Ibid, para. 75 and paras. 80-106.

Updated 16 6月 2021

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

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

A. Facts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With the present judgment [183] , the Court found in favour of Conversant and – among other things – granted an injunction against Daimler.
 

B. Court's reasoning

The Court found that the patent in suit is essential to the LTE standard and infringed [184] . Consequently, the claims asserted by Conversant were given. The claims for injunctive relief as well as the recall and destruction of infringing products were also to be granted. By initiating infringement proceedings against Daimler, Conversant neither abused a dominant market position in terms of Article 102 TFEU (competition law defence, cf. item 1), nor violated its contractual obligations under ETSI's IPR Policy (contract law defence, cf. item 2.) [185] .
 

1. Competition law defence
Dominant market position

The Court held that Conversant had a dominant market position within the meaning of Article 102 TFEU [186] .

The exclusivity rights arising from a patent do not establish a dominant market position by themselves. [187] A market dominant position is established, when the patent is technically essential for complying with a standard developed by a standardisation body (or a de facto standard) and technical alternatives are not available for products brought on a (downstream) market [188] . In the Court's eyes, this applied to the patent in suit. [189]

Exceptional circumstances that could exclude Conversant's market dominant position here were not present. According to the Court, the sole fact that Conversant had made a FRAND commitment towards ETSI establishing an obligation to grant FRAND licences did not per se exclude market dominance; decisive is, moreover, whether the SEP holder actually meets this obligation. [190] Furthermore, the additional option to get a license from the patent in suit from Avanci did not limit Conversant's market dominant position. [191]
 

No abuse of market dominance

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

In cases, in which the implementer already uses protected standardised technology, the assessment of the SEP holder's behaviour requires a comprehensive analysis, in which the constitutionally guaranteed strong protection of IPRs, on the one hand, and the interest of users to access the standard, on the other hand, must be balanced against one another. [192] In this context, not only private interests, but also the public interest must be taken into account. [193] The Court highlighted that the public interest is not to be seen as just the 'sole sum of private interests in using standardised technology', but equally includes the substantial interest of the public to protect the integrity of IPRs and secure effective enforcement. [194]

Considering the 'particular nature' of SEPs especially in the telecommunications field, the Court held -in line with the Huawei v ZTE judgment (Huawei judgment) of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) [195] - that it is justified to impose certain conduct obligations on SEP holders. Reason for this is, basically, that -unlike 'regular' patents- SEPs are established in the market through their inclusion in the standard, without further action by the patent holder. [196] Consequently, the need to secure a competitive advantage for the inventor of a patented technology in the market by granting exclusivity rights for a certain period of time is less compelling in relation to SEPs compared to non-standard-essential patents. [197]

Having said that, the Court made, however, clear that the conduct duties imposed on the SEP holder by the Huawei judgement exist only towards an implementer, who 'seriously and not only in words' wants to sign a licence. [198] Accordingly, a defence based on an alleged abuse of market dominance can be successful, only when the implementer that wants to use, or already uses the patent without authorisation is willing to obtain a FRAND licence and refrain from delaying tactics throughout the licensing negotiations with the SEP holder. [199] The Court noted that the key notion underlying the Huawei judgment that parties are best situated to determine FRAND in fair, balanced and swift negotiations relies on a constructive involvement of both parties which is driven by the actual 'sincere motivation' to reach an agreement. [200]
 

Notification of infringement

Looking at the parties' behaviour, the Court held that Conversant fulfilled the duty to notify Daimler about the infringement of its SEPs by sending the letter dated 18 December 2018, which contained sufficient information about its portfolio, including claim charts covering several patents. [201] Whether Conversant had sufficiently explained the royalty calculation underlying the licensing offer that was also attached to this letter, was not relevant, since, at this stage, Conversant had not even been obliged to make an offer to Daimler. [202]
 

Willingness

On the other hand, the Court found that Daimler had not been willing to take a licence from Conversant: On the contrary, the Court identified a 'particularly clear case of missing willingness'. [203]

In terms of content, the implementer must 'clearly' and 'unambiguously' declare willingness to conclude a licence agreement with the SEP holder on 'whatever terms are in fact FRAND' and, subsequently, engage in negotiations in a 'target-oriented' and 'constructive' manner. [204] By contrast, it is not sufficient, in response to the (first) notification of infringement, to just demonstrate willingness to consider signing a licensing agreement or to enter into negotiations about whether and under which conditions taking a licence comes into question. [204]

The Court explained that the assessment of willingness requires a comprehensive analysis of all facts until the end of the oral hearings in the infringement proceedings. [205] Establishing whether willingness is given cannot be a question answered by a 'formalistic snapshot' of the implementer's conduct; what is more, the implementer cannot remain inactive until -in its view- the SEP holder has met its obligations first. [205]

In addition, the Court highlighted that timing in negotiations is a factor, which must be considered in the assessment of willingness as well. [206] Otherwise, implementers would lack motivation to seriously engage in negotiations in a timely manner. [207] Rigid deadlines cannot be set, a case-by-case assessment is needed. [208] An implementer, who has been notified about the infringement, is, however, obliged to legitimize the -unlawful- use of the patent(s) as soon as possible by signing a FRAND-licence with the SEP holder. [208]

Furthermore, the Court reasoned that whether and at which time the implementer made a counteroffer to the SEP holder can also be an 'important indicator' of (un-)willingness. [209] A counteroffer made after the initiation of infringement proceedings will, as a rule, not be acceptable. [210] According to the Court, implementers should not be allowed to engage in negotiations only 'for appearance's shake' and then pull the 'emergency brake' against a potential conviction in infringement proceedings by making a counteroffer. [207] Exceptionally, a counteroffer made during trial could be considered in the assessment of willingness in cases, in which the implementer was willing from the start of the negotiations and always engaged constructively in the discussions with the patent holder. [211]

In line with the above, the Court pointed out that, in general terms, delaying tactics initially applied by an implementer cannot be 'undone' at a later point in time without more ado. [212] Nevertheless, the belated declaration of willingness does not 'automatically' prevent an implementer from raising a 'FRAND-defence' in infringement proceeding: Whether this will be the case or not, shall be decided on a case-by-case basis on grounds of the overall circumstances of the negotiation history. [213]

Against this backdrop and under consideration of Daimler's overall behaviour, the Court reached the conclusion that -although acting in a FRAND-compliant manner would have actually been possible and reasonable [214] - Daimler had chosen to apply delaying tactics [215] .

The Court found that by directing Conversant to its suppliers, Daimler had not expressed willingness to take a licence on 'whatever terms are in fact FRAND', but rather made clear that it was not prepared to take a licence from Conversant itself. [216] Indemnification clauses regarding third-party IPRs potentially agreed between Daimler and its suppliers played insofar no role, as Daimler infringed Conversant's patents independently and must, therefore, be held accountable for that. [216]

A further indication of Daimler's unwillingness was the fact that it took Daimler more than two months to inform Conversant that it had not received a list of portfolio patents that was unintentionally not attached to the e-mail sent by Conversant on 5 July 2020. [217] The Court equally criticized the fact that Daimler had at no point in time posed questions to Conversant on the claim charts provided by the later, but raised concerns against the quality of the patents only in the pending infringement trial. [218]

The Court saw an additional 'substantial' indication of unwillingness in Daimler's response dated 27 July 2020, in which the latter had expressly limited its willingness to sign a licence to products, which were either not licenced yet or purchased by suppliers unwilling to take a licence from Conversant themselves. [219] The Court particularly objected Daimler's choice to define the 'unwillingness' of its suppliers as a condition for signing an own licence with Conversant. [220]

The fact that Daimler had not responded to the proposal to use alternative dispute resolution methods and particularly arbitration for the determination of FRAND-royalties, which Conversant had made at the parties' meeting on 4 December 2019, was also considered as a sign of unwillingness on the side of Daimler. [221]

An additional 'clear' indication of unwillingness and delaying tactics was -according to the Court- the fact that, following the discussion of 4 December 2019, Daimler did not organise a meeting with all tier-1 suppliers, in order to discuss a potential direct licensing option with Conversant, despite having implied that this option had already been discussed with its suppliers. [222]
 

Counteroffer

Subsequently, the Court noted that Daimler's counteroffer dated 8 April 2020 could not remedy the missing willingness which Daimler had displayed until then. [223] Moreover, it rather served as an 'alibi'. [214]

In the eyes of the Court, the counteroffer was belated, since it was made more than 1 year and 4 months after Conversant's offer. [223] What is more, Daimler made the counteroffer during the pendency of the infringement proceedings, which was not acceptable, given that until that point it had been clearly unwilling to take a licence. [224] The Court also explained that Daimler could not excuse the delay by claiming that Conversant had not provided necessary information, since the counteroffer was based on generally known and available data without an underlying detailed analysis; accordingly, it could have been made earlier, that is shortly after receipt of Conversant's initial offer. [225]

Besides that, the Court found that Daimler's counteroffer was, in terms of content, 'evidently not FRAND'. [226] Based on a summary analysis, the licensing fees offered by Daimler were considered to be evidently too low. [227]

The Court noted that FRAND is a range and that there are several methods for calculating FRAND royalties. [227] The Court relied on the so-called 'top-down'-approach (which both Conversant and Daimler had used). [228] Looking at Daimler's 'top-down'-calculation, the Court held that taking the number of all patents declared as standard-essential towards ETSI as the basis for determining Conversant's share of LTE-related SEPs was not in line with FRAND-principles. [229] Considering that not all declared patents are actually standard-essential (a phenomenon described as 'over-declaration'), the use of the total number of declared patents benefits Daimler: Conversant's share of SEPs would per se be higher, if the (lower) number of actually standard-essential LTE patents would be used as basis for the calculation. [229]

In addition, the Court pointed out that the average purchase price of the TCU is no adequate royalty base under FRAND principles. [230] The value of a SEP is reflected by a royalty, which is adequately in proportion to the value of the service provided. [231] According to the Court, in the present case, economic value is created by the offering of LTE-enabled functionalities in Daimler's cars and the use of such functionalities by Daimler's customers. [231] As a consequence, relevant is the value, which Daimler's customers attach to the LTE-based features in a car. [231] The purchase price of TCUs paid by Daimler to its suppliers does not mirror this value. [231]
 

FRAND defence raised by suppliers / licensing level

The Court further explained that Daimler could not invoke the (alleged) willingness of its suppliers to take a licence from Conversant for establishing a FRAND defence. [232]

If an implementer, along with its own declaration of willingness, expresses the wish that licensing takes place at supplier level, it is obliged to comprehensively disclose in writing, which standard-compliant components are integrated in its products and which suppliers provide such components. [233] If this information and disclosure duty is not met, as it was the case here, a request for licensing at supplier level contradicts the implementer's declaration that it is willing to sign an own licence with the SEP holder, and is, therefore, a sign of bad faith (Sec. 242 German Civil Code). [234] In this context, the Court made clear that the implementer is obliged to still pursue bilateral negotiations with the SEP holder in a timely and target-oriented manner, even if -after having provided the aforementioned information to the latter- it is in parallel actively engaged towards facilitating the establishment of a licensing regime at supplier level. [235] In the bilateral negotiations with the SEP holder, the implementer could, however, insist that a clause excluding double payments for components already licensed to suppliers is included in the agreement. [235]

In line with the above, the Court confirmed that by seeking to license Daimler, Conversant did not act in an abusive or discriminatory way. [236]

In the view of the Court, the fundamental question whether the so-called 'license-to-all' or 'access-to-all' approach should be followed with respect to SEP licensing in a supply chain, did not need to be answered here. [237] In legal disputes between a SEP holder and an end-device manufacturer it is sufficient from a competition law angle that the objectives pursued by the SEP holder in the proceedings do not exclude suppliers from the market; this is true, when suppliers are granted access to the standardised technology through 'have-made' rights established by the licence signed by the end-device manufacturer, as Conversant had offered. [237] Whether suppliers have individual claims for being granted a licence is a distinct question, that could be potentially raised in separate proceedings between the SEP holder and the supplier. [238]

The Court added that the SEP holder is free to decide against which infringer within a supply chain court proceedings will be initiated. [239] The respective right of choice is derived from the constitutionally guaranteed protection of property as well as the very nature of patents as exclusionary rights. [240]

According to the Court, the common practice in the automotive field that components are sold to car manufacturers free of third-party rights does not render Conversant's pursuit to license Daimler abusive in antitrust terms. [241] Respective agreements between end-device manufacturers and suppliers have only bilateral (contractual) effects and cannot impair the legal position of third parties. [241] In particular, they cannot limit the SEP holder's right to choose the level of the value chain for the assertion of its patents. [242] The Court noted that the need to abandon existing practices in the automotive sector is of no importance from an antitrust angle, given that the integration of additional technologies serves Daimler's economic interest to access new markets and customer groups. [242]

In this context, the Court also explained that the SEP holder is not obliged to perform duties under the Huawei judgment towards suppliers, as far as infringement proceedings are initiated only towards the end-device manufacturer. [243] Accordingly, a supplier joining such proceedings cannot invoke that the SEP holder abused its market dominance e.g. by omitting a separate notification of infringement addressed to the supplier. [244] The Court denied such comprehensive notification duty of SEP holders, since in multi-level supply chains it is neither feasible nor reasonable to identify all suppliers involved. [245]

In the Court's view, the question whether the SEP holder has abused its market dominance by denying a direct licence to a supplier is subject to general competition law principles. [246] In the present case, the Court did not see sufficient grounds for such abuse. [246] It was not convinced that -absent an own bilateral licence- suppliers are left without rights or face legal uncertainty. [247] The fact that an individual bilateral licence would give suppliers broader freedom to operate than 'have-made' rights might serve their commercial interests, is, however, not of relevance with respect to proceedings between SEP holders and end-device manufacturers, as long as adequate access to the standard is provided to suppliers through 'have-made' rights. [248] Insofar, the Court noted that co-operation within a supply chain on basis of 'have-made' rights is wide-spread and common in practice and also supported by EU law (Commission notice of 18 December 1978 concerning its assessment of certain subcontracting agreements in relation to Article 85 (1) of the EEC Treaty, OJ C 1, 3 January 1979). [248]

Finally, the Court dismissed the argument, that Conversant had allegedly colluded with other members of the Avanci platform to specifically discriminate implementers by excluding access to the relevant standards. [249] The Court saw no indication that this was the case here, but rather highlighted the pro-competitive effects which patent pools are generally recognised to have, not least by EU law (para. 245 of the Guidelines on the application of Article 101 TFEU to technology transfer agreements; 2014/C 89/03). [249]
 

2. Contract law defence

The Court further found that Daimler could not defend itself against the claim for injunctive relief by invoking a contractual claim against Conversant for being granted a FRAND licence, since such claim did not exist. [250] Daimler had argued that Conversant's FRAND commitment towards ETSI prevented the latter from asserting claims for injunctive relief before court.

The Court found that the ETSI FRAND undertaking does not establish duties or rights different than those established by European competition law (especially Art. 102 TFEU), which Conversant had met in the present case. [251] In legal terms, the ETSI FRAND undertaking is a contract for the benefit of a third party under French law ('stipulation pour l'autrui'), containing a binding promise of the SEP holder to grant a FRAND licence at a later point in time. [252] The content and the extent of the corresponding obligation to negotiate a licence is, however, to be interpreted in line with the Huawei judgment, which has defined a standard of conduct based on Art. 102 TFEU. [252] The fact that the ETSI FRAND commitment materialises the requirement to provide access to the standard stipulated by Art. 101 TFEU speaks also in favour of applying a uniform standard of conduct. [252] In the eyes of the Court, French law cannot establish further going conduct duties, since it must be interpreted within the spirit of EU law. [252]
 

C. Other important issues

Finally, the Court took the view that there are no grounds for a limitation of Conversant's claim for injunctive relief due to proportionality considerations. [253] Under German law, proportionality is a general principle of constitutional rank to be considered also with respect to injunctive relief, if a respective objection is raised by the defendant in trial. [253] The Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) has also recognised that an injunction might not be immediately enforceable in exceptional cases, in which the implementer would suffer hardships not justified by the patent holder's exclusionary right in violation of the principle of good faith ('Wärmetauscher'ruling dated 10 May 2016, Case No. X ZR 114/13). [253] In the eyes of the Court, Daimler had, however, not pleaded any relevant facts in the present proceedings. [253]

  • [183] Conversant v Daimler, District Court of Munich I, 30 October 2020, Case-No. 21 O 11384/19 (cited by juris).
  • [184] Ibid, paras.122-265.
  • [185] Ibid, para. 285.
  • [186] Ibid, para.286.
  • [187] Ibid, para.288.
  • [188] Ibid, paras.287 et seqq.
  • [189] Ibid, paras.291 et seqq.
  • [190] Ibid, para.295.
  • [191] Ibid, para.296.
  • [192]  Ibid, para. 299.
  • [193] Ibid, para. 300.
  • [194] Ibid, para.300.
  • [195] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [196] Conversant v Daimler, District Court of Munich I, 30 October 2020, Case-No. 21 O 11384/19, para.301.
  • [197] Ibid, para.301.
  • [198] Ibid, para.307.
  • [199] Ibid, para.308.
  • [200] Ibid, paras.302 and 308.
  • [201] Ibid, paras. 323 et seqq.
  • [202] Ibid, para.324. The Court expressed, nevertheless, doubts that the sole reference to the calculation method used by the UK High Court in Unwired Planet v Huawei would prove sufficient for the explanation of the rates offered by Conversant to Daimler.
  • [203] Ibid, para. 309.
  • [204] Ibid, para. 310.
  • [205] Ibid, para. 316.
  • [206]  Ibid, para. 311.
  • [207] Ibid, para. 312.
  • [208] Ibid, para. 320.
  • [209] Ibid, para. 311.
  • [210] Ibid, paras. 312 and 316.
  • [211] Ibid, para. 315.
  • [212] Ibid, paras.317 et seqq.
  • [213] Ibid, para. 321.
  • [214] Ibid, para.357.
  • [215] Ibid, paras.322 and 358.
  • [216] Ibid, para.328.
  • [217] Ibid, paras.331 and 336.
  • [218] Ibid, para.332.
  • [219] Ibid, paras.334 and 336.
  • [220] Ibid, para.335.
  • [221] Ibid, para.337.
  • [222] Ibid, para.338.
  • [223] Ibid, para.339.
  • [224] Ibid, para.340.
  • [225] Ibid, paras.355 et seq.
  • [226] Ibid, paras.341 and 354.
  • [227] Ibid, para.341.
  • [228] Ibid, paras.341 and 348.
  • [229] Ibid, para.352.
  • [230] Ibid, para.353.
  • [231] Ibid, para.353
  • [232] Ibid, para.360.
  • [233] Ibid, para.362.
  • [234] Ibid, paras.362 and 364.
  • [235] Ibid, para.363.
  • [236] Ibid, para.365.
  • [237] Ibid, para.366.
  • [238] Ibid, para.367.
  • [239] Ibid, paras.368 and 382.
  • [240] Ibid, para.368.
  • [241] Ibid, para.370.
  • [242] Ibid, para.372.
  • [243] Ibid, paras.373 and 376-378.
  • [244] Ibid, para.373.
  • [245] Ibid, paras.373 and382.
  • [246] Ibid, paras.373 and 379.
  • [247] Ibid, para.374.
  • [248] Ibid, para.375.
  • [249] Ibid, para.380.
  • [250] Ibid, para.384.
  • [251] Ibid, paras.384 et seqq.
  • [252] Ibid, para.385.
  • [253] Ibid, para.269.

