Huawei対ZTE事件CJEU判決後の判例法
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Updated 6 3月 2018

OLG Düsseldorf

OLG Düsseldorf
18 7月 2017 - Case No. I-2 U 23/17

A. Facts

The Claimant is holder of a patent declared as essential to a standard (Standard Essential Patent, SEP). The Defendant is a provider of telecommuni­cation services. Under the policy governing the relevant standard, the Claimant is obliged to license its SEP on Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions. Against Claimant’s SEP a nullity action is pending. The Claimant, nevertheless, concluded portfolio licensing agreements also covering the SEP in question with two companies.

Since November 2012, the Claimant made efforts to license his SEP also to the Defendant. The parties could, however, not reach an agreement. In January 2016, the Claimant brought an action against the Defendant before the Regional Court of Düsseldorf requesting for a declaration of the Defendant’s liability for damages as well as rendering of accounts (main proceedings). After the main proceedings were ini­tiated, the Claimant made two offers for a license agreement to the Defendant. In order to protect busi­ness secrets connected with these offers, the Claimant requested the Defendant to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). The Defendant refused to sign a NDA. Moreover, the Defendant brought an action against the Claimant before an Irish Court requesting for a declaration that Claimant’s offers did not comply with FRAND.

Subsequently, the Claimant filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against the Defendant before the Regional Court of Düsseldorf. The Regional Court of Düsseldorf dismissed Claimant’s motion. The Claimant appealed this judgement. With the present ruling the competent Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf in­dicated that the Claimant’s appeal has no prospects of success.

B. Court’s reasoning

The court made clear that preliminary injunctions involving SEPs are subject to the same strict prerequi­sites as injunctions referring to non-SEPs. The SEP-holder has, therefore, to adequately establish the va­lidity of the SEP, its use by the alleged infringer as well as the urgency of its request for a preliminary injunction.

Besides this, prior to seeking for a preliminary injunction, the SEP holder also has to fulfill the require­ments set forth by the Court of Justice of the European Union in its decision in the matter Huawei ./. ZTE (Huawei judgement). This follows from the fact that SEP-holders’ claims for injunctive relief are, in prin­ciple, only enforceable, after the prerequisites established by the Huawei judgement have been fully met.

Since preliminary injunctions may severely affect alleged infringer’s ongoing business, such injunctions can only be granted, when both the validity and the use of the SEP by the alleged infringer appear to be given with a high degree of certainty.

The validity of a SEP is deemed to be given, when the SEP has been confirmed in patent opposition or nullity proceedings. Without a prior confirming decision, the validity of a SEP can, exceptionally, also be regarded as being given, when

  • the alleged infringer has unsuccessfully intervened in the proceedings, in which the SEP was granted,
  • no opposition or nullity proceedings were initiated against the SEP, because it is universally consid­ered to be able to receive patent protection (one indication for this being, for instance, the fact that the SEP was licensed to renowned licensees),
  • the objections raised against SEP’s validity can be proven to be unfounded even by the limited means of the summary examination foreseen in proceedings for interim relief, as well as
  • in “extraordinary circumstances”, in which the SEP-holder will face substantial disadvantages, if he is forced to wait with the initiation of proceedings against the infringer, until after the end of opposition or nullity proceedings pending against the SEP.

Against this background, the court argued that the Claimant is most likely not entitled to the requested preliminary injunction.

First, the Claimant failed to establish the validity of the SEP in dispute with the required high degree of certainty. A decision confirming the SEP in dispute is missing, since the nullity proceedings are still pending. Furthermore, the exceptions allowing this conclusion to be drawn, even without a prior con­firming decision, do most likely not apply. In particular, the fact that the Claimant concluded portfolio licensing agreements with two other companies covering also the SEP in question, does not suffice to adequately establish its validity. This fact only proves that the licensees held the SEP-holder’s portfolio as being able to receive patent protection as a whole, not, however, that they considered the SEP itself as being worthy of such protection. Furthermore, due to the high level of technical complexity, the court does not expect that the objections raised against the validity of the SEP can be proven as being unfounded solely on basis of the limited examination means available to the court in the present pro­ceedings for interim relief.

Second, the court has also substantial doubts that urgency is given. The Claimant was aware of the alleged infringement since 2012. Nevertheless, the Claimant refrained from making his claim for injunctive relief enforceable by fulfilling the Huawei judgement requirements. Furthermore, in the main proceedings ini­tiated prior to the present proceedings for preliminary injunction, the Claimant did not request for injunc­tive relief, but limited his action against the Defendant to damages and rendering of accounts. In terms of urgency, it could be expected from the Claimant to request for injunctive relief already in the main proceedings. Furthermore, the fact that the Defendant brought an action before an Irish Court requesting a declaration that Claimant’s offers did not comply with FRAND, also fails to establish urgency. It is the Defendant’s right to seek legal redress.

C. Other issues

In addition, the court expressed its view regarding the consequences of the refusal of a potential licensee to sign a NDA covering information connected with the SEP-holder’s offer for a licensing agreement on FRAND terms, without, however, ruling on this question on the merits of the present case.

The court suggested that the unjustified refusal of a licensee to enter into a NDA does not release the SEP-holder from the obligations established by the Huawei judgement, namely the obligation to make a FRAND offer to the licensee and specify the underlying conditions (particularly the price calculation). An unjusti­fied refusal of the licensee to sign a NDA shall, however, lead to easing the SEP-holder’s burden to provide the licensee with detailed explanations regarding the justification of its licensing conditions, to the extent that this is required for protecting its justified confidentiality interests. Instead of detailed information, “merely indicative observations would, basically, suffice. The licensee cannot object the FRAND con­formity of the SEP-holder’s offer based on the insufficient specification of the licensing terms.
Updated 23 1月 2018

LG Mannheim

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

A. Facts

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

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

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

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

B. Court’s Reasoning

1. Notice of Infringement

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

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

2. The SEP Owner’s Licensing Offer

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

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

3. The standard implementer’s reaction

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

C. Other Important Issues

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

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

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

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

Updated 10 4月 2019

Huawei 対 ZTE

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

A. 内容

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B. 判決理由

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Updated 9 11月 2020

シャープ対ダイムラー、ミュンヘン地方裁判所

LG Munich
10 9月 2020 - Case No. 7 O 8818/19

A. 内容

原告は、日本に本社を置くシャープグループ会社(シャープ)である。シャープは、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(標準必須特許又はSEP)の実施に必須(と見込まれる)として宣言済みの特許ポートフォリオを保有している。

被告ダイムラーは、ドイツの大手自動車メーカーである。ダイムラーは、ETSIにより開発された規格を実施する接続機能を搭載した自動車をドイツで製造し、販売している。

シャープは、本事件に関係する特許について、4G/LTE規格に必須(と見込まれる)としてETSIに宣言した。ETSIは、規格の実施に必須であるか、必須となる特許を公正、合理的かつ非差別的(FRAND)条件にてユーザーの利用に供すると確約するよう権利保有者に要求している。

In 2017年、シャープは、Avanciライセンシングプラットフォームに参加した。Avanciは、標準ライセンス契約及び固定料率に基づき、接続規格に関するSEPのライセンスを自動車メーカーにオファーした。Avanciは、2016年9月以降、ライセンス契約締結に関し、既にダイムラーと接触していたが、契約締結には至らなかった。

On 20 May 2019年5月20日、最初の接