Updated 26 1月 2017

Saint Lawrence v Vodafone 2

LG Düsseldorf
31 3月 2016 - Case No. 4a O 126/14

  1. Facts
    Since 28 August 2014 Claimant, a non-practicing entity, is the proprietor of the European patent EP J, originally granted to applicants “Y” and “C”, and allegedly covering part of the AMR-WB standard. Defendant is a company active in the telecommunications sector and which markets AMR-WB-based devices, inter alia devices produced by the Intervener in this case. After the adoption (“freeze”) of AMR-WB by ETSI on 10 April 2001, Claimant (who was not an ETSI member during the setting of the AMR-WB standard) made, on 29 May 2001, a commitment towards ETSI to grant licenses on FRAND terms inter alia for patent EP J. Claimant and its parent company “O” offer the SEP and all other patents of the same family to third parties by means of a portfolio license. Licensing conditions are accessible on the Internet and various producers in the sector have taken a license under these conditions.
    Prior to the submission of the patent infringement action on 23 July 2014 and to the advance payments on costs on 29 July 2014, Claimant alerted neither Defendant nor the manufacturer of the contested embodiments, who acted as an intervener in the present proceedings and became aware of the lawsuit in August 2014. By e-mails on 31 July and (as a reminder) on 9 December 2014, the first of which included a copy of the statement of claims and reached the defendant before it was formally served with the statement, Claimant notified the alleged patent violation to Defendant. After Defendant’s reply as of 12 January 2015, Claimant presented a draft licensing agreement to Defendant by letter as of 22 April 2015.
    On 9 December 2014, the Intervener declared willingness to take a license, inter alia for the patent-in-suit, provided infringement was found in court. It further declared that it would accept royalties determined by a court or arbitration tribunal. Claimant, in turn, offered a licensing agreement by letters as of 12 January 2015 and 25 March 2015 respectively. In the course of meetings taking place since 23 January 2014, [254] Claimant offered a license to the Intervener. On 23 February 2015 and on 2 April 2015 respectively, the Intervener made two licensing offers, including third party determination (arbitration panel or English court) of the amount of royalty, for the whole German patent portfolio of Claimant. An additional offer for a licensing agreement, limited to Germany and implementing a royalty of USD 0.0055 per patent by reference to the “WCDMA Patent Pools”, was made by the Intervener on 6 March 2015 and 24 September 2015 respectively, but it was finally refused by Claimant on 4 October 2015. Moreover, the Intervener provided a bank “guarantee of payment” as of 3 September 2015, being modified by letter as of 10 November 2015, and also rendered account of past and prospective sales in Germany since 2011.
  2. Court’s reasoning
    The considerations of the court are almost exactly the same as those in the case LG Düsseldorf, 31 March 2016 – Case No. 4a O 73/14.
    1. Market power and notice of infringement
      The court leaves open the question of whether the SEP conferred market power to Claimant since it did, in any case, find no abuse of such potential market power. [255] The court declared the Huawei rules applicable to claims for the recall of products. [256]
      As regards the Huawei requirement to alert the standard user of the infringement, the decision arrived at various findings of interest: Firstly, the judges found that—in “non-transitional” cases where the lawsuit was brought after the Huawei decision—the infringement notification has to take place before the action is filed, or the latest before the advance payment on costs is made. In transitional cases, such as the present case, a delayed infringement notification, taking place after the advance payment on costs as well as the submission of the court action, but before the statement of claims is served, is admissible. [257] Moreover, an infringement notification could possibly be omitted (in particular) if—as in the present case—the patent user already disposes of all necessary information and lacks willingness to license. [258] In non-transitional cases, however, the court doubts whether it is possible to rectify an omitted infringement notification without withdrawing the action. [259]
      Secondly, the court specified the minimum content of the infringement notification which has to indicate at least the number of the patent, the contested embodiments and the alleged acts of use performed by the standard implementer. The court did not decide whether additional information has to be provided, in particular regarding the interpretation of the patent claims or on which part of the standard the patent reads, but it stated that such additional information is not harmful to the patent proprietor. [260]
      Lastly, the court detailed on the particular situation of the Intervener, being Defendant’s manufacturer and supplier in the present case: Even though a FRAND defense successfully raised by the Intervener would in general also cover subsequent levels of the distribution chain, the Huawei requirements apply only indirectly to suppliers of contested embodiments which have not been sued themselves. Accordingly, the SEP proprietor is not obliged to notify the patent infringement to third parties, but as soon as a request to grant a license on FRAND terms is submitted the (adapted) Huawei procedure applies. [261] In casu, no separate infringement notice vis-à-vis the Intervener was required since the Intervener was, since August 2014, aware of the action having been brought.
    2. The SEP owner’s licensing offer
      Since the patent user did not express its willingness to conclude a licensing agreement in due time, the court found Claimant to comply with the Huawei requirement to submit a licensing offer on FRAND terms even though the offer was made in the course of the ongoing litigation. For transitional cases, as the present one, this holds true even if infringement notification and court action take place at the same time. [262]
      Besides, the court analyzed under which circumstances licensing conditions can be considered as FRAND according to Huawei. In the opinion of the judges, the more licensing agreements implementing comparable terms the SEP proprietor has already concluded, the stronger is the presumption that these conditions are FRAND, unless factual reasons—which are to be demonstrated by the patent user—justify modified terms. Recognized commercial practice in the relevant sector has to be considered when defining the admissible scope of the licensing agreement. If patent portfolios are usually covered by group or worldwide licenses in the relevant market, a (worldwide) portfolio license will be FRAND unless the circumstances of the specific case, e.g. the SEP proprietor’s market activity being limited to one geographic market, require a modification. [263] Accordingly, Claimant’s (worldwide) licensing offer to Defendant for the whole AMR-WB pool, demanding royalties of USD 0.26 per mobile device that implemented the standard and was produced or marketed in countries in which the SEP was in force, and complying with Claimants existing licensing practice (accessible on the Internet and already implemented in 12 licensing agreements) was declared FRAND. While the court considered that comparable licensing agreements “represent an important indicator of the adequacy of the license terms offered” it clarified that the significance of a patent pool as an indication of FRAND conformity is “limited”. Defendant and the Intervener failed to show that the portfolio comprised (non-used) non-SEPs as well. [264] They further failed to show that the pre-concluded licensing agreements provided no valid basis for comparison as they were concluded under the threat of pending litigation. [265]
      In order to fulfill the Huawei obligation of specifying the calculation of royalties, the SEP proprietor only has to provide the information necessary to determine the amount of royalties to be paid, e.g. the royalty per unit and the products covered by the license. While the court left undecided whether additional indications, e.g. concerning the FRAND character of the licensing offer, are necessary to comply with Huawei, it found that the SEP proprietor’s duty to inform should not be interpreted too strictly as FRAND does regularly encompass a range of values that will be fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory. [266]
      Claimant’s licensing offer presented to the Intervener was considered as being FRAND for the same reasons. Furthermore, the court emphasized that the contractual clause allowing for judicial review of the royalties offered could be a possible way to avoid abusive practices and to ensure that licensing offers correspond to FRAND terms. [267]
    3. The standard implementer’s reaction
      The court found that the more details the infringement notification contains, the less time remains for the standard user to examine the patent(s) at issue and to express its willingness to conclude a licensing agreement on FRAND terms. In the present case, Defendant did not comply with Huawei because it took more than five months to react and then only asked for proof of the alleged infringement. Given this excessive delay, the court did not decide whether Defendant’s reaction satisfied the Huawei requirements in terms of content. It denied the possibility to remedy a belated reaction by a subsequent declaration of willingness to license. On the contrary, and as a consequence of the patent user’s non-compliance, the SEP proprietor may continue the infringement action without violating Article 102 TFEU, but it still has to grant licenses on FRAND terms. [268] Whether the Intervener satisfied the ECJ criteria was left undecided. [269]
      The court made some further remarks of interest as to the Huawei requirements concerning the standard implementer: Firstly, it left undecided whether the obligation of the patent user to diligently respond is caused also by a (potentially) non-FRAND licensing offer. [270] Secondly, a standard user who has taken a license is not prevented from challenging validity and essentiality of the SEP afterwards, nor is the SEP proprietor entitled to terminate the license if such a challenge takes place. However, the standard implementer may not delay the (unconditional) conclusion of the licensing agreement until a final court decision on these issues has been rendered. While validity and standard-essentiality is litigated, the licensee remains obliged to pay royalties and it cannot request to insert into the licensing contract a clause entitling it to reclaim paid royalties in case of its success in court. [271] Thirdly, as, in the present case, no specific counter-offers satisfying FRAND terms were submitted and Defendant could not establish that Claimant had waived this requirement the court did not decide on whether a SEP proprietor is obliged to negotiate further although itself and the patent user have submitted FRAND offers. [272]
      None of the counter-offers of the Intervener were FRAND in terms of content. They were either inadmissibly limited to Germany, contained no precise royalty, were not submitted “promptly” because the standard user had waited until the oral pleadings in the parallel procedure, or they proposed royalties per device which the court considered as too low. [273] While it was therefore held to be irrelevant whether, in the first place, the Intervener duly declared its willingness to license, the court emphasized that the Intervener’s readiness to take a license only after the SEP infringement was determined in court did not satisfy the Huawei standard of conduct. [274]
      Moreover, the obligation imposed by Huawei to provide appropriate security and to render account was not fulfilled. While Defendant refrained from taking any of these actions, the Intervener waited several months after the counter-offers were refused in order to submit its bank “guarantee of payment”, which was not recognized as “appropriate security” due to its amount and its limitation to acts of use in Germany. [275] Neither was the Intervener’s initial proposal to have the security—if requested by Claimant—determined by an arbitration tribunal or by an English court accepted as an appropriate way to provide security. [276]
  3. Other important issues
    According to the court, the Huawei requirements apply to both non-practicing entities and other market participants. [277]
    Suing a network operator instead of the undertakings producing devices operating in the network constitutes (at least under the circumstances of this case and absent selective enforcement) no violation of competition law even though this strategy might aim at using the action against the network operator as a “lever” to obtain licensing commitments from the device suppliers. On the other hand, device manufacturers are entitled to a FRAND license as well and can raise the FRAND defense if such a license is not granted. In consequence, the court perceives a fair balance of interests as the SEP proprietor can choose on which level of the chain of production to sue while the undertakings in the chain of production can choose on which level to take a license. [278]
    Furthermore, no patent ambush-defense based on § 242 BGB could be raised because, firstly, Defendant and the Intervener could not substantiate the alleged patent ambush by “Y” and “C”, being the original SEP proprietors; secondly, they could not show that a different patent declaration conduct would have resulted in a different version of the standard excluding the patent-in-suit; thirdly, the alleged patent ambush would, arguably, have resulted only in a FRAND-licensing obligation and, fourthly, Claimant had declared its willingness to grant a license on FRAND terms anyway. [279]
  • [254] This is the date mentioned by the court although “23 January 2015” may seem more plausible and the date given by the court may result from a scrivener’s error.
  • [255] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 184
  • [256] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 187
  • [257] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 195 et seq.
  • [258] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 208-210
  • [259] Case No. 4a O 126/14, para. IV, 3, a, bb, 2, c
  • [260] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 193
  • [261] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 270 et seq.
  • [262] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 222 et seq.
  • [263] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 225 et seq.
  • [264] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 225 et seq. On the relevance of the SIPRO-pool royalty rates, cf. LG Düsseldorf, 31 March 2016 – Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 245-248. On the facts indicating that a worldwide license was appropriate LG Düsseldorf, 31 March 2016 – Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 249-255.
  • [265] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 234-242. The court argued that it is questionable in principle how much the threat of a claim for injunctive relief can (inadmissibly) affect license agreement negotiations, since the Orange Book case law of the BGH (German Federal Court of Justice), the Motorola decision of the European Commission, and now the CJEU judgment in the Huawei Technologies/ZTE Case could be and can be invoked against inappropriate demands that are in breach of antitrust law.
  • [266] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 256 et seq.
  • [267] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 279 et seq.
  • [268] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 214-220
  • [269] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 214-220; 278
  • [270] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 266
  • [271] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 185 et seq.; 262 et seq.
  • [272] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 264.
  • [273] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 291 et seq.
  • [274] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 278
  • [275] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 267 et seq.; 299 et seq.
  • [276] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 304
  • [277] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 189
  • [278] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 309-313
  • [279] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 317 et seq.

Updated 6 3月 2017

Philips v Archos

LG Mannheim
1 7月 2016 - Case No. 7 O 209/15

  1. Facts
    Claimant, a globally operating electronics manufacturer, is the proprietor of European patents EP 1 062 743 B1 and EP 1 062 745 B1, allegedly covering part of the UMTS- and LTE-standard respectively. Defendant, being the German subsidiary of the French parent company Archos S.A., produces and markets UMTS- and LTE-based devices under the brand name “ARCHOS” in Germany.
    By letter of 5 July 2014, Claimant sent an infringement notification, including a list of the patents affected, to Defendant. Furthermore, on 15/16 September 2014, Claimant explained its licensing program to Defendant and provided for corresponding documents. After Defendant offered Claimant in a meeting on 25 November 2014 the transfer of patents which it considered essential to the UMTS- and LTE-standard respectively, Claimant sent a written licensing offer, containing a list of SEPs and patent-infringing products, to Defendant on 28 July 2015 and provided for additional technical information concerning the SEPs in-suit on 25 September 2015 via e-mail. On 12 January 2016, Defendant, in turn, submitted a written counter-offer to Claimant for a licence covering Claimant’s worldwide LTE/UMTS-patent portfolio including royalties of 0.071% of the net sales price per unit. Since the parties did not conclude a binding licensing agreement subsequently, Claimant brought an action against Defendant on 16 October 2015, received by the court on 19 October 2015. In April 2016, Defendant deposited an amount of EUR 161’343.00 at the Landesjustizkasse (federal justice treasury) Bamberg, which should cover the worldwide sales of LTE/UMTS-based devices between 2012 and 30 June 2016 and was calculated on the basis of the royalties previously offered in Defendant’s counter-offer.
  2. Court’s reasoning
    1. Market power and infringement notification
      The court left open the question of whether the SEP conveyed market power to Claimant since it did, in any case, find no abuse of such potential market power.
      Having regard to the content of the infringement notification, the Mannheim court held that, in any case, the SEP proprietor, on the one hand, has to denote the patent in-suit, which it deems essential, by reference to its patent number and to indicate, that the patent has be declared essential by the respective standardization organization. In order to specify the way in which the SEP has been infringed, the SEP proprietor’s notification must, on the other hand, clarify to which standard the patent in-suit is essential and based on which circumstances it assumes that the alleged infringer makes use of the patent’s teachings. For this purpose, the SEP proprietor must indicate which (category of the) technical functionality of the challenged embodiment makes use of the standard. The alleged infringer must be able to assess the intellectual property rights situation autonomously or by recourse to a third party.
      The level of detail to be adhered to in the infringement notification depends on the specific circumstances of the case, taking into account in particular the technology knowledge of the alleged infringer or by what means it can acquire the corresponding professional expertise in a reasonable manner. In order to substantiate the facts of the infringement in accordance with Huawei, it is deemed sufficient to refer to so-called claim charts, being customarily used in the course of licensing negotiations, comparing the asserted claim of the patent in-suit according to features with the relevant passages of the standard without fulfilling the requirements of the conclusiveness test of an infringement action. In contrast, the mere reference that the standard implementer would produce or market products implementing the standard and therefore infringe the patent in-suit is not adequate.
    2. The SEP owner’s licensing offer
      As regards the Huawei condition to submit a written offer on FRAND terms prior to the initiation of proceedings, the court requires a contractual offer that is ready to be adopted and comprises the essentialia negotii. However, in the opinion of the judges, Huawei does not oblige the infringement court to determine pursuant to objective criteria whether the licensing offer complies with FRAND terms, if the latter fact is disputed by the alleged infringer. [280] The SEP proprietor’s offer is only considered not FRAND and in violation of antitrust law, if it constitutes an expression of exploitative abuse, taking into account the specific negotiation situation and, in particular, the market conditions.
      In order to comply with the obligation to specify the way in which the royalty is to be calculated, the SEP proprietor must put the alleged infringer in a position to understand on the basis of objective criteria why the former considers its licensing offer as FRAND. For this purpose, it is, in the case of quota licence agreement, not sufficient to indicate the royalties per unit without substantiating their FRAND character. The respective amount must be made sufficiently transparent, e.g. by reference to an established standard licensing program or by indicating other reference values allowing to deduce the royalty demanded, such as a pool licence fee.
      Taking into account the summary examination of the Higher Regional court in Karlsruhe granting the SEP proprietor much leeway in determining FRAND terms [281] , the Mannheim court left in the present case undecided whether it has to reassess its own standards of review, because Claimant did not sufficiently explain why royalties of USD 1.00 per unit should be FRAND in accordance with Huawei. The mere indication of the multipliers underlying the calculation of the royalties were deemed inadequate, since on the basis of this incomplete (market) information the alleged infringer is neither able to assess whether Claimant’s offer is FRAND nor to submit a FRAND counter-offer.
      The subsequent explanations as well as the expert opinion, seeking to prove the non-discriminatory character of the royalties, forming part of Claimant’s reply, did not fulfill the Huawei requirements, because prior to the initiation of proceedings Claimant has to substantiate both the manner of patent infringement and the way of calculating the royalties. Without completely dissenting from the decision previously rendered by the OLG Düsseldorf [282] , the Mannheim court, by reference to the subsequent rectification order issued by the ECJ on 15 December 2015, denied the SEP proprietor’s unlimited possibility to perform its Huawei obligations within the ongoing trial without incurring sanctions, because otherwise the central idea underlying the ECJ decision of being able to negotiate without the burden of pending proceedings while having all necessary information to evaluate the FRAND conformity of the licensing offer would be diminished.
      Moreover, Claimant was not exempted from its respective Huawei obligation due to Defendant’s alleged lack of willingness to conclude a licensing agreement. In contrast, a fundamental unwillingness to enter into licensing negotiations was rejected, because Defendant, firstly, complained in letters of 20 November 2015 and 4 December 2015 about Claimant’s deficient explanation why the licensing fee should be FRAND according to Huawei; secondly, it made a counter-offer including royalties of 0.071% of the net sales price per unit and provided for an expert opinion elaborating on the FRAND character of this royalty; thirdly, it submitted an offer to transfer own patents prior to the proceedings; and lastly, even though conducted after the initiation of proceedings, Defendant deposited a considerable amount with the court, which should cover worldwide sales with its LTE/UMTS-based products.
    3. The standard implementer’s reaction
      The standard implementer is obliged to react to a licensing offer, even if it deems the later not as FRAND in accordance with Huawei [283] , unless it is established by means of summary examination that the licensing offer is evidently not FRAND and therefore constitutes an abuse of dominance.
  3. Other important issues
    Although the Mannheim court rejected the action for prohibitory injunction and for the recall of products for reasons of antitrust law, it confirmed, on the basis of § 140b PatG and § 242 BGB, Claimant’s application for information as well as for rendering account and granted damages in accordance with § 139 (2) PatG, because it found Defendant to infringe the patents in-suit.
    Besides, the Court denied the exhaustion of the patents in-suit. [284]
  • [280] The judges stated in an even more general manner that the infringement court shall not be required under Huawei to determine the FRAND terms, if the proceedings do not involve the payment of royalties, but only relate to actions for a prohibitory injunction or for the recall of products.
  • [281] See above OLG Karlsruhe, 31 May 2015 – Case No. 6 U 55/16
  • [282] See above OLG Düsseldorf, 9 May 2016 – Case No. 15 U 36/16
  • [283] See also LG Mannheim, 27 November 2015 – Case No. 2 O 106/14 and LG Düsseldorf, 3 November 2015 – Case No. 4a O 144/14
  • [284] Para. V, p. 34 et seq.

Updated 3 2月 2020

Philips v Wiko

OLG Karlsruhe
30 10月 2019 - Case No. 6 U 183/16

A. Facts

The Claimant, Philips, holds patents declared as (potentially) essential to the practice of wireless telecommunications standards (Standard Essential Patents or SEPs) developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), including SEPs reading on the UMTS and LTE standards. Philips committed towards ETSI to make its SEPs accessible to standard users on Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions.

The Defendant is the German subsidiary of the Wiko group of companies, which has its headquarters in France (Wiko). Wiko sells mobile phones implementing the LTE standard in Germany.

In October 2014, Philips informed the parent company of the Wiko group about its SEP portfolio, but did not receive a response. In July 2015, Philips shared a draft licensing agreement for its SEP portfolio as well as claim charts referring to several of its SEPs with the parent company of the Wiko group, which again did not react at all. In September 2015, Philips shared further technical details regarding its SEPs.

On 19 October 2015, Philips brought an infringement action against Wiko before the District Court of Mannheim based on one of its SEPs, requesting for injunctive relief, information and rendering of accounts, destruction and recall of infringing products from the market as well as a declaratory judgment confirming Wiko’s liability for damages on the merits.

On the next day, 20 October 2015, Wiko sent a letter to Philips, in which it declared its willingness to enter into negotiations with the latter for a licence covering ‘valuable’ patents. In August 2016, during the course of the pending infringement proceedings, Wiko made a counteroffer to Philips. Philips did not accept this offer. Subsequently, Wiko provided security to Philips for the use of its patents, calculated on basis of its counteroffer.

By judgment dated 25 November 2016 [285] , the District Court of Mannheim granted Philips’ claims almost to the full extent. Wiko appealed the District Court’s judgement. In addition, by way of a counterclaim, Wiko requested disclosure of existing licensing agreements signed by Philips with similarly situated licensees (comparable agreements).

With the present judgment [286] , the Higher District Court of Karlsruhe (Court) overturned the ruling of the District Court in part. In detail, the Court confirmed Philips’ claims for information and the rendering of accounts as well as Wiko’s liability for damages on the merits. The Court, however, rejected Philips’ claims for injunctive relief, destruction and recall of infringing products from the market.

Apart from that, the Court also rejected Wiko’s counterclaim regarding the production of comparable agreements in the proceedings.


B. Court’s reasoning

The Court confirmed that Wiko’s products infringe the patent in suit [287] .

Contrary to the view taken previously by the District Court, the Court found, however, that Article 102 of the Treaty for the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) prevents Philips from enforcing the claims for injunctive relief as well as the recall and destruction of infringing products asserted in the infringement proceedings for the time being [288] . In the Court’s eyes, Philips had failed to meet the conduct obligations established by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) in the matter Huawei v ZTE [289] (Huawei framework or obligations) [290] .

Huawei framework

The Court explained that SEP holder’s failure to meet its Huawei obligations will – as a rule – render an infringement action resulting in an exclusion of the implementer from a downstream market (action for injunctive relief and/or recall and destruction of products) abusive in terms of Article 102 TFEU [291] . This will, however, not be the case, when the implementer himself fails to fulfil its duties under the Huawei framework; if the implementer acts in bad faith as an ‘unwilling’ licensee, then SEP holder’s Huawei obligations are ‘suspended’ [291] . As a result, asserting the rights to injunctive relief and/or the destruction and recall of infringing products in court could then be considered as a justified reaction of the SEP holder to the implementer’s unwillingness to enter into a FRAND licence [291] .

Having said that, the Court expressed the view that the parties can remedy potential flaws in their conduct under the Huawei judgment and/or even fulfil their Huawei obligations for the first time during the course of pending infringement proceedings [292] . The Court noted that in Huawei v ZTE, the CJEU did not require that the parties fulfil all conduct obligations established prior to the initiation of court proceedings [293] . In the Court’s eyes, denying the parties such possibility is not compatible either with the general principle of proportionality known to European law, nor with the German civil procedural law, according to which courts need to consider all facts relevant for their decision-making raised in the proceedings until the end of the oral arguments [294] .

Accordingly, an infringement action that did not give rise to any antitrust concerns at the time it was filed, can be considered as abusive at a later point in time, if the situation significantly changed, e.g. the implementer fulfilled its Huawei obligations in the meantime [295] . Vice versa, an action of an abusive nature can later on be ‘corrected’, if the patent holder performs its duties under the Huawei framework during the course of the pending proceedings [295] .

In the Court’s view, a SEP holder seeking to remedy (or fulfil for the first time) obligations under the Huawei framework after the initiation of infringement proceedings must make sure that pressure-free licensing negotiations between the parties are enabled, as required by the CJEU in Huawei v ZTE [296] . For this, the patent holder must use procedural tools available under German law, particularly a motion for suspension of the trial [296] . The SEP holder can also propose a consensual stay of the proceedings, especially when a parallel nullity action against the patent in suit is pending before the Federal Patent Court [296] . In case such a motion is filed, the Court expects that a ‘willing’ implementer will consent to a suspension of the proceedings [296] .

On the other hand, the Court pointed out that fulfilment of Huawei obligations by the implementer after the beginning of infringement proceedings does not necessarily lead to a dismissal of the claims asserted by the SEP holder [297] . Indeed, if the implementer meets its Huawei duties at a very late point in time in the proceedings (e.g. shortly before the closing of the oral arguments), the Court could eventually neglect this fact in its decision [298] . This way, delays can be avoided. In this context, the Court also made clear that the implementer is not in a position to cause a unilateral suspension of the proceedings; in contrast to the opposite case (that is cases, in which a stay of the proceedings is suggested by the claimant), the SEP holder will usually not be required to agree to a suspension of the proceedings proposed by the implementer, in order to allow pressure-free negotiations to take place [298] . Insofar, the implementer bears the risk that the fulfilment of its obligations under the Huawei framework in the course of a pending infringement trial will have no impact [298] .

Notification of infringement

Looking at the specific conduct of the parties in the present case, the Court found that Philips had fulfilled its obligation to notify Wiko about the infringement of the SEP in suit prior to the commencement of the infringement proceedings.

The Court confirmed that a notification addressed to the parent company within a group of companies will usually be sufficient under the Huawei framework [299] . In terms of content, the Court was satisfied by the fact that Philips’ letter from July 2015 named the patent in suit as well as the relevant part of standard document implementing the technical teachings of this patent [300] . The Court explained that the notification does not have to contain (further) information required for a final assessment of the validity and essentiality of the patent in suit [300] . Accordingly, the SEP holder is not obliged to share claims charts customarily used in SEP licensing negotiations with the implementer along with the notification of infringement [300] .

Willingness to enter into a licence

The Court further found that Wiko had sufficiently met its obligation to express its willingness to negotiate a licence with Philips [301] .

The Court agreed with the assessment of the District Court that Wiko’s initial reaction to Philips’ notification in July 2015 by letter dated 20 October 2015 was belated. According to the Court, the time available to the implementer for expressing its willingness to enter into negotiations for a licence will – as a rule – not exceed two months [302] . This period of time will usually be sufficient: since by declaring its willingness to enter into negotiations the implementer does not waive any rights (especially the right to contest the validity and/or infringement of the patents in question), it shall not be given more time than the time needed for an ‘initial overview’ of the SEP holder’s claims [302] . Delaying tactics potentially applied by the implementer must be prevented [302] . Against this background, Wiko’s letter dated 20 October 2015 was sent to Philips too late.

Nevertheless, the Court found that Wiko had remedied the belated response after the beginning of the infringement proceedings. On the one hand, Wiko’s letter dated 20 October 2015 had reached Philips at a very early stage of the proceedings, namely just some days after the action was filed [303] . In addition, Wiko had confirmed its willingness to enter into negotiations with Philips expressed in said letter during the course of the proceedings, by making a counteroffer, rendering accounts and providing security to Philips [303] .

SEP holder’s offer

On the other hand, the Court held that Philips had failed to comply with its obligation to make a FRAND licensing offer to Wiko. In particular, the Court took the view that Philips did not provide sufficient information to Wiko with respect to its licensing offer dated July 2015 [304] .

The Court argued that the ‘fairness’ element of the FRAND commitment establishes an ‘information duty’ (‘Informationspflicht’) of the SEP holder with respect to the content of its licensing offer to the implementer [305] . This duty exists besides the patent holder’s duty to make a FRAND licensing offer to the implementer [306] .

In terms of scope, the Court found that the information duty is, basically, not limited to the calculation of the offered royalty but also covers (objective) facts showing that the ‘contractual compensation factors’ (‘vertragliche Vergütungsfaktoren’) are not discriminatory [307] . The extent of the information to be shared depends on the circumstances of the specific ‘licensing situation’ [307] .

In case that the patent holder has already granted licences to third parties, the information duty will extend also towards its ‘licensing practice’, including comparable agreements [308] .

If the SEP holder uses exclusively a standard licensing programme, then it will be sufficient to show that said programme has been accepted in the market and that the offer made to the implementer corresponds with the standard licensing agreement used [308] .

On the other hand, if the SEP holder has concluded individual licensing agreements with third licensees, then it would be obliged to disclose – at least – the content of the key contractual terms in a way that would allow the implementer to identify whether (respectively why) the offer it received is subject to dissimilar conditions [308] . The Court made, however, clear that – contrary to the approach adopted by the Duesseldorf courts – the SEP holder is not obliged in any case to disclose the full content of all existing comparable agreements [308] . In the eyes of the Court, the information duty serves only the purpose of facilitating good will licensing negotiations. A full disclosure of comparable agreement is, however, uncommon in practice [308] .

In this context, the Court pointed out that the patent holder will have to adequately substantiate the content of ‘justified confidentiality interests’ that might hinder the disclosure of comparable agreements [308] . Furthermore, the SEP holder would need to facilitate the conclusion of a Non-Disclosure Agreement which would allow sharing further information with the implementer [308] .

Based on the above considerations, the Court found that Philips had not fulfilled its information duty at any time [309] . In particular, the Court criticized that Philips did not adequately explain the reasons for choosing to agree on a lump sum payment (instead of a running royalty) in an existing agreement with a third licensee [310] . The fact that companies of different size were affected did not relieve Philips from its information duty; according to the Court, the mere fact that two competitors in a downstream market are of different size does not per se offer sufficient ground for different treatment [311] .

Since the Court assumed that Philips had failed to meet its information duties, it did not examine whether Philips’ licensing offer to Wiko was FRAND in terms of content [312] . In this respect, the Court seemed to agree, however, with the notion that FRAND is a range providing parties with a degree of flexibility [313] .

Implementer’s claim for disclosure of comparable agreements

Referring to the counterclaim for full disclosure of Philips’ comparable agreements raised by Wiko in the appeal proceedings, the Court clarified that a respective right of Wiko does not exist [314] .

Such a right does not arise either from German civil law (Articles 809 and 810 German Civil Code) [314] or Article 102 TFEU [315] . Furthermore, a right for disclosure of comparable agreement can neither be extracted by the SEP holder’s FRAND commitment to ETSI [316] . The Court saw no indication that French law (which is applicable to the ETSI FRAND undertaking) establishes such a right in favour of standards implementers [317] .

C. Other important issues

The Court pointed out that the claims for damages as well as information and rendering of accounts also asserted by Philips in the present proceedings are not subject to the Huawei framework [318] . Moreover, the Court explained that the non-fulfilment of the Huawei obligations by the patent holder poses no limitations on these rights in terms of content [319] . This is particularly true with respect to SEP holder’s claim to request information about expenses and profits from the implementer5 [320] .

  • [285] Philips v Wiko, District Court (Landgericht) of Mannheim, judgment dated 25 November 2016, Case No. 7 O 44/16.
  • [286] Philips v Wiko, Higher District Court of Mannheim, judgment dated 25 November 2016, Case No. 7 O 44/16, cited by http://lrbw.juris.de.
  • [287] Ibid, paras. 37-87.
  • [288] Ibid, para. 88.
  • [289] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C 170/13.
  • [290] Philips v Wiko, Higher District Court of Mannheim, judgment dated 25 November 2016, para. 108.
  • [291] Ibid, para. 107.
  • [292] Ibid, paras. 117 et seqq.
  • [293] Ibid, para. 119.
  • [294] Ibid, paras. 120 et seq.
  • [295] Ibid, para. 120.
  • [296] Ibid, para. 125.
  • [297] Ibid, para. 126.
  • [298] Ibid, para. 127.
  • [299] Ibid, para. 111.
  • [300] Ibid, para. 112.
  • [301] Ibid, paras. 115 and 117.
  • [302] Ibid, para. 115.
  • [303] Ibid, para. 129.
  • [304] Ibid, paras. 131 et seqq.
  • [305] Ibid, paras. 132 et seq.
  • [306] Ibid, para. 135.
  • [307] Ibid, para. 133.
  • [308] Ibid, para. 134.
  • [309] Ibid, paras. 136 et seqq.
  • [310] Ibid, para. 136.
  • [311] Ibid, para. 138.
  • [312] Ibid, para. 131.
  • [313] Ibid, para. 106.
  • [314] Ibid, paras. 157 et seqq.
  • [315] Ibid, paras. 162 et seqq.
  • [316] Ibid, paras. 160 et seq.
  • [317] Ibid, para. 161.
  • [318] Ibid, para. 143.
  • [319] Ibid, para. 144.
  • [320] Ibid, paras. 145 et seqq.

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 [321] . 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 [322] (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 [323] . 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 [325] . 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) [328] .
 

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 [337] . 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 [337] .

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. [338] 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. [339] The fact that a party fails to contribute in negotiations towards a FRAND agreement will regularly be considered to its detriment. [340] 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. [341]

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. [342] Otherwise, competition could be distorted, because the infringer would gain unfair advantages over implementers that have taken a licence in a timely manner. [342]

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. [346]

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. [357] 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 [358] . 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 [358] . 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 [359] . 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. [360]

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 [361] . 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 [363] .

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. [365] 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'. [365]

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 [373] . 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. [380]

What is more, Sisvel's claim for damages was not limited to the amount of a FRAND licensing rate ('licensing analogy'). [381] 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. [380] 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

  • [321] 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).
  • [322] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [323] 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).
  • [324] Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 28 April 2020, Case No. X ZR 35/18.
  • [325] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 5 May 2020, Case No. KZR 36/17.
  • [326] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17 (cited by ).
  • [327] Ibid, paras. 10-43.
  • [328] Ibid, para. 44.
  • [329] Ibid, paras. 48 et seqq.
  • [330] Ibid, para. 49.
  • [331] Ibid, para. 52.
  • [332] Ibid, para. 53.
  • [333] Ibid, para. 54.
  • [334] Ibid, para. 55.
  • [335] Ibid, para. 84.
  • [336] Ibid, paras. 86 et seqq.
  • [337] Ibid, para. 57.
  • [338] Ibid, para. 58.
  • [339] Ibid, para. 59.
  • [340] Ibid, para. 60.
  • [341] Ibid, para. 62.
  • [342] Ibid, para. 61.
  • [343] Ibid, para. 63.
  • [344] Ibid, para. 65.
  • [345] Ibid, para. 68.
  • [346] Ibid, paras. 66 and 68.
  • [347] Ibid, para. 69.
  • [348] Ibid, para. 69. See Nokia v Daimler, District Court of Duesseldorf, order dated 26 November 2020, Case No. 4c O 17/19.
  • [349] Ibid, paras. 70 and 71.
  • [350] Ibid, para. 71.
  • [351] Ibid, para. 72.
  • [352] Ibid, para. 73.
  • [353] Ibid, para. 74.
  • [354] Ibid, para. 76.
  • [355] Ibid, para. 77.
  • [356] Ibid, paras. 79 et seqq.
  • [357] Ibid, para. 83.
  • [358] Ibid, para. 87.
  • [359] Ibid, paras. 88 et seqq.
  • [360] Ibid, para. 89.
  • [361] Ibid, paras. 93 et seqq.
  • [362] Ibid, para. 95.
  • [363] Ibid, paras. 96-99.
  • [364] Ibid, paras. 102 et seqq.
  • [365] Ibid, para. 102.
  • [366] Ibid, paras. 108 et seqq.
  • [367] Ibid, para. 116.
  • [368] Ibid, para. 118.
  • [369] Ibid, paras. 124 et seqq.
  • [370] Ibid, para. 124.
  • [371] Ibid, para. 125.
  • [372] Ibid, para. 126.
  • [373] 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.
  • [374] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17, para. 107.
  • [375] Ibid, para. 56.
  • [376] Ibid, paras. 127 et seqq.
  • [377] Ibid, para. 130.
  • [378] Ibid, para. 131.
  • [379] Ibid, paras. 131 et seq.
  • [380] Ibid, para. 135.
  • [381] 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). [382] 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 [383] (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 [384] .
 

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. [385]

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. [386] 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. [387]
 

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. [388]

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. [389] 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. [390] In terms of content, the notification must identify the patent infringed, the form of infringement and also designate the infringing embodiments. [390] Detailed technical or legal analysis of the infringement allegation is not required. [390] The production of so-called 'claim charts', which is common in practice, will, as a rule, suffice, but is not mandatory. [390] If the patent holder offers a portfolio licence, respective extended information duties occur. [390]

In the present case, it was not disputed that Sisvel had notified Wiko about the patent-in-suit prior to litigation. [391] As far as Wiko complained that no claim charts were presented before trial, the Court reiterated that no respective obligation of Sisvel existed. [392] 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. [391]
 

Willingness to obtain a licence

The Court then found that Wiko behaved as an unwilling (potential) licensee both prior and during the infringement proceedings [393] . 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. [394]

According to the Court, the 'expression of a general willingness to license' is not sufficient for assuming that an implementer is a 'willing licensee'. [395] Moreover, the implementer must 'clearly and unambiguously' declare willingness to conclude a license agreement on FRAND terms, 'whatever FRAND terms may actually look like" [395] . The respective declaration must be 'serious and unconditional'. [395]

The Court highlighted that for the assessment of willingness the overall facts and the particular conduct of the implementer shall be taken into account. [395] Willingness is not 'static': the finding that an implementer was willing (or unwilling) at a certain moment in time does not remain unchanged henceforth. [395]

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. [396] 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. [397] 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. [397]

In the view of the Court, the above requirements are in line with the Huawei v ZTE judgment (Huawei judgment or Huawei) [398] of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU). [399] 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. [400]

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. [401] Such behaviour could be justified in individual cases, especially when the SEP holder does not act in a 'target-oriented' manner itself. [401] Nevertheless, implementers must, as a rule, react timely even to a belated action of the SEP holder. [401] 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. [401]

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. [402] A willing implementer would have, however, sought a licence independently of the initiation of legal steps and independently of the course of litigation. [403] 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. [404] 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). [405]

The Court identified also further facts that indicate that Wiko engaged in delaying tactics. [406] 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) [407] . It also demanded further claim charts in February 2018, years after the action was filed. [408]

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. [409] 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. [410] 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. [411]

Furthermore, the Court clarified that -contrary to Wiko's view- school holidays and/or staff shortages cannot provide sufficient justification for delays in negotiations. [412] Even if such circumstances occur, a willing implementer would have communicated any obstacles immediately. [412] 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. [413] In fact, no such duty had arisen in the present case, due to Wiko's unwillingness to obtain a licence. [413] 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. [414] 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 [414] ; indeed, parties are best situated to determine the exact content of FRAND in a specific setting. [414]

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'. [415] 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. [416] 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. [417]

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. [418] The SEP holder's FRAND commitment does not give rise to such obligation. [418] 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. [418] 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. [419]

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. [419] 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. [420] 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. [421]

Against this background, the Court found that none of the offers made to Wiko during the infringement proceedings was 'clearly and evidently' non-FRAND. [422] 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. [423] 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. [424] 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. [425]

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. [426] On the other hand, Wiko had worldwide activities, so that a licence with a limited scope would not provide sufficient coverage. [426]

The fact that some of the patents included in Sisvel's portfolio were -allegedly- not standard-essential did not render the offers 'un-FRAND'. [427] 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. [428] Implementers can reserve the right to challenge the validity and essentiality of affected patents even after the conclusion of a licensing agreement. [428]

Similarly, the Court had no objections against a clause placing the burden of proof with regard to the exhaustion of licenced patents on Wiko. [429] 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. [430]

The question whether an adjustment clause is necessary for an offer to be considered FRAND was left unanswered by the Court. [431] 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. [431] The Court did not express any concerns against the term of the offered licence or the termination clauses contained therein, either. [432]

Furthermore, the Court made clear that Sisvel had adequately elaborated the licensing rates offered to Wiko. [433] In the infringement proceedings, Sisvel responded to the 'top-down' calculation of Wiko in detail and made relevant clarifications. [434] 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. [435]
 

Implementers' counteroffer

The Court also found that the counteroffers made by Wiko during the course of the first instance infringement proceedings were not FRAND. [436]

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. [437]

Having said that, the Court took the view that the royalty rates which Wiko offered were very low and, thus, not FRAND-compliant. [438] 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. [439] 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. [440] 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. [441]
 

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. [442] This is particularly true, when the SEP holder takes the respective initiative, as it was the case here. [442] 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. [442] The refusal of the infringer to act accordingly could, in the eyes of the Court, allow the conclusion that it is an unwilling licensee. [442]

Apart from that, the Court confirmed that Wiko had no legal ground for requesting full disclosure of Sisvel's third party agreements [443] . 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. [444] 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. [445]

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. [446]

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 [447] . [448] 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. [449]
 

  • [382] The action was extended to a third defendant, an individual person, who had served as a managing director for both aforementioned companies.
  • [383] Sisvel v Wiko, Higher Regional Court Karlsruhe, judgment dated 9 December 2020, Case-No. 6 U 103/19
  • [384] 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.
  • [385] Ibid, para. 289.
  • [386] Ibid, paras. 284 et seqq.
  • [387] Ibid, para. 287.
  • [388] 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.
  • [389] Ibid, paras. 292 et seqq.
  • [390] Ibid, para. 293.
  • [391] Ibid, para. 297.
  • [392] Ibid, paras. 297 et seq.
  • [393] Ibid, para. 299.
  • [394] Ibid, para. 299 and paras. 320 et seqq.
  • [395] Ibid, para. 301.
  • [396] Ibid, para. 302.
  • [397] Ibid, para. 303.
  • [398] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case-No. C-170/13.
  • [399] Sisvel v Wiko, Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe, judgment dated 9 December 2020, para. 304.
  • [400] Ibid, para. 304.
  • [401] Ibid, para. 305.
  • [402] Ibid, paras. 321 et seqq.
  • [403] Ibid, para. 321.
  • [404] Ibid, para. 322.
  • [405] Ibid, paras. 323 et seq.
  • [406] 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).
  • [407] Ibid, paras. 325, 328 and 331.
  • [408] Ibid, para. 327.
  • [409] Ibid, paras. 333 et seqq.
  • [410] Ibid, paras. 334 and 338.
  • [411] Ibid, paras. 337 and 341 et seqq.
  • [412] Ibid, para. 330.
  • [413] Ibid, para. 342.
  • [414] Ibid, para. 307.
  • [415] Ibid, para. 308.
  • [416] Ibid, paras. 308 and 310.
  • [417] Ibid, para. 309.
  • [418] Ibid, para. 310.
  • [419] Ibid, paras. 311 et seqq.
  • [420] Ibid, paras. 311 and 313 et seqq.
  • [421] Ibid, paras. 316 et seqq.
  • [422] Ibid, para. 352.
  • [423] Ibid, para. 353.
  • [424] Ibid, paras. 354 et seqq.
  • [425] Ibid, para. 358.
  • [426] Ibid, para. 359.
  • [427] Ibid, para. 360.
  • [428] Ibid, para. 361.
  • [429] Ibid, para. 362.
  • [430] Ibid, para. 363.
  • [431] Ibid, paras. 365 et seqq.
  • [432] Ibid, paras. 367 et seqq.
  • [433] Ibid, para. 366.
  • [434] Ibid, para. 344.
  • [435] Ibid, para. 346.
  • [436] Ibid, paras. 379 et seqq.
  • [437] Ibid, para. 311.
  • [438] Ibid, paras. 379 et seqq.
  • [439] Ibid, para. 380.
  • [440] Ibid, para. 378.
  • [441] Ibid, para. 384.
  • [442] Ibid, para. 348.
  • [443] Ibid, para. 389.
  • [444] Ibid, paras. 389 et seq.
  • [445] Ibid, para. 391.
  • [446] Ibid, paras. 260 et seqq.
  • [447] Nokia v Daimler, District Court of Düsseldorf, order dated 26 November 2020, Case No. 4c O 17/19.
  • [448] Sisvel v Wiko, Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe, judgment dated 9 December 2020, para. 395.
  • [449] Ibid, para. 395.

Updated 6 6月 2017

Philips v Archos 2

LG Mannheim
17 11月 2016 - Case No. 7 O 19/16

Prof. Dr. Philipp Maume, S.J.D. (La Trobe)

  1. Facts
    The claimant is an international electronics company, which owns a range of patents relating to mobile phone technology. In particular, the claimant owns the patent EP 1.440.525, which is allegedly essential for the UMTS and LTE standards. The defendant is a German subsidiary of a French multinational electronics company that offers Android tablets and smartphones which are compliant UMTS and LTE standards. On 5 July 2014, the claimant informed the defendant in writing that by marketing and selling mobile phones, the defendant is infringing standard essential patents owned by the claimant. On 15/16 September 2014, the claimant handed over written documents about its licensing program to the defendant. In a discussion on 25 November 2014, the defendant offered to transfer patents that it deemed essential to the standards in question. In a letter dated 28 July 2015, the claimant offered to grant a license for the relevant patent. This letter included a list of all allegedly infringing products and patents in question, and relevant technical details. The claimant sent additional technical information via email on 25 September 2015. On 12 January 2016, the defendant sent a written offer to enter into a license agreement for the claimant’s worldwide patent portfolio. The parties did not reach an agreement. The claimant commenced infringement proceedings in the District Court of Mannheim on 16 October 2015 (received by the court on 19 October 2015). The defendant subsequently made a deposit at the Bavarian Justice Exchequer at Bamberg in April 2016. The deposit was supposed to cover all royalties owed for the worldwide sale of LTE/UMTS devices by the defendant between 2012 and 30 June 2016. The court dismissed the actions for injunction, recall and destruction of products because the claimant had not complied with its obligations under EU competition law. However, the court ordered the defendant to render accounts and declared that the defendant was liable for compensation.
  2. Court’s reasoning
    1. Market Power and Notice of Infringement
      TThe court did not comment on the existence of a dominant market position. It focused on the notice of infringement and the license offer. The court held that the notice of infringement should enable the alleged infringer to examine and assess the patent situation. [450] It is insufficient to indicate that the alleged infringer is marketing products covered by a standard and is therefore infringing a patent. Rather, the SEP proprietor needs to specify the patent number and the standard for which it has been declared essential. The SEP proprietor also needs to describe the technical functionality of the standard which is at issue. The level of detail of these descriptions depends on the particular situation. [450] The SEP proprietor needs to take into consideration the level of the alleged infringer’s technological knowledge, or its ability to gain the required knowledge through professional advice. In the eyes of the court, the customary claim charts (which show the relevant patent claims and the corresponding passages of the standard) will typically be sufficient. However, the description does not need to be as thorough as a statement of claim in patent litigation.
    2. The SEP owner’s licensing offer
      The court stated that the SEP proprietor’s written license offer needs to contain all relevant aspects of the contract, to enable the alleged infringer to accept the offer. [451] If the alleged infringer argues that the conditions of this offer are not FRAND – and, according to the court, alleged infringers typically do so – it is not the role of the infringement court to examine the conditions of the offer and decide whether they are FRAND or not. The Court acknowledged that the Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe had rejected this view in the decision 6 U 55/16 of 31 May 2016. [452] The Mannheim District Court, however, reiterated its view that a reduced standard of review of the offered conditions is sufficient, referring to the final opinion given by the Advocate General in the ZTE/Huawei ruling. [451] It was, the court argued, the CJEU’s intention to keep the infringement proceedings free of the determination as to what precise conditions would exactly be FRAND in each particular situation. [451] Only an offer that is clearly abusive, i.e. evidently non-FRAND, would not meet the CJEU criteria at this point. [451]
      Of course, the SEP proprietor’s mere assertion that the offer is FRAND would be insufficient. [451] Instead, the Court requires the SEP proprietor to be transparent about the calculation. That means that it needs to specify how the terms of the license offer are calculated. [453] It needs to make clear the basis of the SEP proprietor’s conclusion that the offer is FRAND. Merely stating the royalties owed per unit (in this case: USD 1,- per unit without further explanation) [454] is also insufficient. Rather, the SEP proprietor needs to find a proper way of substantiating its view as to what royalties are owed. This could be a standard license agreement entered into with third parties, or other references such as fees for a pool license that contains SEPs of the respective standard.
      The SEP proprietor needs to make these explanations before it commences infringement proceedings. [455] Only then, the alleged infringer is able to assess the situation unburdened by the treat of an ongoing court case. The Court was aware that the Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf had recently (Case No. I – 15 U 36/16, 9 May 2016) expressed its view that this understanding might be overly formal. However, the Mannheim District Court upheld its opinion that only a thorough explanation by the SEP proprietor enabled the alleged infringer an informed decision as to whether the license offer is FRAND. [455]
      The Court held that, in theory, the claimant could be exempt from this transparency obligation if the defendant had been unwilling to enter into a license agreement. [456] However, in the case at issue the defendant had demonstrated its willingness to enter into a license agreement. The Court took into account four factors:
      1. the defendant’s had repeatedly requested the claimant to explain the basis of the license offer calculation, [456]
      2. the defendant had offered to transfer some of its own patents in exchange, [456]
      3. the defendant had made an offer and had commissioned an expert opinion that elaborated why the respective conditions were FRAND, [456]
      4. the defendant had deposited a substantial amount. [457]
    3. Standard Implementer’s Reaction
      The Court repeated its view expressed in the decision 2 O 106/14 of 27 November 2015. [458] Accordingly, the alleged infringer needs to respond to the SEP proprietor’s offer, even if the infringer considers that the offer does not meet the FRAND criteria. The only possible exception is an offer that, by means of summary examination, is clearly not FRAND and therefore constitutes an abuse of market power. A potential counter offer needs to be made in due course, which means as soon as possible, taking into account the recognized commercial practices in the field and good faith.
  • [450] Case No. 7 O 19/16, para 77
  • [451] Case No. 7 O 19/16, para 78
  • [452] Case No. 7 O 19/16, para 76
  • [453] Case No. 7 O 19/16, para 79
  • [454] Case No. 7 O 19/16, para 84
  • [455] Case No. 7 O 19/16, para 86
  • [456] Case No. 7 O 19/16, para 87
  • [457] Case No. 7 O 19/16, para 88
  • [458] Case No. 7 O 19/16, para 80

Updated 26 1月 2017

Saint Lawrence v Vodafone

OLG Düsseldorf
9 5月 2016 - Case No. I-15 U 36/16

  1. Facts
    The proceedings concerned the subsequent application of Defendant in Case No. 4a O 73/14 seeking to suspend the execution of the district court’s decision until the appellate court has decided on the merits of an appeal brought by Defendant. As to the facts of the case, it can be referred to the summary above.
    Due to the specific nature of the proceedings, the standard of review was limited to a summary examination of the decision rendered by the court of first instance. The court of appeal can suspend execution only if it comes to the conclusion that the challenged decision will probably not be upheld in second instance because it appears manifestly erroneous.
  2. Court’s reasoning
    1. Notice of infringement and declaration of willingness to license
      Firstly, the court of appeal focused on the Huawei requirement to submit an infringement notification prior to the initiation of proceedings. Although the court voiced some doubts over whether a distinction between transitional and non-transitional cases is permitted and whether, in transitional cases, reliance of a SEP proprietor on the Orange Book standard of conduct is worthy of protection, it did not consider the result reached by the lower court as manifestly erroneous. Since the SEP proprietor has the option to withdraw its action, to perform its Huawei obligations and to re-file the claim afterwards, it seems overly formalistic to deny the option to perform the Huawei obligations within the ongoing trial. Among a number of further reasons [459] for its position the court stressed that the ECJ intended the Huawei framework to be fact-sensitive. [460]
      Secondly, the court confirmed the lower court’s view that Defendant did not comply with its Huawei obligation to express its willingness to conclude a licensing agreement because it reacted belatedly (more than five months after the infringement notification) and in an evasive manner. The fact that proceedings have been initiated by Claimant does not alter the Huawei requirements and Defendant will particularly not be granted more time to comply with its respective obligations. [461]
    2. The SEP owner’s licensing offer / The standard implementer’s reaction
      The court left it undecided whether the lower court erred in focusing on a licensing offer which Claimant presented solely to the Intervener but not to Defendant. According to the court the conduct of the parties required by Huawei constitutes a mechanism of alternating, consecutive steps in which no subsequent conduct requirement is triggered unless the other party performed the previous “step”. In consequence, Claimant was, in the present case, not obliged to submit a FRAND licensing offer at all since Defendant had failed to signal willingness to license. [462]
      The lower court’s finding that Claimant’s licensing offer was FRAND while the Intervener’s counter-offer failed to meet this threshold was accepted. Hence, the court considered it as irrelevant under the present circumstances—and as a completely open question in general—whether a SEP proprietor is obliged, before bringing an action for prohibitory injunction against the supplier of a standard-implementing device, to (cumulatively) submit a FRAND licensing offer not only to the supplier but also to the producer of said device. [463]
  3. Other important issues
    The remarks of the lower court rejecting, in the present case, a patent ambush-argument were not deemed manifestly erroneous, mainly because the lower court had reasonably argued that such an abusive practice would only result in the SEP proprietor’s obligation to grant licenses on FRAND terms. [464]
    Licensing negotiations (allegedly) undertaken by Defendant after the decision of the lower court provided no reason to suspense execution since it was not evident to the court that Defendant had thereby fulfilled its Huawei obligations. [465]
  • [459] For details, cf. OLG Düsseldorf, 9 May 2016 - Case No. I-15 U 36/16, para. 2, b, aa
  • [460] Case No. I-15 U 36/16, para. 2, b, aa
  • [461] Case No. I-15 U 36/16, para. 2, b, bb
  • [462] Case No. I-15 U 36/16, para. 2, b, cc
  • [463] Case No. I-15 U 36/16, para. 2, b, ff
  • [464] Case No. I-15 U 36/16, para. 2, b, ee
  • [465] Case No. I-15 U 36/16, para. 2, b, dd

Updated 3 12月 2018

IP Bridge v HTC

LG Mannheim
28 9月 2018 - Case No. 7 O 165/16

A. Facts

The Claimant, IP Bridge, is a non-practising entity holding a European patent (German part) which was declared essential to the wireless telecommunications standard LTE (Standard Essential Patent or SEP) developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) [466] . The previous holder of the SEP in question had made an undertaking towards ETSI according to Article 6.1 of ETSI IPR Policy to make the patent accessible to users on Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions [467] .

The Defendant is a German subsidiary of HTC, a company which manufactures and sells electronic devices worldwide, including mobile phones complying with the LTE standard [468] . The Defendant filed an action for invalidity against the Claimant’s SEP in Germany [468] .

In December 2014, the Claimant contacted the Defendant’s parent company (parent company) suggesting that the parties entered into negotiations regarding a licence for Claimant’s patent portfolio which also included the aforementioned SEP [468] . Subsequently, several licensing offers and counter-offers were made by the Claimant and the parent company respectively [468] . On 29 February 2016, the Claimant sent a letter to the parent company explaining how the LTE standard made use of the technology covered by its SEP inter alia under reference to an attached claims chart [469] . In response, the parent company confirmed that it is willing to obtain a licence, among others, by letter dated 7 September 2016 [470] . However, no licensing agreement was concluded.

On 27 September 2016, the Claimant brought an infringement action against the Defendant before the District Court of Mannheim (Court) requesting for a declaratory judgment confirming Defendant’s liability for damages arising from the use of its SEP as well as for information and rendering of accounts [471] .

On 16 February 2018, during the course of the pending proceedings against the Defendant, the Claimant made a further licensing offer to the parent company [472] . On 11 April 2018, after the parent company had signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement, the Claimant presented existing licensing agreements with third parties concerning its relevant patent portfolio (comparable agreements) to the parent company and requested the latter to respond to its last licensing offer of 16 February 2018 within one week (that is until 18 April 2018) [472] . This deadline was extended for almost three weeks until 7 May 2018 [472] .

On 15 May 2018, the Claimant extended its claims in the ongoing proceedings; in addition to its already pending claims, it sought for injunctive relief and also requested the recall and the destruction of products infringing its SEP (claims for injunction) [472] .

With the present judgment the Court ruled that the Defendant is liable for damages arising from the infringement of the SEP in suit [473] . The Court also ordered the Defendant to render accounts and to provide relevant information to the Claimant [473] . On the other hand, the Court dismissed the claim for injunctive relief and the recall and destruction of infringing products as being unenforceable for the time being [474] .


B. Court’s reasoning

The Court held that the products sold by the Defendant in Germany infringe Claimant’s SEP [475] . Thus, the Defendant is obliged to compensate the damages suffered by the Claimant and the previous holder of the patent in suit [473] . Since the Claimant has no knowledge of the details required for the quantification of the damages suffered, the Defendant is obliged to provide information on relevant uses (starting from the publication of the patent grant) and render accounts for such uses (starting from one month after the publication of the patent grant) [473] .

In the Court’s view, the Defendant cannot raise a defence based on a so-called “patent ambush” against these claims [476] . A “patent ambush” requires that the patent holder deliberately – in terms of a willful fraudulent misconduct – misled the participants in the standardisation process and intentionally prevented the adoption of an alternative technology into the standard [477] . Insofar, it needs to be established (by the defendant) that the disclosure of the patent during the standardisation process would have led to an alternative structure of the standard, which would have avoided making use of the teaching of the patent in suit; the mere theoretical possibility of an alternative technical solution does not suffice for supporting the allegation of a “patent ambush” [477] . The Court held that the Defendant failed to establish such fact [476] . Accordingly, the Court left the question regarding the legal consequences of a “patent ambush” open (obligation to licence royalty-free or just an obligation to offer FRAND licences?) [476] .

Furthermore, the Court stressed out that the FRAND undertaking given by the previous holder of the SEP in suit has no impact on both the scope and the enforceability of the above claims [478] .

In the Court’s eyes, the Claimant is bound to the FRAND undertaking made by the previous holder of the SEP in suit towards ETSI [479] . The wording of Article 6.1. ETSI IPR Policy establishes a respective assumption [479] . In any case, the assignee of a SEP abuses its market power, if it is aware of the FRAND-undertaking of its predecessor, but, nevertheless, refuses to fulfil the obligations arising from it [469] . The assignee of an SEP cannot draw benefits from the inclusion of its patent into a standard, without being bound to the FRAND commitment of its predecessor, since the latter enabled the inclusion of the SEP in the standard in the first place [469] . Indeed, antitrust law and particularly Article 101 of the Treaty for the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) obliges standard development organisations to make the inclusion of patented technology into a standard subject to a FRAND commitment of the patent holder, in order to secure that essential technology will be accessible to users [480] .

Having said that, the Court made clear that SEP holder’s claims for information and rendering of accounts are not limited by the FRAND undertaking [478] . Even if one would assume that such undertaking limits the SEP holder’s claims for damages to the amount of the FRAND royalty (which the Court left undecided), the patent holder would, nevertheless, be entitled, in principle, to information regarding the use of its SEP [478] .

In addition, the Court explained that a FRAND undertaking has also no influence on the enforceability of the claims for damages (on the merits), information and rendering of accounts asserted by the Claimant [478] . In particular, these claims are not subject to the conduct requirements set forth by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in the matter Huawei v ZTEHuawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgement dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-130/13. (Huawei requirements or framework) with respect to dominant undertakings in terms of Article 102 TFEU [482] .

The opposite is, on the other hand, the case with respect to the claims for injunction asserted by the Claimant. These claims are not enforceable for the time being, since the Claimant failed to fully comply with the Huawei requirements [483] .

Regarding to the SEP in suit, the Court ruled that the Claimant has a dominant market position in terms of Article 102 TFEU: The patent is essential to the LTE standard, which, in turn, cannot be substituted by an alternative standard (from the users’ point of view) [484] .

Looking at the negotiations between the parties involved, the Court did not see any flaws in the parties’ conduct with respect to the first two steps of the framework; the Claimant had effectively notified the Defendant about the infringing use of its SEP and the Defendant (in fact, its parent company) had effectively declared its willingness to obtain a licence covering also the SEP in suit [469] . In this context, the Court pointed out that the SEP holder’s obligation to notify the user of the infringing use of its SEP is also met, when the respective notification is addressed to the parent company of the (alleged) infringer (as is was the case here, especially with the Claimant’s letter to the parent company dated 29 February 2016) [469] .

However, the Court held that the Claimant failed to fulfil its consequent obligation under the Huawei framework, namely to make a FRAND licensing offer to the Defendant (respectively its parent company) [485] .

The Court considered only two offers made by the Claimant to the Defendant’s parent company prior to the extension of its claims in the pending proceedings on 15 May 2018 (since the other offers made were either indisputably not FRAND or were not produced by the Claimant in trial) [470] .

An offer made in February 2016 was found not to be FRAND in terms of content, since it contained a clause, according to which the licensee was obliged to pay the full amount of the royalties agreed, even if only one patent of the licensed portfolio was valid and used by the Defendant [470] .

The Court reached the same conclusion also with respect to the further offer made by the Claimant on 11 April 2018 (that is short before the Claimant extended its claims in the proceedings, adding the claims for injunction) [486] . The Court held that this offer did not comply with the Huawei requirements, since the Defendant was not given sufficient time to assess the offer and eventually make a counter-offer to the Claimant, before the latter asserted the claims for injunction against him in the proceedings [470] .

In the Court’s eyes, a licensing offer complying with the Huawei requirements is only given, when the SEP holder provides the SEP user with all information required from assessing the FRAND conformity of the offer [487] . Only then, the SEP user’s consequent obligation under the Huawei framework to make a FRAND counter-offer to the SEP holder is triggered [487] . In particular, the SEP holder must make the requested royalty amount transparent with reference to a standard licensing programme implemented in the market or to rates actually paid by third parties to a patent pool, covering also patents relevant to the standard [487] . For the assessment of the non-discriminatory character of the offer, information on comparable agreements is needed [487] .

Based on the above considerations, the Court held that the period of 22 workdays between the presentation of the comparable agreements to the parent company (11 April 2018) and the assertion of the injunction claims in the proceedings by the Defendant (15 May 2018) was too short for a competent assessment of the Claimant’s licensing offer [488] . The fact that the Defendant (and/or its parent company) would have had sufficient time to react to the Claimant’s offer until the end of the oral hearings in mid-July 2018 was considered irrelevant by the Court in this respect [488] . The Huawei framework aims at preventing the situation, in which the SEP user agrees to unfavourable licensing conditions under the pressure of pending infringement proceedings (defined by the Court as “patent hold-up”) [488] . In case that the SEP holder has not fulfilled the Huawei requirements prior to the initiation of proceedings (as it was the case here), it has to make sure that the parties can again negotiated without the pressure of an ongoing trial, for instance by asking the court to stay its proceedings pursuant to Article 251 of the German Court of Civil Procedure [489] . Otherwise, the initiation of the infringement proceedings shall be considered as abusive in terms of antitrust law [489] . In the present case, the Claimant chose to not ask for a stay in the proceedings, ignoring the Court’s respective indication [489] .


C. Other issues

The Court explained that the registration in the patent register allows the registered patent holder to assert the patent rights in court [490] . On the other hand, it does not define the ownership of the patent in material legal terms [491] . Nevertheless, the patent registration establishes an assumption of ownership which must be rebutted by the defendant in infringement proceedings based on concrete indications [492] .

Besides that, the Court pointed out that a stay in the infringement proceedings (pursuant to Article 148 of the German Code of Civil Procedure) until the end of parallel invalidation proceedings concerning the patent(s) in suit can be considered only under special circumstances [493] . As a rule, it must be expected with a sufficient degree of probability that the patent(s) in suit will be invalidated [493] . The Defendant failed convince the Court that this was the case with the SEP in suit [493] .

  • [466] District Court of Mannheim, judgment dated 28 September 2018, Case-No. 7 O 165/16, page 2 and 23.
  • [467] Ibid, page 23 et seq.
  • [468] Ibid, page 5.
  • [469] Ibid, page 25.
  • [470] Ibid, page 26.
  • [471] Ibid, pages 5 et seq.
  • [472] Ibid, page 6.
  • [473] Ibid, page 19.
  • [474] Ibid,page 23.
  • [475] Ibid, pages 16 et seqq.
  • [476] Ibid, page 20.
  • [477] Ibid, page 21.
  • [478] Ibid, page 22.
  • [479] Ibid, page 24.
  • [480] Ibid, pages 24 et seq.
  • [481] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgement dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-130/13.
  • [482] District Court of Mannheim, judgment dated 28 September 2018, Case-No. 7 O 165/16, pages 22.
  • [483] Ibid,pages 23 and 25.
  • [484] Ibid, page 23.
  • [485] Ibid, pages 23 and 25 et seq.
  • [486] Ibid, pages 26 et seqq.
  • [487] Ibid, page 27.
  • [488] Ibid, page 28.
  • [489] Ibid, page 29.
  • [490] Ibid, page 10.
  • [491] Ibid, pages 10 et seq.
  • [492] Ibid, page 11.
  • [493] Ibid, page 30.

Updated 3 12月 2018

District Court, LG Düsseldorf

LG Düsseldorf
11 7月 2018 - Case No. 4c O 81/17

A. Facts

The Claimant holds a patent essential to the data communication standards ADSL2+ and VDSL2 (Standard Essential Patent or SEP) [494] . The previous holder of the patent in question had declared towards the standardization organisation International Telecommunication Union (ITU) its willingness to make the patent accessible to users on Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions [495] .

The Defendant offers communication services in Germany to retail and wholesale clients, including DSL connections using the standards ADSL2+ and VDSL2 [496] .

The Intervener supplies the Defendant with equipment (especially DSL transceivers and DSL Boards), allowing network services based on the above standards [496] .

In January 2016, the Claimant brought an action against the Defendant before the District Court (Landgericht) of Düsseldorf (Court) requesting for a declaratory judgement recognizing Defendant’s liability for damages arising from the infringement of its SEP as well as the provision of information and the rendering of accounts (liability proceedings) [497] . During the course of these proceedings, the Claimant made two offers for a licensing agreement to the Defendant. The Defendant made a counter-offer to the Claimant and provided security for the use of the SEP [498] . The parties failed to reach an agreement.

In June 2016, the Defendant filed an action for a declaratory judgement against the Claimant before the Dublin High Court in Ireland, requesting the High Court to declare that both Claimant’s offers were not FRAND and that Defendant’s counter-offer was FRAND [499] . Taking the ongoing liability proceedings in Germany into account, the Dublin High Court stayed its proceedings [499] .

In September 2017, the Claimant brought a second action against the Defendant before the District Court of Düsseldorf, requesting for injunctive relief (injunction proceedings) [500] . In February 2018, the Claimant made another licensing offer to the Defendant in the pending injunction proceedings [498] .

With the present judgment, the Court dismissed Claimant’s action in the injunction proceedings [501] .


B. Court’s reasoning

Although the Court held that the services offered by the Defendant infringe the SEP in suit [502] , it found that the Claimant cannot enforce its patent rights for the time being [503] , since it failed to fully comply with the obligations stipulated by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) in the matter Huawei v ZTEHuaweiv ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13. (Huawei obligations or framework) with respect to dominant undertakings in terms of Article 102 of the Treaty for the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) [501] .

1. Dominant market position

The Court found that the Claimant holds a dominant market position in terms of Article 102 TFEU [505] .

In the Court’s eyes, the relevant market for assessing dominance with regards to SEPs is, as a rule, the (downstream) market for products or services implementing the standard, to which the SEP refers [506] . Each SEP outlines an own relevant (licensing) market, unless – from the SEP users’ perspective – equivalent alternative technologies for the same technical problem exist [507] . Since the Court held that, in the present case, none of the existing technological alternatives to the standards ADSL2+ and VDSL2 (e.g. HFC networks, LTE, HDSL, SHDSL, ADSL, SDSL, VDSL, fibre optic networks, radio relay technology or internet services via satellite) offers an equivalent solution to users [508] , it defined the relevant market as the market for products and services allowing for internet connections through DSL technology [509] .

Regarding to the subsequent question of whether the Claimant has a dominant position in the above market, the Court first made clear that ownership of a SEP does not per se establish such condition [510] . The fact that a patent is essential to a standard does neither give rise to the (rebuttable) presumption that the SEP holder can distort competition in downstream markets, because products complying with the standard need to use the SEP [510] . Since a high number of patents is usually declared as standard essential, not every SEP can actually (significantly) affect the competitiveness of products or services in downstream markets; the effect of each SEP on a downstream market has, therefore, to be established on a case-by-case basis by taking into account the circumstances of each individual case [510] .

The Court explained that a dominant market position is given, when the use of the SEP is required for entering the market, particularly for securing the general technical interoperability and compatibility of products or services under a standard [510] . The same is true, if the patent user could not market competitive products or services without a licence (for instance, because only a niche market exists for non-compliant products) [510] . No market dominance exists, however, when the SEP covers a technology which is only of little importance to the majority of the buyers in the relevant market [510] .

According to the Court, the latter was not the case here; on the contrary, the Defendant cannot offer competitive products or services in the market for DSL internet connections, without using the SEP in suit [511] .

2. Huawei framework

In the Court’s view, the parties to SEP licensing negotiations need to fulfill the mutual conduct obligations under the Huawei framework step by step and one after another [512] . The Court did not see any flaws in the parties’ conduct with respect to the first two steps of the Huawei framework (SEP holder’s notification of infringement and SEP user’s declaration of willingness to obtain a licence), held, however, that the Claimant did not meet its consequent obligation to make a FRAND licensing offer to the Defendant [513] .

Notification of infringement

The Court found that the Claimant had fulfilled its obligation to notify the Defendant about the infringing use of the SEP in suit prior to the commencement of the injunction proceedings [514] .

First, the Court pointed out that a respective notification (as well as a later licensing offer) can be made by the SEP holder itself, or by any other affiliated company within the same group of companies, especially by the patent holder’s parent company [515] . On the other hand, it is not required that the infringement notification is addressed to the company that will later be party to the infringement proceedings; in general, it is sufficient to address the notification to the parent company within a group of companies [515] .

In terms of content, the notification of infringement must name the patent in suit (including the patent number) and indicate the contested embodiments as well as the (allegedly) infringing acts of use [516] . A detailed (technical and/or legal) explanation of the infringement (particularly an analysis of how the individual features of the patent claims are infringed) is not required; the addressee needs just to be put in the position to assess the infringement allegations, if necessary by seeking expert advice [516] . In this context, the Court disagreed with the District Court of Mannheim which had requested the SEP holder to inform the user about the essentiality of the patent to the standard and/or attach claim charts to the notification of infringement [516] .

In terms of timeliness, the Court took the view that the notification of infringement can be made alongside with SEP holder’s offer for a FRAND licence to the user (prior to the initiation of court proceedings) [517] . In this case, the second step under the Huawei framework will be skipped (that is the SEP user’s declaration of its willingness to obtain a licence). According to the Court, this fact does not, however, have an impact on the SEP holder’s position: If the SEP user is willing to enter into a licence, this approach would safe time (although the SEP user should be granted more time than usual to assess and react to both the notification of infringement and the FRAND offer) [517] . If, on the other hand, the SEP user is unwilling to obtain a FRAND licence, then the SEP holder will just have made a licensing offer absent a respective obligation under the Huawei framework [517] .

In the present case, the fact that the Claimant did not make a separate notification of infringement prior to the initiation of the injunction proceedings, was not considered problematic. The Court pointed out that the Defendant was fully informed about the infringement allegation by the action for damages raised by the Claimant long before the injunction proceedings, so that a separate notification was not required [518] .

Willingness to obtain a FRAND licence

The Court further found that the Defendant had fulfilled its Huawei obligation to express its willingness to obtain a FRAND licence [519] .

In terms of content, no high demands should be placed on the SEP user’s respective declaration; it is not subject to formal requirements and can be of a general nature, as long as the willingness to obtain a licence is clearly stated [520] . Given the circumstances of the specific case, even an implicit behaviour can suffice [520] .

In terms of timeliness, the Court held that a strict deadline, within which the SEP user ought to make its declaration, cannot be set [521] . The respective time frame must be determined on a case-by-case basis under consideration of the circumstances of each case [521] . If the SEP holder’s notification of infringement contains only the minimum required information, a reaction within a period of five or even three months at the most could be expected [521] . In case that the infringement notification contains information going beyond the required minimum, an even quicker reaction could be required from the SEP user under certain circumstances [521] .

In the present case, the Court held that the Defendant has implicitly declared its willingness to enter into a FRAND licence with the Claimant at the latest at the point in time, in which the injunction proceedings were initiated [522] . At that time, the Defendant had already made a counter-offer for a FRAND licence to the Claimant and had also provided security for the use of Claimant’s patents [523] .

In this context, the Court noted that neither the fact that the Defendant contested Claimant’s claims in the parallel liability proceedings not the fact that it raised an action for declaratory judgement against the Claimant before the Dublin High Court can support the argument that the Defendant has deviated from its previous declaration of willingness [524] .

SEP holder’s licensing offer

The Court held that the offer which the Claimant made to the Defendant in course of the injunction proceedings was not FRAND [525] . Since the Claimant expressly relied only on this offer to establish its compliance with the Huawei framework, the Court did not assess the FRAND conformity of the two previous offers of the Claimant to the Defendant [498] .

In terms of timeliness, the Court stressed out that the SEP holder must make a FRAND licensing offer to the user before the initiation of infringement proceedings [526] . Under German procedural law, proceedings are initiated after the claimant has made the required advance payment on costs, even if the statement of claims has not been served to the defendant, yet [527] .

The Court did not rule out that SEP holder’s failure to fulfil its Huawei obligations prior to the commencement of infringement proceedings can be remedied during the course of the proceedings [528] . Depending on the circumstances of each case, the SEP holder should be given the opportunity – within the limits of procedural deadlines – to react to (justified) objections of the SEP user and eventually modify its offer [528] . Denying the SEP holder this opportunity without exceptions would be contrary to the principle of procedural economy; the patent holder would be forced to withdraw its pending action, make a modified licensing offer to the patent user and, subsequently, sue the latter again [528] . In this context, the Court explained that failure to meet the Huawei obligations does not permanently impair SEP holder’s rights [529] . Notwithstanding the above, the Court made, however, clear that the possibility of remedying a flawed licensing offer is subject to narrow limits; the CJEU intended to relieve licensing negotiations between SEP holder and SEP user from the burden imposed on parties by ongoing infringement proceedings, and particularly the potential undue pressure to enter into a licensing agreement which such proceedings can put on the SEP user [530] .

Against this background, the Court expressed doubts that the Claimant’s licensing offer, which was made in the course of the pending injunction proceedings could be considered as timely [500] . Nevertheless, the Court left this question open, because, in its eyes, the Claimant’s offer was not FRAND in terms of content [531] .

The Court did not deem necessary to decide whether the FRAND conformity of the SEP holder’s offer must be fully assessed in infringement proceedings, or whether only a summary assessment of its compatibility with FRAND suffices [532] . In the Court’s view, Claimant’s offer was anyway both not fair and discriminatory [533] .

Fair and reasonable terms

The Court held that the licensing terms offered by the Claimant to the Defendant were not fair and reasonable [534] .

First, the terms did not adequately consider the effects of patent exhaustion [535] . As a rule, FRAND requires licensing offers to contain respective provisions [536] . The clause contained in Claimant’s offer, establishing the possibility of a reduction of the royalties owed by the Defendant in case of the exhaustion of licensed patents, is not fair, because it puts the burden of proof regarding to the amount of the reasonable reduction of the royalties on the Defendant’s shoulders [537] .

Second, the clause, according to which Defendant’s payment obligations regarding to past uses of the SEP in suit should be finally settled without exceptions and/or the possibility to claim reimbursement, was also considered not fair [538] . The Defendant would be obliged to pay royalties for past uses, although it is not clear whether the Claimant is entitled to such payments [539] .

Third, the Court found that the exclusion of the Defendant’s wholesale business from Claimant’s licensing offer was also not fair [540] . According to the principle of contractual autonomy, patent holders are free to choose to which stage of the distribution chain they offer licences [541] . In the present case, however, excluding a significant part of the Defendant’s overall business, namely the wholesale business, from the licensing offer, hinders a fair market access [541] .

Non-discrimination

Besides from the above, the Court ruled that the Claimant’s offer was discriminatory [542] .

To begin with, the Court stressed out that FRAND refers to a range of acceptable royalty rates: As a rule, there is not only a single FRAND-compliant royalty rate [532] . Furthermore, as far as a corresponding commercial/industry practice exists, offers for worldwide portfolio licences are, in general, in line with the Huawei framework, unless the circumstances of the individual case require a different approach (for instance a limitation of the geographical scope of the licence, in case that the user is active only in a single market) [543] .

Furthermore, the Court explained that the non-discriminatory element of FRAND does not oblige the SEP holder to treat all users uniformly [544] . The respective obligation applies only to similarly situated users, whereas exceptions are allowed, provided that a different treatment is justified [544] . In any case, SEP holders are obliged to specify the royalty calculation in a manner that allows the user to assess whether the offered conditions are non-discriminatory or not. The respective information needs to be shared along with the licensing offer; only when the SEP user has obtained this information a licensing offer triggering an obligation of the latter to react is given [545] .

In the Court’s view, presenting all existing essential licensing agreements concluded with third parties, covering the SEPs in suit or a patent portfolio including said SEPs (comparable agreements), has priority over other means for fulfilling this obligation [546] . In addition, SEP holders have to produce also court decisions rendered on the FRAND-conformity of the rates agreed upon in the comparable agreements, if such decisions exist [547] .

Whether presenting comparable agreements (and relevant case law) suffices for establishing the non-discriminatory character of the offered royalty rates depends on the number and the scope of the available agreementsI [548] . In case that no or not enough comparable agreements exist, SEP holders must (additionally) present decisions referring to the validity and/or the infringement of the patents in question and agreements concluded between other parties in the same or a comparable technical field, which they are aware of [549] . If the SEP in suit is part of a patent portfolio, SEP holders must also substantiate the content of the portfolio and its impact on the offered royalty rates [550] .

Having said that, the Court pointed out that an unequal treatment resulting in a discrimination in antitrust terms is not only at hand, when a dominant patent holder grants preferential terms to specific licensees, but also when it chooses to enforce its exclusion rights under a SEP in a selective manner [551] . The latter is the case, when the SEP holder brings infringement actions only against certain competitors and, at the same time, allows other competitors to use its patent(s) without a licence [551] . However, such a conduct is discriminatory only if, depending on the overall circumstances of each case (for instance, the extend of the infringing use and the legal remedies available in the country, in which claims need to be asserted), it would have been possible for the SEP holder with reasonable efforts to enforce its patent rights against other infringers (which it was or should have been aware of) [551] . In favour of an equal treatment of competitors, the level of action which must be taken by the SEP holder in this respect should not be defined narrowly [551] . However, it has to be taken into account, that – especially in the early stages of the implementation of a standard – the SEP holder will usually not have the means required to enforce its rights against a large number of infringers; in this case, the choice to enforce its rights only against infringers with market strength first appears reasonable [552] .

Based on the above considerations, the Court ruled that the Claimant’s choice to sue only the Defendant and its two main competitors, without asserting the SEP in suit against the rest of their competitors, respectively against their suppliers, was discriminatory [553] . The Claimant should have already, at least, requested the companies, against which no action was filed, to obtain a licence, particularly since the remaining period of validity of the SEP in suit is limited [554] . Furthermore, the Court found that the Claimant’s refusal to make a licensing offer to the Intervener, although the latter had requested for a licence, was also discriminatory; in the Court’s view, the Claimant failed to provide an explanation justifying this choice [555] .

Since the Claimant’s offer was found to be non-compliant with FRAND, the Court refrained from ruling on the conformity of Defendant’s counter-offer and the security provided with the Huawei framework [556] .


C. Other issues

The Court ruled that in accordance with Article 30 para. 3 of the German Patent Law (PatG) the registration in the patent register establishes the presumption of ownership, allowing the entity which is registered as patent holder to assert the rights arising from the patent before court [557] .

  • [494] District Court of Düsseldorf, 11 July 2018, Case-No. 4c O 81/17Ibid, paras. 3 and 82.
  • [495] Ibid, para. 13.
  • [496] Ibid, para. 12.
  • [497] Ibid, paras. 14 and 211.
  • [498] Ibid, para. 15.
  • [499] Ibid, para. 16.
  • [500] Ibid, para. 236.
  • [501] Ibid, paras. 140 and 313 et seqq.
  • [502] Ibid, paras. 114 et seqq.
  • [503] Ibid, paras. 60 and 140.
  • [504] Huaweiv ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [505] Ibid, para. 142.
  • [506] Ibid, para. 148.
  • [507] Ibid, paras. 153 and 146.
  • [508] Ibid, paras. 159 - 181.
  • [509] Ibid, para. 158.
  • [510] Ibid, para. 147.
  • [511] Ibid, paras. 183 et seqq.
  • [512] Ibid, para. 191.
  • [513] Ibid, para. 188.
  • [514] Ibid, paras. 195 et seqq.
  • [515] Ibid, para. 199.
  • [516] Ibid, para. 198.
  • [517] Ibid, para. 200.
  • [518] Ibid, para. 203.
  • [519] Ibid, para. 205.
  • [520] Ibid, para. 208.
  • [521] Ibid, para. 207.
  • [522] Ibid, para. 210.
  • [523] Ibid, para. 212.
  • [524] Ibid, paras. 215 et seq.
  • [525] Ibid, para. 220.
  • [526] Ibid, paras. 222 et seqq.
  • [527] Ibid, para. 225.
  • [528] Ibid, para. 233.
  • [529] Ibid, para. 228.
  • [530] Ibid, para. 230.
  • [531] Ibid, para. 237.
  • [532] Ibid. para. 241.
  • [533] Ibid, para. 242.
  • [534] Ibid, paras. 283 et seqq.
  • [535] Ibid, para. 285.
  • [536] Ibid, para. 288.
  • [537] Ibid, paras. 292 et seq.
  • [538] Ibid, paras. 298 et seqq.
  • [539] Ibid, para. 301.
  • [540] Ibid, para. 306.
  • [541] Ibid, para. 311.
  • [542] Ibid, para. 271.
  • [543] Ibid, para. 250.
  • [544] Ibid, para. 248.
  • [545] Ibid, para. 267.
  • [546] Ibid, paras. 256 and 259 et seq.
  • [547] Ibid, para. 262.
  • [548] bid, paras. 258 and 264.
  • [549] Ibid, paras. 263 and 265.
  • [550] Ibid, para. 265.
  • [551] Ibid, para. 273.
  • [552] Ibid, para. 274.
  • [553] Ibid, para. 276.
  • [554] Ibid, para. 277.
  • [555] Ibid, para. 281.
  • [556] Ibid, para. 315.
  • [557] Ibid, paras. 75 et seq.

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 [558] 。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 [559]


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 [560] 。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 [561]

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 [562] 。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 [563]  。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 [564]

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 [565]  。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  [566]

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 [567]  。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。 [568]  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 [569] 。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 [570] 。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  [571]

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 [572] 。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 [573] 。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 [574]

  • [558] 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。
  • [559] 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。
  • [560] 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。
  • [561] 同判決、第4.118節 以下。
  • [562] 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。
  • [563] 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。
  • [564] 同判決、第4.155節及び第4.157節。
  • [565] 同判決、第4.159節。
  • [566] 同判決、第4.164節。
  • [567] 同判決、第4.171節。
  • [568] 同判決、第4.172節。
  • [569] 同判決。
  • [570] 同判決、第4.172節ないし第4.179節。
  • [571] 同判決、第4.179節。
  • [572] 同判決、第4.183節。
  • [573] 同判決、第4.185節。
  • [574] 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 [575] 、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 [576] 。係争中の特許の必須性は、両当事者間で争われなかった [577]

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 [578] 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 [579] 。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 [580] 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 [581]

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 [581] 。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 [581]

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) [582] とハーグ控訴裁判所(Philips対Asus) [583] 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 [584] 。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 [585]

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 [586] 。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 [586] 。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 [586] 。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 [586]

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 [587]

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 [588] 。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 [589] 。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 [588] 。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 [582]

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 [590] 。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 [591] 。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 [592]

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 [593] 。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 [593] 。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 [593] 。 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 [594] 。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 [594]

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 [595]

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 [595]

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 [595] 。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 [595] 。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 [595]

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 [592]

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 [592] 。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 [592]

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 [592]

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 [596] 。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 [596] 。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 [597]

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 [598] 。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 [598]

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 [599] 。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 [600] 。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 [600]

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 [597] 。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 [597] 。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 [597] 。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 [597] 。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 [597]

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 [601]

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 [597] 。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 [581]

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 [577] 。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 [577] 。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 [601] 。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 [601]


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 [602]

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 [602] 。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 [603]

  • [575] 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。
  • [576] 同判決、17~31頁。
  • [577] 同判決、46頁。
  • [578] Huawei対ZTE、EU司法裁判所2015年7月16日判決、事件番号C-170/13。
  • [579] 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。
  • [580] 同判決、43頁及び51頁以下。
  • [581] 同判決、42頁。
  • [582] Unwired Planet対Huawei、英国控訴院2018年10月23日判決、[2018] EWCA Civ 2344、第282節。
  • [583] 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。
  • [584] 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。
  • [585] 同判決、44頁。
  • [586] 同判決、37頁。
  • [587] 同判決、47頁及び53頁。
  • [588] 同判決、38頁。
  • [589] 同判決、37頁。以下。
  • [590] 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。
  • [591] 同判決、39頁。
  • [592] 同判決、40頁。
  • [593] 同判決、53頁。
  • [594] 同判決、54頁。
  • [595] 同判決、55頁。
  • [596] 同判決、40頁及び49頁。
  • [597] 同判決、41頁。
  • [598] 同判決、49頁。
  • [599] 同判決、50頁。
  • [600] 同判決、51頁。
  • [601] 同判決、47頁。
  • [602] 同判決、35頁。
  • [603] 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) [604] . 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) [605] .

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 [606] .

MPEG LA uses a standard licensing agreement, which is publicly available at its website [607] . It has signed licensing agreements with approx. 1,400 implementers [607] .

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) [608] .

On 15 September 2011, the parent company asked MPEG LA to send any relevant documents by mail to its IPR Manager [609] . A copy of MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement reached the parent company in late September 2011 [610] .

In 2012, the parent company acquired patents included in the MPEG LA pool [605] .

Since MPEG-LA and the parent company could not reach an agreement on a licence covering the MPEG LA pool [611] , 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 [612] .

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 [613] . 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 [614] . 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 [615] .

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 [616] . 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 [617] (Huawei obligations or framework) with respect to dominant undertakings [618] .

1. Dominant market position

The Court found that the Claimant holds a dominant market position in terms of Article 102 TFEU [619] .

The Court defined the relevant market for the assessment of dominance as the market for licences for any given patent [620] . A dominant market position can further also exist, when the patent holder can hinder competition in downstream markets for standard-compliant products and services [620] .

The Court made, however, clear that ownership of a SEP does not per se establish market dominance [621] . A dominant market position is given, when the use of the SEP is required for entering the market [621] . The same is true, if the patent user could not market competitive products or services, without access to the respective SEP [621] .

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 [622] .

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 [623] . 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) [624] . 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 [625] .

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 [626] . 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 [627] ), since with respect to the SEP in suit a ‘routine’ practice already existed prior to the Huawei judgement [628] . The Court explained that the Huawei judgment does not contain either an explicit or an implicit limitation of its scope of application [629] . 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 [630] . 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 [631] . 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 [632] .

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 [633] .

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 [634] .

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 [635] . The sole fact that a company belongs to a group justifies such an assumption, unless indications to the contrary exist [635] . 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) [636] . 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 [637] . 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 [638] . 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 [639] .

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 [640] . 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 [641] . A notification of infringement is, therefore, not necessary, when it constitutes just a ‘pointless formality’ [641] . 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 [641] . The respective test is, however, subject to strict conditions [641] .

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) [642] . 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) [643] , 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 [644] .

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 [645] .

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 [646] . The implementer is not required to refer to a specific licensing agreement [646] .

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 [647] .

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 [648] .

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 [649] . 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 [650] . Whether subsidiaries can (or should) also be licensed, will be the object of these negotiations [651] . 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 [652] . 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 [653] .

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 [654] . 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 [655] .

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 [656] . 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) [657] . 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 [657] . 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 [657] . 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 [658] .

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 [659] . 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 [659] . 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 [660] .

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 [661] . 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 [661] . 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 [661] . In this respect, comparable agreements can serve as an ‘important indicator’ of the fair and reasonable character of the offered royalty rates [661] .

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 [662] . 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 [662] . 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 [663] . 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 [663] .

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 [664] . In the electronics and mobile communications industries, licences covering a group of companies are in line with the industry practice [665] . 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 [666] .

In addition, the Court made clear that pool licences, as the one offered to the parent company, are appropriate under the Huawei framework [667] . An offer for a pool licence cannot per se be seen as abusive (Article 101 TFEU) [668] . 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 [668] .

Implementer’s counter-offer

The Court found that the Defendant failed to make a FRAND counter-offer [669] .

Sending signed copies of MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement back to MPEG LA can be regarded as a counter-offer [670] . 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 [671] . 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 [672] .

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 [673] .

  • [604] Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (MPEG-LA) v ZTE, District Court of Düsseldorf, judgement dated 9 November 2018, cited by www.nrwe.de, para. 56.
  • [605] Ibid, para. 58
  • [606] Ibid, para. 57
  • [607] Ibid, para. 59
  • [608] Ibid, paras. 61 et seqq. and 340
  • [609] Ibid, para. 65
  • [610] Ibid, para. 66
  • [611] Ibid, para. 73
  • [612] Ibid, para. 42
  • [613] bid, para. 74
  • [614] Ibid, paras. 75 et seq
  • [615] Ibid, para. 75
  • [616] Ibid, paras. 127 – 254
  • [617] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13
  • [618] Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (MPEG-LA) v ZTE, District Court of Düsseldorf, judgement dated 9 November 2018, cited by www.nrwe.de, Ibid, para. 280
  • [619] Ibid, para. 283 and paras. 291 et seqq
  • [620] Ibid, para. 286
  • [621] Ibid, para. 287
  • [622] Ibid, paras. 291 et seqq
  • [623] Ibid, para. 296
  • [624] Ibid, para. 300
  • [625] Ibid, para. 302
  • [626] Ibid, para. 308
  • [627] 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
  • [628] Ibid, para. 305
  • [629] Ibid, paras. 306 et seqq
  • [630] Ibid, para. 310
  • [631] Ibid, para. 311
  • [632] Ibid, para. 312
  • [633] Ibid, para. 421
  • [634] Ibid, para. 314
  • [635] Ibid, para. 320
  • [636] Ibid, para. 318
  • [637] Ibid, para. 329
  • [638] Ibid, paras. 336 et seq
  • [639] Ibid, para. 338
  • [640] Ibid, para. 198
  • [641] Ibid, para. 315
  • [642] Ibid, paras. 340 et seq
  • [643] Ibid, paras. 342 et seqq
  • [644] Ibid, para. 344
  • [645] Ibid, para. 346
  • [646] Ibid, para. 348
  • [647] Ibid, para. 352
  • [648] Ibid, para. 367
  • [649] Ibid, para. 369
  • [650] Ibid, para. 370
  • [651] Ibid, para. 378
  • [652] Ibid, para. 371
  • [653] Ibid, para. 374
  • [654] Ibid, para. 376
  • [655] Ibid, para. 377
  • [656] Ibid, para. 380
  • [657] Ibid, para. 381
  • [658] Ibid, para. 386
  • [659] Ibid, para. 382
  • [660] Ibid, para. 387
  • [661] Ibid, para. 391
  • [662] Ibid, para. 392
  • [663] Ibid, para. 393
  • [664] Ibid, para. 397
  • [665] Ibid, para. 398
  • [666] Ibid, para. 399
  • [667] Ibid, para. 402
  • [668] Ibid, para. 404
  • [669] Ibid, para. 410
  • [670] Ibid, para. 413
  • [671] Ibid, para. 416
  • [672] Ibid, para. 417
  • [673] Ibid, para. 411

Updated 26 1月 2017

Saint Lawrence v Vodafone 2

OLG Düsseldorf
9 5月 2016 - Case No. I-15 U 35/16

The proceedings concerned the subsequent application of Defendant in Case No. 4a O 126/14 seeking to suspend execution of the lower court’s decision. As Cases No. 4a O 126/14 and No. 4a O 73/14 are interconnected, the Court came to the same conclusions and framed them in exactly the same wording as in its decision OLG Düsseldorf, 9 May 2016 - Case No. I-15 U 36/16 (cf. above). Therefore, no separate and detailed summary is provided here.


Updated 9 11月 2020

Nokia対Daimler、マンハイム地方裁判所

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

A. 内容

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

現行の判決で [674] 、本裁判所は、Daimlerに差止命令を下すとともに、本案に関するDaimlerの損害賠償責任を認めた。さらに本裁判所は、Nokiaへの損害賠償金の算定に必要な会計帳簿及び情報を提出するようDaimlerに命じた。

 

B. 判決理由

本裁判所は、係争中の特許をDaimlerが侵害したと認定した [675] 。これにより、Nokiaには差止命令等による救済手段が与えられた [676]

Daimler及び当該訴訟に参加したそのサプライヤーは、Nokiaが権利侵害訴訟の申立てにより市場支配的地位を濫用しており、これがEU機能条約第102条に違反していることから、差止命令が却下されるべきとして、いわゆる「FRAND宣言を理由とする抗弁」を主張した。とりわけ、Huawei v ZTE [677] (「Huawei裁定」又は「Huaweiフレームワーク」)事件でCJEUが定めた行動要件をNokiaが遵守していないと論じられた。

本裁判所は、Daimler及びそのサプライヤーのFRAND宣言を理由とする抗弁を理由がないとして棄却した [678]

 

Huaweiフレームワーク

本裁判所は、SEP保有者が特許に起因して生じる独占権の行使を本来的に妨げられないことを名言した [679] 。実際のところ、特許が規格に必須であっても、その特許権者に技術利用を許容する義務を負わせることにならない。但し、市場支配的地位を獲得した結果、そのような利用を認めていたか、その利用を認める義務を課されていた場合は、この限りでない [679]

特許権者がHuaweiフレームワークに基づく義務を履行しているのであれば、特許権の行使による市場支配的地位の濫用が生じることはない [680] 。但し上記の義務は、権利者の許諾なしに保護対象技術を既に利用している実施者がFRAND条件でのライセンス取得の意思を有していることを前提とする [681] 。本裁判所は、特許権者から規格利用者に対しライセンスを「押しつける」よう要請することはできないのであるから、ライセンス契約締結を要請する法的請求権については尚更有していないと説示した [681] 。その上、支配的地位に付される「特段の責任」により、SEP保有者は、原則としてライセンス取得の意思を有するライセンシーに契約締結を促すよう「十分な努力」を払う義務を負う [682]

 

権利侵害通知

本裁判所によれば、上記の「努力」には、その実施者に特許侵害について通知するだけでなく、権利侵害訴訟申立て前におけるライセンス取得の可能性および必要性を通知する義務が含まれる [683] 。具体的な事例を参照した結果、本裁判所は、Nokiaが当該義務を履行したと認めた [684]

内容について言えば、上記の権利侵害通知には、被侵害特許の明示並びに侵害性を有する使用法及び訴えの対象たる実施形態を記載しなければならない [683] 。権利侵害について技術的・法的観点から詳細に分析する必要はない。実施者の立場としては、結局は専門家又は弁護士の助言に依拠してその権利侵害の主張を評価するしかない [683] 。通例、クレームチャートが提示されれば十分である(但し、必須ではない) [683] 。さらに本裁判所は、特許権者がその特許を侵害している最終製品メーカーのサプライヤーそれぞれに対し、別個に権利侵害を通知する義務を負わないことを指摘した [685]

本裁判所の見地から、2016年6月21日、2016年11月9日及び2016年12月7日付のNokiaのEメールは、上記要件を満たしている [686] 。実際のところNokiaは、-少なくとも当初は-付託される係争中の特許に該当する標準規格書の具体的部分を示していなかったことは、害にはならない。これは、権利侵害の最終的な評価を行うに際し権利侵害通知が求められていなかったためである [687]

さらに本裁判所は、Nokiaが権利侵害通知において、関連規格によって接続機能を生み出す具体的なコンポーネント(Daimlerの車に組み込まれたTCU等)を特定する必要はないと判断した [688] 。Daimlerは当該コンポーネントを購入した上で自社製品に使用したのだから、情報不足は何ら生じるはずがなかった [688]

 

誠実意思

さらに本裁判所は、DaimlerがNokiaとのFRANDライセンス契約締結の意思を十分に明示ていないことから、差止命令を回避するためにFRAND宣言を理由とする抗弁に依拠できないと認定した [689]

本裁判所の見地から、実施者は、「どのような条件が実際にFRANDにあたるのかにかかわらず」SEP保有者とのライセンス契約を締結する意思について、「明確に」かつ「疑義の生じないよう」宣言した上で、爾後「目的志向」の意図にてライセンス供与の協議に従事しなければならなかった(Sisvel v Haier(連邦司法裁判所, 2020年5月5日, Case No. KZR 36/17)、及びUnwired Planet v Huawei(英国及びウェールズ高等法院、2017年4月5日, Case No. [2017] EWHC 711(Pat)の判決) [690] 。ライセンス供与の協議における実施者の「目的志向」は、決定的な重要性を有する。実施者は概して、ライセンス供与の協議が開始される前の時点で特許取得済の標準化技術を既に使用していることから、その特許の有効期間満了までライセンス契約締結を遅延させることに利得を有するが、これはHuawei裁定の趣旨に反する [691] 。よって、権利侵害の通知に対して、ライセンス契約締結を検討する意思を示したり、ライセンス取得の是非及びその条件についての協議に入る意思を示したりするだけでは不十分である [690]

本裁判所はさらに、一定条件下での誠実意思の宣言が許容されないと指摘した [690] 。さらに特許権者へのカウンターオファー内容変更協議の拒絶も、実施側の誠実意思欠如を示すものとみなされうる [690]

上記に基づき、本裁判所は、Daimlerが当初、製品がNokiaの特許を実際に侵害すればライセンス契約を締結すると示したことでは、DaimlerがFRANDライセンス契約を締結する意思を適切に示さなかったとの見解を示した [692] 。本裁判所は、Daimlerのカウンターオファーは契約締結にかかわる意思を十分に示したものになりえず、特に2度目のカウンターオファーについては、Nokiaが片務的に設定できたはずのロイヤルティ料率に異議を唱える権利をDaimlerに求めただけで、ライセンス料の決定に関する両当事者間の紛争を爾後の訴訟に持ち越しただけに過ぎないと付け加えた [693]

本裁判所はさらに、DaimlerがNokiaとの協議に関与しなかったにもかかわらず、自らのサプライヤーにNokiaから直接ライセンスを付与するよう強く主張したことから、Daimlerが「誠実意思を有する」ライセンシーとして行為していなかったと判示した [694] 。さらに、Daimlerの誠実意思の欠落は、NokiaのSEPポートフォリオに対するライセンス料の算定基準として、Daimlerがサプライヤーから購入したTCUの平均価格を適用するよう主張したことからも確認された [695]

 

FRAND料金の算定

本裁判所は、NokiaのSEPポートフォリオに対するロイヤルティ料率の算定に、TCUを「参考値」として使用することは適正でなかったと認定した [696]

一般に、FRAND条件は単一ではなく、FRANDのライセンス供与条件及び料金には幅が設定されるのが通例である [697] 。また、何がFRANDとみなされるかは、業界及び時期によって異なる場合がある [697]

しかしながら、本裁判所は、原則として「バリューチェーンの最終段階で商品として通用する最終製品にかかる技術の経済上の利益」を特許権者に「配分」しなければならないと指摘した [698] 。どの理由は、保護された発明を使用する最終製品で「経済上の利益」を獲得する「機会が創出する」、ためである [698] 。裁判所は、最終製品における特許技術の価値を斟酌して、SEP保有者がバリューチェーンの別の段階でなされるイノベーションから利益を得ているとの考えを認めなかった [699] 。裁判所は、これが生じないと確認するために入手可能な証拠文書が複数存在することを示した [699]

したがって、本裁判所は、いわゆる「最小販売可能特許実施単位(SSPPU)」、すなわち、製品に組み入れられる最小技術単位をFRANDロイヤルティ料率の算定根拠とする考えを否定した [699] 。特許消尽の影響により、SEP保有者は、バリューチェーン最終段階で創出される価値に関与することを妨げられる [699] 。これとは別に、この選択肢は、バリューチェーンの複数の段階において同一特許のライセンスが付与される「二重取り」の特定と回避をより複雑にするおそれがある [699] 。 それでもなお本裁判所は、上記の原則について、必ずしも専ら最終製品製造会社とライセンス契約締結を意味するものでないと明言した [700] 。本裁判所は、販売可能な最終製品の特許技術の価値がサプライチェーンの別の段階で計算に組み込まれる可能性が大いにあるとみなした [700]

この背景に照らし、本裁判所は、TCUの販売価格では、本事件の最終製品にあたるDaimler製造車に対するNokiaのSEPの価値が十分に反映されていないと認定した [701] 。TCUの販売価格が相応するのはDaimlerのそれぞれのコストのみである [702] 。むしろDaimlerは、接続機能により、顧客に追加サービスを提示してこれによる収入を得て、コストを節減し、研究開発費を最適化した [703] 。接続機能はこの価値創出の機会を保証するものである [704] 。さらに、本裁判所は、Daimlerの複数の主要競合会社が(専ら車製造会社にライセンスを付与する)Avanciプラットフォームのライセンシングモデルを承諾したことにより、最終製品向けの保護された技術の価値に焦点があてられることは、自動車業界にとっても合理的と認定した [705]

 

非差別性

さらに本裁判所は、NokiaのDaimlerに対する特許請求の申立ては差別的なものではなく、よってサプライヤーがライセンスを取得するべきとのDaimlerの主張が正当化されるものでないことを認めた [706]

裁判所は、特許権利者が基本的に、サプライヤーンの中で権利を主張する段階を自由に選択できることを説示した [707] 。競争関連法においてこの可能性は本来的に制限されていないため、市場支配的地位を有する特許権者も同様である [707] 。その上、支配的地位を有する特許権利者は、すべての見込ライセンシーに「標準料率」を申出する義務を負うものでない [707] 。TFEU第102条に定められた非差別性に関わる義務は、上流市場又は下流市場での競争の歪みを回避するためであるが、正当な根拠が十分に存在する場合にライセンシーの様々な取扱いを排除するものではない [708]

本件において、本裁判所は、ロイヤルティベースとして最終製品を使用すべきであるとのNokiaの請求が競争に影響を及ぼさないと判断した [709] 。特に、自動車業界では車メーカーに販売されるコンポーネントのライセンスをサプライヤーが取得することが一般的であるとの事実は、Nokiaに慣行の変更を求めるものでない。これは特に、AvanciプラットフォームからDaimlerの競合会社へのライセンス供与は、通信業界において実勢的なその慣行が自動車業界でも既に適用されていることを証しているためである [710] 。さらに本裁判所は、最終製品メーカーにSEPを主張することにより生産、販売及び技術発展の制限がもたらされ、これにより消費者が不利益を被るとはみなさなかった [711] 。この点に関し、本裁判所は、ETSI IPRポリシーに拠ればFRANDライセンスに含められるべきであり、かつ、コンポーネントメーカーに製品の製造、販売及び開発を認めるいわゆる「下請製造権」に言及した [712]

 

SEP保有者の申出/情報提供義務

さらに、本裁判所は、Nokiaがライセンスの申出に関し十分な情報を提供することを拒絶した旨をDaimlerが主張しても、Daimlerのライセンス取得する意思のないことを正当化できないと判示した [713]

本裁判所は、SEP保有者がライセンス要請のFRAND適合性を具体化する義務を負う可能性を指摘した [714] 。特許権利者は、第三者との間で非標準的な条件に基づき既に契約を締結している場合、一般的には、別の契約条件の申出を受けているかどうか実施者が評価できるようにするため、-少なくとも-重要な契約条項の内容を開示し、提示する義務を負う [714] 。各々の義務の範囲および詳細なレベルは、ケースバイケースで判断される [714]

上記に鑑みて、本裁判所は、車両の接続機能の価値に関する調査や他の主要車メーカーとの署名済みライセンス締結等を共有することにより、NokiaがDaimlerに十分な情報を提供していたとの見解を示した [715] 。この状況において、本裁判所は、NokiaがDaimlerに対し、スマートフォンメーカーとのライセンス契約を開示する義務を負っていなかったと示した。本裁判所は、SEP保有者の情報開示義務が、従前に署名されているあらゆるライセンス契約の全文に及んで適用されるとの意見や、SEP保有者がすべての既存契約を開示する義務を負うとの意見を拒絶した [716] 。さらに本裁判所は、通信業界でのライセンス契約は自動車業界でのライセンスのFRAND適合性評価とは無関係であると判示した [716]

 

サプライヤーによるFRAND宣言を理由とする抗弁

上記とは別に、本裁判所は、訴訟に参加したサプライヤーが提起したFRAND宣言を理由とする抗弁がDaimlerに利益をもたらさないことを強調した [717]

本裁判所は、訴えられている最終製品メーカーがそのサプライヤーにより提起されるFRAND抗弁に、原則として依拠できるかどうかについて結論を出さなかった。本裁判所によれば、これについてはいかなる場合であれ、サプライヤーが(製造するコンポーネントでなく)最終製品に対する対象特許の価値を根拠として特許権利者からライセンスを取得する意思を有している必要がある [718] 。本訴訟はこのような状況でなかった [719]

本裁判所は、サプライヤーがSEP保有者に支払ったロイヤルティをその顧客に転嫁することが難しいことを無視したわけではない [720] 。しかしながら、第三者との契約上の取決め(ここでは、サプライヤーと最終製品メーカーとの契約)は、裁判所の見地から、最終製品にかかわる特許技術により創出される価値への配分を認めないライセンス契約にSEP保有者に指示するものであってはならない [720]

 

C. その他の問題点

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

本裁判所は、Daimlerもそのサプライヤーも、Daimlerが製造した車に関する特許技術の価値に基づきFRAND条件でNokiaからライセンスを取得する意思を有していなかったため、これについて結論を出さなかった [721] 。さらに本裁判所は、係争中の特許の有効期限が今後数年で満了するとの事実に基づき、訴訟手続の停止命令に反対すると述べた [722]

  • [674] Nokia v Daimler(マンハイム地方裁判所, 2020年8月18日判決, 事件番号 2 O 34/19(www.juris.deから引用))
  • [675] 同判決、第49節乃至第136節。
  • [676] 同判決、第138節。
  • [677] Huawei v ZTE(欧州司法裁判所, 2016年7月16日判決、事件番号 C-170/13)
  • [678] Nokia v Daimler(マンハイム地方裁判所、2020年8月18日判決、事件番号 2 O 34/19, 第144節)
  • [679] 同判決、第146節。
  • [680] 同判決、第147節。
  • [681] 同判決、第148節。
  • [682] 同判決、第149節。
  • [683] 同判決、第152節。
  • [684] 同判決、第151乃至第156節。
  • [685] 同判決、第248節。
  • [686] 同判決、第153節以降。
  • [687] 同判決、第154節。
  • [688] 同判決、第155節。
  • [689] 同判決、第157乃至第231節。
  • [690] 同判決、第158節。
  • [691] 同判決、第159節。
  • [692] 同判決、第161節。
  • [693] 同判決、第197乃至第199節。
  • [694] 同判決、第157節、第160節及び第162節乃至第164節。
  • [695] 同判決、第160及び第165節乃至第168節。
  • [696] 同判決、第169節。
  • [697] 同判決、第170節。
  • [698] 同判決、第171節。
  • [699] 同判決、第172節。
  • [700] 同判決、第173節。
  • [701] 同判決、第174節以降。
  • [702] 同判決、第174節。
  • [703] 同判決、第177節。
  • [704] 同判決、第180節。
  • [705] 同判決、第187節以降。
  • [706] 同判決、第201節乃至第212節。
  • [707] 同判決、第202節。
  • [708] 同判決、第203節。
  • [709] 同判決、第205節。
  • [710] 同判決、第210節。
  • [711] 同判決、第213節。
  • [712] 同判決、第215節。
  • [713] 同判決、第216節以降。
  • [714] 同判決、第217節。
  • [715] 同判決、第218節。
  • [716] 同判決、第230節。
  • [717] 同判決、第232節以降。
  • [718] 同判決、第234及び第236節以降。
  • [719] 同判決、第240節以降。
  • [720] 同判決、第239節。
  • [721] 同判決、第253及び第291節。
  • [722] 同判決、第291節。

Updated 30 10月 2018

Unwired Planet v Huawei, UK Court of Appeal

英国裁判所の決定
23 10月 2018 - Case No. A3/2017/1784, [2018] EWCA Civ 2344

A. Facts

The Claimant, Unwired Planet International Limited, holds a significant portfolio of patents which are essential for the implementation of the 2G/GSM, 3G/UMTS and 4G/LTE wireless telecommunications standards (Standard Essential Patents, or SEPs). The Defendants, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and Huawei Technologies (UK) Co. Ltd., manufacture and sell mobile devices complying with the above standards worldwide.

Starting in September 2013, the Claimant contacted the Defendants several times, requesting the latter to engage in discussions for a licence regarding its SEP portfolio. [723] In March 2014, the Claimant sued the Defendants as well as Samsung and Google for infringement of five of its UK SEPs before the UK High Court of Justice (High Court). [724] The Claimant also initiated parallel infringement proceedings against the Defendants in Germany. [725]

The High Court conducted three technical trials first, focusing on the validity and essentiality of four of the SEPs in suit. [726] By April 2016, these trials were completed; the High Court held that two of the SEPs in suit were both valid and essential, whereas two other patents were found to be invalid. [726] The parties agreed to postpone further technical trials indefinitely. [726]

In July 2016, Samsung took a licence from the Claimant covering, among other, the SEPs in suit. [727] The Claimant also settled the infringement proceedings with Google. [728]

In late 2016, the trial concerned with questions regarding to the licensing of the SEPs in suit commenced between the Claimant and the Defendants. Over the course of these proceedings the parties made licensing offers to the each other. However, they failed to reach an agreement. The Defendants indicated they were willing to take a licence under Claimant’s UK patent portfolio, whereas the Claimant contended that it was entitled to insist upon a worldwide licence. [729]

In April 2017, the High Court granted an UK injunction against the Defendant, until such time as it entered into a worldwide licensing agreement with the Claimant on the specific rates, which the court determined to be Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) [730] in accordance with the undertaking given by the Claimant towards the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). [731] Pending appeal, the High Court stayed the injunction. [732]

Shortly after the High Court delivered its decision, the Defendants began proceedings against the Claimant in China, which are still pending. [733]

With the present judgment, the UK Court of Appeal dismissed the Defendants’ appeal against the decision of the High Court. [734]


B. Court’s reasoning

The Defendants appealed the decision of the High Court on the following three grounds:

1. The High Court’s finding that only a worldwide licence was FRAND is erroneous; the imposition of such a licence on terms set by this court based on a national finding of infringement of UK patents is wrong in principle. [735]

2. The offer imposed to the Defendants by the High Court is discriminatory in violation of Claimant’s FRAND undertaking, since the rates offered are higher than the rates reflected in the licence granted by the Claimant to Samsung. [736]

3. The Claimant is not entitled to injunctive relief; by bringing the infringement proceedings against the Defendants, without meeting the requirements established by the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) in the matter Huawei v ZTE [737] (Huawei judgment) before, the Claimant abused its dominant market position in violation of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (“TFEU”). [738]

Notably, the High Court’s determination of the rates which apply to the worldwide licence that the court requested the Defendants to take was not challenged by any of the parties to the proceedings. [739]


1. Worldwide licences

The Court of Appeal disagreed with the Defendants’ notion that imposing a worldwide licence on an implementer is wrong, because it amounts to an (indirect) interference with foreign court proceedings relating to patents subsisting in foreign territories, which would have been subject to materially different approaches to the assessment of FRAND royalty rates and could, therefore, lead to different results (particularly the ongoing litigation between the parties in China and Germany). [740]

The Court of Appeal explained that in imposing a worldwide licence the High Court did neither adjudicate on issues of infringement or validity concerning any foreign SEPs, nor was it deciding what the appropriate relief for infringement of any foreign SEPs might be (particularly since it made clear that a FRAND licence should not prevent a licensee from challenging the validity or essentiality of any foreign SEPs and should make provision for sales in non-patent countries which do not require a licence) [741] . [742]

Moreover, the High Court simply determined the terms of the licence that the Claimant was required to offer to the Defendants pursuant to its FRAND undertaking towards ETSI. [743] Such an undertaking has international effect. [744] It applies to all SEPs of the patent holder irrespective of the territory in which they subsist. [745] This is necessary for two reasons: first, to protect implementers whose equipment may be sold and used in a number of different jurisdictions. [745] Second, to enable SEP holders to prevent implementers from “free-riding” on their innovations and secure an appropriate reward for carrying out their research and development activities and for engaging with the standardisation process. [746]

Accordingly, the High Court had not erred in finding that a worldwide licence was FRAND. On the contrary, there may be circumstances in which only a worldwide licence or at least a multi-territorial licence would be FRAND. [747] German Courts (in Pioneer Acer [748] and St. Lawrence v Vodafone [749] ) as well as the European Commission in its Communication dated 29 November 2017 [750] had also adopted a similar approach. [751]

Having said that, the Court of Appeal recognized that it may be “wholly impractical” for a SEP holder to seek to negotiate a licence for its patents on a country-by-country basis, just as it may be “prohibitively expensive” to seek to enforce its SEPs by litigating in each country in which they subsist. [746] In addition, if in the FRAND context the implementer could only be required to take country-by-country licences, there would be no prospect of any effective injunctive relief being granted to the SEP holder against it: the implementer could avoid an injunction, if it agreed to pay the royalties in respect of its activities in any particular country, once those activities had been found to infringe. [752] In this way, the implementer would have an incentive to hold out country-by-country, until it was compelled to pay. [752]

In its discussion of this topic, the Court of Appeal disagreed with the view taken by the High Court that in every given set of circumstances only one true set of FRAND terms exists. Nevertheless, the court did not consider that the opposite assumption of the High Court had a material effect to the its decision. [753]

In the eyes of the Court of Appeal, it is “unreal” to suggest that two parties, acting fairly and reasonably, will necessarily arrive at precisely the same set of licence terms as two other parties, also acting fairly and reasonably and faced with the same set of circumstances. [754] The reality is that a number of sets of terms may all be fair and reasonable in a given set of circumstances. [754] Whether there is only one true set of FRAND terms or not, is, therefore, more of a “theoretical problem” than a real one. [755] If the parties cannot reach an agreement, then the court (or arbitral tribunal) which will have to determine the licensing terms will normally declare one set of terms as FRAND. The SEP holder would then have to offer that specific set of terms to the implementer. On the other hand, in case that the court finds that two different sets of terms are FRAND, then the SEP holder will satisfy its FRAND undertaking towards ETSI, if it offers either one of them to the implementer. [755]

Furthermore, the Court of Appeal dismissed Defendants’ claim that imposing a worldwide licence is contrary to public policy and disproportionate. [756] In particular, the Defendants argued that this approach encourages over-declaration of patents [757] and is not compatible with the spirit of the Directive 2004/48/EC on the enforcement of intellectual property rights, [758] which requires relief for patent infringement to be proportionate. [759]

Although the Court of Appeal recognised the existence of the practice of over-declaration and acknowledged that it is a problem, it held that this phenomenon cannot justify “condemning” SEP holders with large portfolios to “impossibly expensive” litigation in every territory in respect of which they seek to recover royalties. [760] The court also found that there was nothing disproportionate about the approach taken by the High Court, since the Defendants had the option to avoid an injunction by taking a licence on the terms which the court had determined. [761]


2. Non-discrimination

The Court of Appeal rejected the Defendants’ argument [762] that the non-discrimination component of Claimant’s FRAND undertaking towards ETSI obliges the Claimant to offer to the Defendants the same rates as those contained in the licence granted to Samsung. [763]

The Court of Appeal made clear that the obligation of the SEP holder not to discriminate is, in principle, engaged in the present case, since the Claimant’s transaction with the Defendants is equivalent to the licence it granted to Samsung. [764] In the court’s eyes, when deciding whether two transactions are equivalent one needs to focus first on the transactions themselves. Insofar, differences in the circumstances in which the transactions were entered into, particularly economic circumstances, such as the parties’ financial position [765] or market conditions (e.g. cost of raw materials), cannot make two otherwise identical transactions non-equivalent (releasing, therefore, the patent holder from the obligation not to discriminate). Changes in such circumstances could only amount to an objective justification for a difference in treatment. [766]

Considering the specific content of the SEP holder’s respective obligation, the Court of Appeal agreed with the High Court’s finding that the non-discrimination element of a SEP holder’s FRAND undertaking does not imply a so-called “hard-edged” component (imposing on the patent holder an obligation to offer the same rate to similarly situated implementers). [767] It argued that the “hard-edged” approach is “excessively strict” and fails to achieve a balance between a fair return to the SEP owner and universal access to the technology. [768] It could have the effect of compelling the SEP holder to accept a level of compensation for the use of its invention which does not reflect the value of the licensed technology and, therefore, harm the technological development of standards. [769]

Furthermore, the “hard-edged” discrimination approach should be rejected also because its effects would result in the insertion of the “most favoured licensee” clause in the FRAND undertaking. In the view of the Court of Appeal, the industry would most likely have regarded such a clause as inconsistent with the overall objective of the FRAND undertaking. [770]

Conversely, the Court of Appeal followed the notion described by the High Court as the “general” non-discrimination approach: [771] the FRAND undertaking prevents the SEP holder from securing rates higher than a “benchmark” rate which mirrors a fair valuation of its patent(s), but it does not prevent the patent holder from granting licences at lower rates. [771] For determining the benchmark rate, prior licences granted by the SEP holder to third parties will likely form the “best comparables”. [772]

The Court of Appeal argued that the “general” approach is in line with the objectives of the FRAND undertaking, since it ensures that the SEP holder is not able to “hold-up” implementation of the standard by demanding more than its patent(s) is worth. [773] However, the FRAND undertaking does not aim at leveling down the royalty owed to the SEP holder to a point where it no longer represents a fair return for its patent(s), or to removing its discretion to agree royalty rates lower than the benchmark rate, if it chooses to do so. [773]

In this context, the Court of Appeal made clear that it does not consider differential pricing as per se objectionable, since it can in some circumstances be beneficial to consumer welfare. [774] The court sees no value in mandating equal pricing for its own sake. On the contrary, once the hold-up effect is dealt with by ensuring that licences are available at the benchmark rate, there is no reason for preventing the SEP holder from charging less than the licence is worth. [774] Should discrimination appear below the benchmark rate, it should be addressed through the application of competition law; as long as granting licences at rates lower than the benchmark rate causes no competitive harm, there is no reason to assume that the FRAND undertaking constrains the ability of the SEP holder to do so. [775]


3. Abuse of dominant Position / Huawei v ZTE

The Court of Appeal further rejected Defendants’ argument that, by bringing the infringement proceedings prior to fulfilling the obligations arising from the Huawei judgment, the Claimant abused its dominant market position in violation of Article 102 TFEU. [776]

To begin with, the Court of Appeal confirmed the finding of the High Court that the Claimant held a dominant market position and dismissed the respective challenge by the latter. [777] It did not find any flaw in the High Court’s view that the SEP holder has a 100% market share with respect to each SEP (since it is “common ground” that the relevant market for the purpose of assessing dominance in the case of each SEP is the market for the licensing of that SEP [778] ) and that the constrains imposed upon the SEP holder’s market power by the limitations attached to the FRAND undertaking [779] and the risk of hold-out that is immanent to the structure of the respective market, [780] can either alone or together rebut the assumption that it most likely holds market power. [781]

Notwithstanding the above, the Court of Appeal held that the Claimant had not abused its market power in the present case. [782]

The court agreed with the finding of the High Court that the Huawei judgment did not lay down “mandatory conditions”, in a sense that that non-compliance will per se render the initiation of infringement proceedings a breach of Article 102 TFEU. [783] The language used in the Huawei judgment implies that the CJEU intended to create a “safe harbor”: if the SEP holder complies with the respective framework, the commencement of an action will not, in and of itself, amount to an abuse. [784] If the SEP holder steps outside this framework, the question whether its behaviour has been abusive must be assessed in light of all of the circumstances. [785]

In the court’s eyes, the only mandatory condition that must be satisfied by the SEP holder before proceedings are commenced, is giving notice to the implementer about the infringing use of its patents. [786] This follows from the clear language used by the CJEU with respect to this obligation. [787] The precise content of such notice will depend upon all the circumstances of the particular case. [787] In general, if an alleged infringer is familiar with the technical details of the products it is dealing and the SEP it may be infringing, but has no intention of taking a licence on FRAND terms, it will not be justified to deny the SEP holder an injunction, simply because it had not made a formal notification prior to the commencement of proceedings. [788]

On the merits, the court accepted the High Court’s assessment that the Claimant had not behaved abusively and particularly the finding, that the Defendants, who were in contact with the Claimant prior to the proceedings, had sufficient notice that the Claimant held SEPs which ought to be licensed, if found infringed and essential. [789]

Considering further that the respective conduct requirements were not established at the point in time, in which the infringement action was filed (since the present proceedings were initiated before the CJEU delivered the Huawei judgment), the Court of Appeal noted that it would very likely not be fair to accuse the Claimant of abusive behavior. [790] Insofar the court agreed with the respective approach developed by German courts in co-called “transitional” cases (Pioneer v Acer, [791] St. Lawrence v Vodafone [791] and Sisvel v Haier [792] ) [793] .

  • [723] Unwired Planet v Huawei, UK Court of Appeal, 23 October 2018, Case-No. A3/2017/1784, [2018] EWCA Civ 2344, para. 233.
  • [724] Ibid, para. 6 et seqq.
  • [725] Ibid, para. 233.
  • [726] Ibid, para. 7.
  • [727] Ibid, paras. 8 and 137 et seqq.
  • [728] Ibid, para. 8.
  • [729] Ibid, para. 9 et seqq.; para. 31 et seqq.
  • [730] Ibid, para 17.
  • [731] Ibid, para 130.
  • [732] Ibid, para 18.
  • [733] Ibid, para 112.
  • [734] Ibid, para 291.
  • [735] Ibid, paras. 19 and 45 et seqq.
  • [736] Ibid, paras. 20 and 132 et seqq.
  • [737] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgement dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [738] Unwired Planet v Huawei, UK Court of Appeal, 23 October 2018, para. 21, paras. 211 et seqq and para. 251.
  • [739] Ibid, para. 17.
  • [740] Ibid, paras. 74 and 77 et seq.
  • [741] Ibid, para. 82.
  • [742] Ibid, para. 80.
  • [743] Ibid, para. 79 et seq.
  • [744] Ibid, para. 26.
  • [745] Ibid, para. 53.
  • [746] Ibid, para. 54 et seq., para. 59.
  • [747] Ibid, para. 56.
  • [748] Pioneer v Acer, District Court of Mannheim, judgement dated 8 January 2016, Case No. 7 O 96/14.
  • [749] St. Lawrence v Vodafone, District Court of Düsseldorf, judgement dated 31 March 2016, Case No. 4a O 73/14.
  • [750] Communication From the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee, “Setting out the EU Approach to Standard Essential Patents”, 29 November 2017, COM(2017) 712 final.
  • [751] Unwired Planet v Huawei, UK Court of Appeal, 23 October 2018, para. 74.
  • [752] Ibid, para. 111.
  • [753] Ibid, para. 128.
  • [754] Ibid, para. 121.
  • [755] Ibid, para. 125.
  • [756] Ibid, para. 75.
  • [757] Ibid, para. 92
  • [758] Directive 2004/48/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the enforcement of intellectual property rights (Official Journal of the EU L 195, 02/06/2004, p. 16)
  • [759] Unwired Planet v Huawei, UK Court of Appeal, 23 October 2018, para. 94.
  • [760] Ibid, para. 96.
  • [761] Ibid, para. 98.
  • [762] Ibid, para. 20 and 132 et seqq.
  • [763] Ibid, paras. 207 and 210.
  • [764] Ibid, para. 176.
  • [765] Ibid, para. 173.
  • [766] Ibid, para. 169 et seq.
  • [767] Ibid, paras. 194 et seqq.
  • [768] Ibid, para. 198.
  • [769] Ibid, para. 198.
  • [770] Ibid, para. 199.
  • [771] Ibid, para. 195.
  • [772] Ibid, para. 202.
  • [773] Ibid, para. 196.
  • [774] Ibid, para. 197.
  • [775] Ibid, para. 200.
  • [776] Ibid, para. 21, paras. 211 et seqq and para. 251.
  • [777] Ibid, para. 212.
  • [778] Ibid, para. 216.
  • [779] Ibid, para. 219.
  • [780] Ibid, para. 220.
  • [781] Ibid, para. 229.
  • [782] Ibid, para. 284.
  • [783] Ibid, para. 269.
  • [784] Ibid, para. 270.
  • [785] Ibid, para. 269 and 282.
  • [786] Ibid, para. 253 and 281.
  • [787] Ibid, para. 271.
  • [788] Ibid, para. 273.
  • [789] Ibid, para. 284
  • [790] Ibid, para. 275
  • [791] See above
  • [792] Sisvel v Haier, Higher District Court of Düsseldorf, judgement dated 30 March 2017, Case No. 15 U 66-15.
  • [793] Unwired Planet v Huawei, UK Court of Appeal, 23 October 2018, para. 279.

Updated 6 10月 2020

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

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

A. 内容

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

Unwired Planet対Huawei

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

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

2017年4月5日、高等法院はHuaweiに対し、同法院がFRANDと決定した特定の条件による ワールドワイド・ライセンス契約をUnwired Planetとの間で交わすまでの差止命令を出した [794] 。Huaweiはこの判決について控訴した。高等法院は控訴が係属中の間、差止命令の強制を停止した。

2018年10月23日、英国控訴院(控訴院)は高等法院の判決を不服とするHuaweiの控訴を棄却した  [795] その後、Huaweiは英国最高裁判所(最高裁判所又は最高裁)に上告を提起した。

Conversant対Huawei and ZTE

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

2018年4月16日、高等法院は、グローバルポートフォリオ・ライセンスの条件を決定する権限を含めて当該紛争についての管轄権を同法院が有すると確認した [796]  。HuaweiとZTEは高等法院のこの判決について控訴した。

2019年1月30日、控訴院は控訴を棄却し、英国特許の侵害を根拠としてグローバルライセンスのFRAND条件を決定するための管轄権を英国の裁判所が有すると確認した [797] 。HuaweiとZTEは最高裁判所に上告した。

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

B. 判決理由

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

1. 管轄権 最高裁判所は、多国籍SEPポートフォリオについてグローバルFRANDライセンス条件を決定する管轄権を英国の裁判所が有し、従って、標準実施者がかかるライセンス契約の締結を拒否した場合には、英国SEPを根拠とする差止命令を発出する管轄権を有すると確認した  [799]

最高裁は、ETSIのIPRポリシーの下でSEP保有者は国内裁判所に差止命令を求めることを禁じられていないとした [800] 。 最高裁は、国内裁判所が差止命令を出すことで侵害を止める可能性は、むしろ、実施者がFRANDライセンスの交渉を行うことを確実に奨励するのであり 「IPRポリシーが取ろうとするバランスに必要な構成要素である」とした [800]  。

また、最高裁は、英国特許を根拠とする差止命令の裁定の他に、英国の裁判所は、グローバルFRANDライセンスの条件も定めることができるとした。最高裁判所の見解によれば、ETSIのIPRポリシーが定めた「契約上の取り決め」は、英国の裁判所に該当する権限を行使する管轄権も与えている  [801]

最高裁によれば、ETSIのIPRポリシーは「通信業界における商慣習の反映」を試みており 「国際的に効力を有することを意図する」ものである [802] 。通信業界においては、(ポートフォリオ中の)「正確にいくつの特許が有効か又は侵害されているかを知らずに」特許のポートフォリオについてグローバルライセンス契約を結ぶことは一般的である [803] 。特許権者は、特定の特許について必須である(と見込まれる)との宣言を行う時点では、開発中の標準におけるその特許の有効性や侵害の有無について知りえない [803]  。その一方で、実施者は、標準を実施する際にどの特許の有効で侵害しているかについて知ってはいない  [803]

この「不可避の不確実性(unavoidable uncertainty)」は、特許権者が宣言した全てのSEPをワールドワイドに網羅したポートフォリオライセンスの締結によって対処され、その対価は「ポートフォリオ中の多くの特許が未検証であるという性質を反映しなければならない 」 [803]  。かかるライセンスを締結することで、実施者は標準への「アクセス」と、その標準に準拠するために必要とされる全技術の使用を許可されているとの「確実性」を「買う」のである [803]

最高裁判所は、商慣習によれば、FRANDライセンスには「未検証 (untested)」の特許が含まれるため、グローバルライセンスの条件の決定はそれに含まれる全特許についての有効性の評価を意味しないとの見解をとった。従って、ワールドワイドポートフォリオ・ライセンスの条件を定める際、英国の裁判所は外国特許に関する有効性及び侵害の有無について判断しておらず、かかる問題は、まさに各特許が認可された国の国内裁判所の専属的管轄権に服するものである [804]  。それ故、実施者が「これらの特許又はいずれかの特許について該当する外国裁判所において異議を申し立てる権利を留保し、結果として、当該ライセンス上でロイヤルティ料率変更のメカニズムを定めるよう求めることは一般に「公平かつ合理的(fair and reasonable)」であると判断された。 [805]

これに関連して、最高裁判所は、前述のアプローチが英国の法理に特有のものではなく、他の管轄区域、特にアメリカ、ドイツ、中国、及び日本で下された判決とも整合性があることを強調した  [806]

2. 適切な法廷地(フォーラム・コンビニエンス)

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

最高裁判所は、英国の裁判所には管轄権を辞退し中国の裁判所に渡す義務はないと判断した [807] 。最高裁は、中国の裁判所については(英国の裁判所と異なり)当該紛争の全当事者の合意がないことから、現時点では中国の裁判所にグローバルFRANDポートフォリオライセンスの条件を定める管轄権はなく、本事件には所謂「フォーラム・コンビニエンス(forum conveniens)」の法理が適用されないとした [807]  。更に、最高裁は、現状況下でConversantが中国の裁判所への管轄権付与を承諾するとは合理的に考えにくいと判断した [807]  。 最高裁判所は、本紛争に関わる英国の裁判所には、有効性に関する中国での訴訟の結果を待って英国での訴訟を一時停止する義務もないとの見解を示した [808] 。最高裁は、英国で提起された訴訟がConversantのグローバルSEPポートフォリオについてのFRAND ライセンス条件の決定に関するものであるのに対し、中国での訴訟はConversantの中国特許の有効性のみに関連しているためであるとした  [808]

3. 非差別性

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

最高裁判所は、高等法院及び控訴院の判断を支持し、(Unwired Planetは)違反してはいなかったとした。最高裁は、全ての同様の状況にあるライセンシーに対して同一又は同様の条件を申し出ることを特許権者に義務づけるような、所謂「厳格な(hard-edged)」非差別性の要件をFRANDは暗示してはいないと説明した [809] ] 。

ETSIの IPR ポリシー(第6条第1項)によれば、特許権者はFRAND条件のライセンスを提供することにコミットしなければならないとされている。最高裁判所は、この義務は「単一の一体化された義務(single, unitary obligation)」であり、ライセンス条件の公平性、合理性、及び非差別性に関する別々の3つの義務ではないとの見解を示した  [810]  。よって、条件は「全ての市場参加者に公平なロイヤルティ価格として一般的に提供されるべきものであり」、特定のライセンシーの「個別の特性による調整なしに」SEPポートフォリオの「適正市価(true value)」を反映するべきであるとされた [811]   。

最高裁判所は、更に、ETSIのIPRポリシーに基づくFRAND誓約は、所謂「最も有利なライセンス(most favourable license)」の条項を暗示するものではなく、全ての同様の状況にあるライセンシーに対して最も有利な条件と同等の条件でライセンス許諾を行うことを特許権者に義務づけてはいないと明確に示した [812]  。最高裁は、ETSIによるIPRポリシー制定の経緯について詳しく検討した上で、 以前ETSIが前述のような条項をFRAND誓約に含める提案を明確に却下していたとの所見を述べた [813]  。 最高裁は、更に、価格差別化がそれに関わる私的又は公的な利益にとって有害であるとの「一般的推定(general presumption)」は存在しないとした [814]  。最高裁は、むしろ、特定のライセンシーに対するベンチマーク料率よりも低いロイヤルティのオファーをSEP保有者が選択することが商取引上の意味合いから合理的な状況も存在するとした [815]  。 このことは、例えば、所謂「先行者利益(first mover advantage)」にも当てはまる。最高裁は、一番初めのライセンシーとの間で低いロイヤルティ料率を合意することは、SEPから最初の収益を生むだけでなく、締結されたライセンスが当該ポートフォリオを市場において「有効化(validate)」し将来的なライセンシングに資する可能性もあるため、「経済的合理性(economically rational)」と「商取引上の重要性(commercially important)」を有し得ると認めた [815]  。このことは、Unwired PlanetがSamsung とライセンス契約を締結した当時のように、特許権者が自らの商業的な生き残りを確実にするのため低いロイヤルティ料率でのライセンス許諾を強いられる所謂「投売り(fire sales)」の状況にも当てはまるとされた [816]  。

4. 市場における支配的地位の濫用/Huaweiフレームワーク

最高裁判所が審理した第四の争点は、Huaweiに対する侵害訴訟を提起したことにより Unwired Planetが市場における支配的地位を濫用し「EUの機能に関する条約(the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU:TFEU)」 第102条への違反を犯しており、従って差止による救済へのアクセスを認められるべきでないのかという問題である。Huaweiは、この問題について、欧州連合司法裁判所(the Court of Justice of the European Union:CJEU)がHuawei対ZTE事件で確立した要件(Huawei判決又はHuaweiスキーム) にUnwired Planetが従っていなかったため差止命令の請求は却下されるべきであると主張していた [817]  。

最高裁判所は、この主張は当てはまらないと判断した [818] 。Huawei判決は、特許権者が標準の実施者に対して問題となっているSEPの使用が侵害を犯しているとの通知を差止による救済を求める訴訟の提起前に行う義務を定めており、違反した場合には、TFEU第102条における濫用行為に該当するとの見解を最高裁は示した [819] 。しかし、この義務の「性質(nature)」については、個別の事件の状況によって決まるとした  [819]  。最高裁は、Unwired Planetが本侵害訴訟の提起に先立ちHuaweiに妥当な通知を行っていたと判断した  [820]

Huawei判決が定めたその他の義務を考察して、最高裁判所は、Huaweiスキームは「強制的(mandatory)」なものではなく、正確に従えば第102条に違反するリスクを冒さずに [特許権者]が差止命令を求めることができる「ルートマップ(route map)」を示したものであるとの高等法院及び控訴院が以前に示した見解を支持した [821] 。最高裁は、それ以外にも、各当事者にFRAND条件でライセンスを締結する意思があるか否かという極めて重要な問題の評価を助けるいくつかの基準をHuawei判決が定めているとした[1076]。 最高裁判所は、その上でUnwired PlanetにはFRANDライセンスをHuaweiに許諾する意思があったのであり、濫用行為を行ってはいなかったと判断した  [820]  。

5. 損害賠償か差止命令かの問題

最高裁が審理した五番目で最後の争点は、SEPの侵害に対する適切な救済についての問題である。最高裁判所における上告審において、(原告は)Unwired PlanetのSEPに対する侵害への適切かつ相応な(appropriate and proportionate) 救済措置は差止命令ではなく損害賠償の裁定であるとの主張を初めて行った。 最高裁判所は、本事件において損害賠償の裁定を差止命令の代替とする根拠は存在しないと判断した [822] 。最高裁は、Unwired PlanetとConversantのいずれも、裁判所が既にFRANDとして確認していたはずの条件でライセンス許諾を申し出た場合にのみ差止命令を求める権利を得たのであるから「差止命令の威嚇(threat of an injunction)」をHuawei又はZTEに「法外な料金(exorbitant fees)」を課すための方法として用いることはできなかったとした [823]

更に、最高裁は、(損害賠償訴訟の場合)SEP保有者は実施者に対して特許毎かつ国毎に訴訟を提起することを余儀なくされ実際的ではない(impractical)と考えられるため、損害賠償の裁定が「差止命令の裁定を差し控えることにより失われるものに対する適切な代替手段となり得る可能性は低い」との見解を示した [824]  。更に、最高裁判所は、(損害賠償が適切な救済とされれば)標準の実施者が「特許毎かつ国毎にロイヤルティの支払いを強制されるまで侵害を続けることへの誘因」を得るのであり、自発的にライセンス契約を締結することは侵害者にとって「経済的に意味がなくなる」ため、FRANDライセンシングがより困難なものになるだろうと指摘した [825]  。

それに対し、差止命令であれば「より効果的な救済となり得る」と最高裁は判断した。差止命令は、侵害を全体的に禁止することにより、「侵害者が市場に留まろうとするなら」 SEP保有者の申し出たFRAND条件を受け入れる以外には侵害者に「ほとんど選択肢を与えない」ためである[1081]。このような理由により、最高裁判所は、差止命令が「正義を成すために必要(necessary in order to do justice)」であると強調した [826]

  • [794] Unwired Planet対Huawei、イングランド・ウェールズ高等法院、2017年4月5日判決、事件番号 [2017] EWHC 711(Pat)。
  • [795] Unwired Planet対Huawei、英国控訴院、2018年10月23日判決、事件番号 [2018] EWCA Civ 2344。
  • [796] Conversant対Huawei及びZTE、イングランド・ウェールズ高等法院、2018年4月16日判決、事件番号 [2018] EWHC 808 (Pat)。
  • [797] Conversant対Huawei及びZTE、英国控訴院、2019年1月30日判決、事件番号 [2019] EWCA Civ 38。
  • [798]  Unwired Planet対Huawei、Conversant対Huawei及びZTE、英国最高裁判所、2019年1月30日判決、事件番号 [2019] EWCA Civ 38。
  • [799] 同判決、第49節以下。
  • [800] 同判決、第61節。
  • [801] 同判決、第58節。
  • [802] 同判決、第62節。
  • [803] 同判決、第60節。
  • [804] 同判決、第63節。
  • [805] 同判決、第64節。
  • [806] 同判決、第68節ないし第84節。
  • [807] 同判決、第97節。
  • [808] 同判決、第99節以下。
  • [809] 同判決、第112節以下。
  • [810] 同判決、第113節。
  • [811] 同判決、第114節。
  • [812] 同判決、第116節。
  • [813] 同判決、第116節以下
  • [814] 同判決、第123節。
  • [815] 同判決、第125節。
  • [816] 同判決、第126節。
  • [817] Huawei対ZTE、欧州連合司法裁判所、2015年7月16日判決、事件番号 C-170/13。
  • [818] Unwired Planet対Huawei、Conversant対Huawei及びZTE、英国最高裁判所、2019年1月30日、事件番号 [2019] EWCA Civ 38、第149節以下。
  • [819] 同判決、第150節。
  • [820] 同判決、第158節。
  • [821] 同判決、第157節及び第158節。
  • [822] 同判決、第163節。
  • [823] 同判決、第164節。
  • [824] 同判決、第166節。
  • [825] 同判決、第167節。
  • [826] 同判決、第169節。

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) [827] .

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 [828] .

MPEG LA uses a standard licensing agreement, which is publicly available at its website [829] . Since 2004, MPEG-LA has signed approx. 2,000 agreements with implementers [830] , 1,400 of which are still in force [829] .

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 [831] . On 15 September 2011, the parent company suggested to arrange a call on this issue [832] . 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 [833] .

In November 2013, the discussions between MPEG LA and the parent company ended without success [834] . The parties resumed negotiations in July 2016; again, no agreement was reached [834] .

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 [835] .

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 [836] .

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 [837] . Furthermore, the Defendant made a second counteroffer to the Claimant shortly after the last oral hearing before the Court [838] .

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

B. Court’s reasoning

The Court found that the patent in suit was valid [839] , standard essential [840] and infringed by the products sold by the Defendant in Germany [841] . 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 [842] (Huawei obligations or framework) with respect to dominant undertakings [843] .

Dominant market position

The Court found that the Claimant holds a dominant market position in terms of Article 102 TFEU [844] .

The Court defined the relevant market for the assessment of dominance as the market, in which licences for any given patent are offered [845] . A dominant market position can further also exist, when the patent holder can hinder competition in downstream markets for standard-compliant products and services [845] .

The Court made clear that ownership of a SEP does not per se establish market dominance [846] . A dominant market position is given, when the use of the SEP is required for entering the market [847] . The same is true, if the patent user could not market competitive products or services, without access to the respective SEP [848] .

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 [849] .

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 [850] . 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) [851] . 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 [852] .

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 [853] . 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 [854] ), 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 [855] . 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 [856] . 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 [856] . 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 [857] .

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 [858] .

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 [859] . The sole fact that a company belongs to a group justifies such an assumption, unless indications to the contrary exist [860] . 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) [861] . 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 [862] . 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 [863] .

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 [864] . 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 [864] . A notification of infringement is, therefore, not necessary, when it constitutes just a ‘pointless formality’ [864] . 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 [864] . The respective test is, however, subject to strict conditions [864] .

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) [865] . 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 [866] .

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 [867] .

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 [867] . This is sufficient under the Huawei framework: A general, informal statement suffices [868] . The implementer is not required to refer to a specific licensing agreement (on the contrary, this could be considered harmful under certain circumstances) [868] .

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 [869] .

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 [870] .

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 [871] .

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 [872] . 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 [873] . 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) [874] . 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 [874] . 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 [874] . 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 [875] .

Apart from the above, the Court held that the standard licensing agreement offered to the parent company was FRAND also in terms of content [876] .

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 [877] . 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 [877] . 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 [877] . In this respect, comparable agreements can serve as an ‘important indicator’ of the fair and reasonable character of the offered royalty rates [877] .

Non-discrimination

Regarding to the non-discriminatory element of FRAND, the Court pointed out that it applied only to similar situated cases [878] . Even then, an unequal treatment is allowed, as long as it is objectively justified [878] . 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 [878] . 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 [879] . 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 [879] .

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 [880] . 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 [881] . 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 [882] . 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) [883] .

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 [884] . 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) [885] . 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 [886] . Discounts can further hardly be discriminatory, if they are offered to every (potential) licensee under the same conditions [886] .

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) [887] . 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 [888] .

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 [889] .

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 [890] . 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 [890] .

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 [891] . 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 [892] . 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 [893] . What is more, the Defendant did not show that further licences are needed with respect to the AVC/H.264 standard [894] . 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 [895] .

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 [896] . This assumption is also confirmed by the fact that all existing licensees have accepted this clause [897] .

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) [898] . 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 [898] .

An offer for a pool licence can, nevertheless, violate FRAND in ‘special circumstances’ [899] , for instance, if not all patents included in the pool are used by the licensee [900] . 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 [901] . 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 [902] . 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) [902] .

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 [903] . The Defendant failed, however, to present any reliable evidence that this was the case with the MPEG-LA pool [904] .

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’) [905] . 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 [906] .

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 [907] . In the electronics and mobile communications industries, licences on a group level are in line with the industry practice and, therefore, FRAND-compliant [908] .

Implementer’s counteroffer

Having said that, the Court found that the Defendant failed to make a FRAND counteroffer [909] .

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 [910] . Furthermore, the counteroffer established different licensing rates for different regions (especially for China) without factual justification [911] .

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 [838] . On the contrary, the Court expressed the view that the purpose of this counteroffer was most likely to delay the infringement proceedings [838] .

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 [912] .

  • [827] Tagivan (MPEG-LA) v Huawei, District Court of Düsseldorf, 9 November 2018, para. 36.
  • [828] Ibid, para. 35.
  • [829] Ibid, para. 37.
  • [830] Ibid, para. 453.
  • [831] Ibid, para. 39.
  • [832] Ibid, para. 43.
  • [833] Ibid, para. 44.
  • [834] Ibid, para. 53.
  • [835] Ibid, para. 2.
  • [836] Ibid, para. 54.
  • [837] Ibid, para. 65.
  • [838] Ibid, para. 716.
  • [839] Ibid, paras. 143-208.
  • [840] Ibid, paras. 209-293.
  • [841] Ibid, paras. 295-302.
  • [842] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [843] Tagivan (MPEG-LA) v Huawei, District Court of Düsseldorf, 9 November 2018, paras. 304 et seqq.
  • [844] Ibid, para. 307.
  • [845] Ibid, para. 310.
  • [846] 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.
  • [847] Ibid, paras. 310 et seq.
  • [848] Ibid, para. 311.
  • [849] Ibid, paras. 315 et seqq.
  • [850] Ibid, para. 321.
  • [851] Ibid, para. 326.
  • [852] Ibid, para. 327.
  • [853] Ibid, para. 330.
  • [854] 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.
  • [855] Ibid, paras. 331 et seqq.
  • [856] Ibid, para. 335.
  • [857] Ibid, para. 337.
  • [858] Ibid, para. 339.
  • [859] Ibid, para. 343.
  • [860] Ibid, para. 345.
  • [861] Ibid, para. 356.
  • [862] Ibid, paras. 357 et seqq.
  • [863] Ibid, paras. 366 et seqq.
  • [864] Ibid, para. 340.
  • [865] Ibid, para. 341.
  • [866] Ibid, paras. 395 et seqq.
  • [867] Ibid, paras. 400 et seqq.
  • [868] Ibid, para. 399.
  • [869] Ibid, para. 405.
  • [870] Ibid, paras. 411-417.
  • [871] Ibid, para. 419.
  • [872] Ibid, para. 421.
  • [873] Ibid, para. 425.
  • [874] Ibid, para. 422.
  • [875] Ibid, paras. 426 et seqq.
  • [876] Ibid, para. 429.
  • [877] Ibid, para. 431.
  • [878] Ibid, para. 432.
  • [879] Ibid, para. 433.
  • [880] Ibid, para. 438.
  • [881] Ibid, para. 443.
  • [882] Ibid, para. 444.
  • [883] Ibid, para. 445.
  • [884] Ibid, para. 579.
  • [885] Ibid, para. 582.
  • [886] Ibid, paras. 583 et seqq.
  • [887] Ibid, para. 564.
  • [888] Ibid, paras. 568 et seqq.
  • [889] Ibid, paras. 573 et seqq.
  • [890] Ibid, para. 451.
  • [891] Ibid, para. 449.
  • [892] Ibid, para. 454.
  • [893] Ibid, paras. 487 et seqq.
  • [894] Ibid, para. 491.
  • [895] Ibid, para. 495.
  • [896] Ibid, paras. 591 et seqq., particularly para. 596.
  • [897] Ibid. para. 597.
  • [898] Ibid. para. 504.
  • [899] Ibid. para. 508.
  • [900] Ibid. para. 514.
  • [901] Ibid. paras. 511 et seqq.
  • [902] Ibid. para. 524.
  • [903] Ibid, para. 528.
  • [904] Ibid, paras. 531-543.
  • [905] Ibid, paras. 545 et seqq.
  • [906] Ibid, para. 546.
  • [907] Ibid, para. 599.
  • [908] Ibid, para. 600.
  • [909] Ibid, para. 603.
  • [910] Ibid, paras. 605 et seqq.
  • [911] Ibid, paras. 617 et seqq.
  • [912] Ibid, para. 625.

Updated 3 2月 2021

HEVC (Dolby) v MAS Elektronik

LG Düsseldorf
7 5月 2020 - Case No. 4c O 44/18

A. Facts

The claimant, Dolby, operates in the field of audio and video innovation and is the owner of a portfolio of related patents, including a European Patent concerning the encoding and decoding as well as the sequence of digital images. This patent reads on the HEVC standard (Standard Essential Patent, or SEP). Dolby has contributed the patent in question to a pool administered by HEVC Advance, which offers licences to standards users for a significant portfolio of related SEPs of several patent holders.

The Defendant, MAS Elektronik AG (MAS), operates in the home entertainment field and sells articles such as television sets and receivers (set-up boxes, or STBs). These devices are compatible with the DVB-T/T2 standard that, in turn, makes use of the encoding method according to the HEVC standard.

In 2017, HEVC Advance sent a notification informing MAS about the infringement of SEPs included in the pool. On 7 November 2017, HEVC Advanced offered a licence to MAS on basis of its standard licensing agreement.

Since no agreement was reached, Dolby filed a lawsuit against MAS before the District Court of Düsseldorf (Court). Dolby initially moved for a declaratory judgement confirming MAS' liability for damages on the merits and also asserted relevant claims for information. The action was later extended. Additionally, Dolby requested injunctive relief as well as recall and destruction of infringing products.

On 11 July 2018, after the action was filed, Dolby directly approached MAS as well. It shared a list of patents included in its SEP portfolio as well as 'claim charts', mapping a number of patents to the relevant parts of the standard. Dolby also submitted an offer for a bilateral portfolio licence to MAS which the latter did not accept.

In January 2019, MAS presented a counteroffer to HEVC Advance, which included an amount for settlement the past uses. However, MAS did not render accounts for past uses nor provided security.

On 7 May 2020, the Court rendered a decision in favour of Dolby and ordered MAS to (i) refrain from offering or supplying devices and/or means that infringe Dolby's patent in Germany, under penalty up to EUR 250,000 for each case of infringement; (ii) render accounts and information regarding infringing products; (iii) surrender for destruction any infringing product in its possession and (iv) recall infringing products from the market. The Court also recognised MAS' liability to pay for past and future damages.


B. Court's reasoning

The Court found that Dolby was entitled to assert claims arising from the patent-in-suit. The respective patent application was transferred before grant and Dolby was registered as owner in the Patent Register at the moment the patent was granted. MAS did not present any reason to question the validity of the transfer of the patent application to Dolby. [913]

Furthermore, the Court held that the patent-in-suit is essential (and not only optional) to the improvement process of encoding and decoding of images under the HEVC standard and, therefore, infringed by the devices manufactured and sold by MAS. [914]


Abuse of dominant market position

Having said that, the Court explained that by asserting claims for injunctive relief as well as recall and destruction of infringing products before court, Dolby had not abused its dominant market position in violation of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) [915] .

In the eyes of the Court, Dolby holds a dominant position [916] . The Court highlighted that owning a patent, even a standard-essential patent, does not constitute per se a condition for market dominance [917] . That must be assessed case by case. A dominant position will be, as a rule, given if the use of a SEP is considered a pre-requisite to enter a downstream market. This is true also when the SEP is needed for offering competitive products in the downstream market. [917] In the present case, the implementation of the HEVC was required to make a competitive offering in the STB market [918] .

Notwithstanding the above, the Court found that Dolby had not abused its dominant market position, considering that it had fulfilled the obligations set forth by the Court of Justice the EU (CJEU) in the matter Huawei v ZTE (Huawei judgment or framework) [919] .


Notification of infringement

The required notification of the infringement by the patent holder was properly done. The Court understood that HEVC Advance, as the pool administrator, was entitled to do such notification on behalf of the patent holders that contributed patents to the pool. There is nothing in the Huawei judgment that suggests otherwise. [920]

The Court explained that the notification must, at least, include the publication number of the patent-in-suit and also indicate the infringing products and the infringing act(s) of use. [921] The notification does not need to contain a detailed (technical or legal) analysis, with reference to standards or claim features, but only present sufficient information that enables the other party to assess the infringement accusation made against it. [921]

In this case, the notification initially sent by HEVC Advance to MAS was sufficient in terms of content, since it specified the infringing products, and referred to HEVC Advance's patent portfolio and its website containing additional information. The fact that no patent numbers were mentioned was not considered harmful, since this information is publicly available in the pool's website. [922] Moreover, the Court highlighted that the notification can be a mere formality, if knowledge of the infringement by the implementer can be assumed. In such case, arguing that the notification was flawed, can be considered abusive, as it was the case here. [923]

Besides the notification made by HEVC Advance, the Court found that Dolby had also made a sufficient notification itself by the letter sent to MAS on 11 July 2018. [924] The letter fulfilled all requirements in terms of content. The fact that it was sent only after the action was filed was not harmful, since MAS had been already adequately informed by HEVC Advance before.Ibid, para. 759.

Willingness to obtain a licence

Looking at the conduct of MAS after receipt of the notifications of infringement, the Court reached the conclusion that MAS had sufficiently declared willingness to enter into a pool licence with HEVC Advance. [925] On the contrary, the Court took the view that MAS had not acted as a willing licensee with respect to Dolby's subsequent offer for a bilateral licence. [926]

The Court explained that, in its licensing request towards the SEP holder, the standards implementer must express its 'serious' willingness to conclude a licensing agreement on FRAND terms [927] . For this, no strict requirements apply, in terms of content or form; moreover, also an 'implicit behaviour' can suffice [928] . The implementer is, however, required to react in due course. [929] Furthermore, 'willingness' must still exist when the patent holder makes his licensing offer [927] .

The Court held that MAS had expressed willingness to take a pool license from HEVC Advance –although no express request was made–, since "immediately" after receipt of the notification of infringement, MAS started a correspondence with HEVC Advance with the goal to initiate negotiations. [930]

On the other hand, MAS had not been willing to obtain a bilateral licence from Dolby. [924] The Court emphasized that the whole conduct of the implementer must be assessed; a 'genuine' willingness to obtain a license must be demonstrated. [931] This is not given, when -as it had been the case here- the implementer only poses repetitive questions that do not present any constructive remarks and, therefore, do not lead to any progress in the negotiation. [932] In addition to that, it could be expected that a licensee willing to sign a bilateral agreement with an individual pool member, will have an interest to also engage in discussions with further pool members, especially for assessing the total 'economic burden' for its products, in comparison with a pool licensing agreement. [933] MAS refrained from doing that. What is more, it made clear in the proceedings that it was only interested in a pool licence.Ibid, para. 765.

SEP holder's offer

Since the Court held that MAS had adequately expressed willingness to sign a pool licence with HEVC Advance, it moved on to examine, whether HEVC Advance's licensing offer to MAS based on its standard licensing agreement was in line with the Huawei framework. Since the Court reached the conclusion that MAS had not been willing to enter into a bilateral licence with Dolby, it refrained from examining the compliance of Dolby's offer with the Huawei judgment in detail.

The Court found that the offer made by HEVC Advance met the Huawei requirements. In terms of form, the fact that the standard agreement sent to MAS had not been signed did not cause any concerns. [934] In the Court's view, the CJEU requires that the SEP holder's offer contains all usual terms of a licensing agreement, however, no binding offer that could lead to the conclusion of a licence through sole acceptance by the implementer is needed. [935]

Furthermore, HEVC Advance had sufficiently explained the royalty calculation, in line with the Huawei judgment. [936] If the patent holder has previously granted licenses to third parties, it has to give more or less substantiated reasons, depending on the circumstances of the individual case, why the royalty it envisages is Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND). [937] In case that the SEP holder offers licences exclusively based on a standard licensing agreement, it will, as a rule, suffice to establish the adoption of the licensing programme in practice and to show that the specific offer corresponds to the standard licensing agreement. [938] The more standard licensing agreements signed are shared by the patent holder, the stronger the assumption is, that the offered rates are FRAND. [939]

The Court emphasized that is not necessary to present the full content of all the licensing agreements already concluded, but only the relevant ones, considering clearly delineated product categories. [940] Existing licences with cross-licensing-elements, are not relevant in this context, especially, when the implementer does not have any patents himself, as it was the case here. [941] Accordingly, the Court found that the forty third party agreements disclosed by Dolby in the proceedings were enough in the present case. [942]


Fair and reasonable terms

Looking at the content, the Court found that the terms of the standard licensing agreement offered by HEVC Advance are fair and reasonable. [943] As fair and reasonable can be considered terms offered to a willing party, without exploiting a dominant position. [944] Apart from the royalties, the offer must also prove reasonable with regard to the other terms as well (scope, territory etc.). [944]

Having said that, the Court held that the royalties charged by HEVC Advance's standard licensing agreement are fair and reasonable. [945] An indication of that is the fact, that up to January 2020, more than forty licensees selling products in the same category as MAS had taken a license on the same terms, modified sometimes by 'blended rates'. [946] On the other hand, the fact that lower royalties are charged by a competing patent pool (MPEG LA) does not make the HEVC Advance's rate unreasonable, as FRAND is considered rather to be a range than a specific amount. [947]

Furthermore, the Court took the view that the limitation of the offered licence to 'practised claims' only (that is those claims of the licenced patents that are essential to the practice of the HEVC standard), is not unreasonable. [948] This limitation does not present any adverse effect on MAS' business, since the royalty payments correspond to the claims that are actually used by the licensee (and, vice versa, no obligation to pay for claims not used is established). [949]

Also, in the eyes of the Court, MAS was not able to prove that the lack of an adjustment clause is unreasonable [950] . MAS failed to establish that respective clauses are common in industry practice; on the contrary, the fact that at least forty parties had signed a licence with HEVC Advance without such clause indicated the opposite. [951] What is more, the royalty clause is constant. That means that the rate charged will not change if licenced patents expire, but also will remain the same in the case of addition of new patents to the pool that will be automatically covered by the agreement. Insofar, an economic risk for both parties exists. [952]

Regarding the choice of forum clause contained in the standard licensing agreement, establishing the jurisdiction of courts in New York as well as granting HEVC Advance the right to also choose other venues at its discretion, the Court was not able to conclude any unfair disadvantage for MAS. [953] The same clause was agreed in many other licensing agreements signed by HEVC Advance with third parties. [954] In fact, MAS agreed to a similar one in its license agreement with the MPEG LA pool. [954]


Non-discrimination

Besides that, the Court was unable to establish any discrimination against MAS through the licence offered by HEVC Advance. [955] The obligation of equal treatment applies only to aspects that are comparable; even a market dominant undertaking must be allowed to respond differently to different market conditions. [956] An unequal treatment is to be assessed based on the specific circumstances of each individual case under the goals of competition and can be accepted as lawful, if objectively justified. [957] Therefore, not every difference in the terms and conditions of a licence can be seen as abusive. [958] According to the Court, the same principle also applies to the licensing of SEPs. [959]

Against this background, the Court found that the fact that the pool administered by HEVC Advance updated its terms in a way that an 'uniform licensing regime' no longer exists, since for certain licensees the previous version of the agreement still applies, does not mean that the new standard licensing agreement offered to MAS was discriminatory. [960] Although, according to the case-law of the Higher District Court of Düsseldorf, a patent holder (and its assignees) is bound to the 'licensing concept' underlying the first ever licence granted, it is allowed to deviate from such 'concept', if this does not lead to a discrimination of either past nor future licensees. [961] In the Court's view, this was not the case here: The old licensees were offered the possibility to shift to the new terms, and there is no evidence that MAS would be treated worse by the terms of the new standard licensing agreement. [961] On the contrary, the new royalty calculation leads to a lower licensing burden. [961]

The Court also took the view, that there is also no discrimination in the way the patent-in-suit is enforced. [962] MAS argued that it was discriminated, because its competitors or large companies were not sued by members of the HEVC Advance pool for patent infringement. The Court highlighted that refraining from enforcement does not necessarily mean discrimination: the phase of adoption of the relevant standard, the costs and procedural risks involved, the knowledge of the holder regarding the infringement and its extent are factors to be considered. [963] In the case of HEVC Advance, the initial phase of its existence and limitation of resources are relevant for this assessment. [964]

Moreover, no discrimination with respect to the amount of the royalty rate or the scope offered was found. [965] The Court pointed out that the fact that some of the existing licensees have agreed on rates higher than those offered to MAS, could not be used in favour of the latter: as a rule, only those who are treated less favourably can invoke discrimination. [966]

The Court further held that the 'blended rates' agreed with certain other licensees, did not render the offer made to MAS by HEVC Advance discriminatory either. [967] These rates mirrored variations due to the difference in products and implementer's profiles and were either offered to MAS or not applicable to his business model. [968]

Furthermore, the Court found that the 'incentive programme' offered by the HEVC Advance pool, which under specific conditions (especially the signing of a licence at an early point in time) results in discounted rates, is lawful and non-discriminatory. [969] The same is true with respect to discounts offered for past uses prior to the signing a licence, as it is the case for HEVC Advance [970] .

Finally, a 10% discount offered by HEVC Advance when a licensee also takes a trademark licence, allowing for the labelling of products with the HEVC trademark, was equally offered to the MAS, so that the Court could not see a discrimination of MAS by such provision in the standard licensing agreement. [971]


Implementer's counteroffer

The Court found that MAS' counteroffer was not FRAND. [972] The offer made by MAS failed to present sufficiently an explanation of why its terms would be FRAND, in view of the terms offered by HEVC Advance. MAS presented only a royalty rate, without making any reference to the rest of the clauses contained in the offer previously made by HEVC Advance, which it alleged to be discriminatory or unreasonable. [973]

Having found that MAS' counteroffer had not been FRAND, the Court explained that the fact that MAS neither rendered accounts nor provided security did not play any role for its decision. [974]


C. Other issues

By the facts of the case, the Court concluded that MAS acted culpably, or at least negligently, and, therefore, owes compensation for past and future damages caused by its actions. Moreover, damages should not be limited to a FRAND royalty. [975] The quantification of the damages will be possible with the rendering of accounts by MAS. [976]

The lawsuit for revocation of the patent, arguing lack of inventive step, that had not been decided yet, had no likelihood of success, according to the Court's analysis. Therefore, the request for staying the proceedings until a decision on the validity is delivered by the Federal Patent Court was denied. [977]

  • [913] HEVC (Dolby) v MAS Elektronik, District Court (Landgericht) of Düsseldorf, 7 May 2020, Case No. 4c O 44/18 (cited by www.nrwe.de), paras. 75 et seqq.
  • [914] Ibid, paras. 157-184.
  • [915] Ibid, paras. 186 et seqq.
  • [916] Ibid, paras. 189 et seqq.
  • [917] Ibid, paras. 194 et seqq.
  • [918] Ibid, para. 197.
  • [919] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [920] HEVC (Dolby) v MAS Elektronik, District Court (Landgericht) of Düsseldorf, 7 May 2020, Case No. 4c O 44/18, paras. 213 et seqq and paras. 221 et seqq.
  • [921] Ibid, para. 210.
  • [922] Ibid, paras. 229 et seqq.
  • [923] Ibid, para. 233.
  • [924] Ibid, para. 759.
  • [925] Ibid, paras. 236 et seqq.
  • [926] Ibid, paras. 760 et seqq.
  • [927] Ibid, para. 237.
  • [928] Ibid, para. 237 and para. 761.
  • [929] Ibid, para. 760.
  • [930] Ibid, para. 238.
  • [931] Ibid, para. 763.
  • [932] Ibid, para. 764.
  • [933] Ibid, para. 765.
  • [934] Ibid, paras. 241 et seqq.
  • [935] Ibid, para. 242.
  • [936] Ibid, paras. 244 et seqq.
  • [937] Ibid, para. 245.
  • [938] Ibid, para. 248.
  • [939] Ibid, para. 255.
  • [940] Ibid, para. 250.
  • [941] Ibid, para. 253.
  • [942] Ibid, para. 249.
  • [943] Ibid, paras. 257 and 258.
  • [944] Ibid, para. 260.
  • [945] Ibid, paras. 264 et seqq.
  • [946] Ibid, para. 268.
  • [947] Ibid, paras. 271 et seqq.
  • [948] Ibid, paras. 280 et seqq.
  • [949] Ibid, para. 284.
  • [950] Ibid, paras. 286 et seqq.
  • [951] Ibid, para. 295.
  • [952] Ibid, para. 298.
  • [953] Ibid, paras. 301 et seqq.
  • [954] Ibid, para. 304.
  • [955] Ibid, paras. 306 et seqq. and paras. 314 et seqq.
  • [956] Ibid, para. 308.
  • [957] Ibid, paras. 308 et seq.
  • [958] Ibid, para. 310.
  • [959] Ibid, para. 311.
  • [960] Ibid, paras. 314 et seqq.
  • [961] Ibid, para. 318.
  • [962] Ibid, para. 321.
  • [963] Ibid, para. 322.
  • [964] Ibid, para. 323.
  • [965] Ibid, paras. 325 et seqq. as well as paras. 443 et seqq.
  • [966] Ibid, para. 326.
  • [967] Ibid, paras. 328 et seqq.
  • [968] Ibid, paras. 329 et seqq.
  • [969] Ibid, paras. 334 et seqq.
  • [970] Ibid, paras. 526 et seqq.
  • [971] Ibid, paras. 665 et seqq.
  • [972] Ibid, paras. 751 et seqq.
  • [973] Ibid, paras. 754.
  • [974] Ibid, para. 756.
  • [975] Ibid, para. 773.
  • [976] Ibid, para. 774.
  • [977] Ibid, paras. 781 et seqq.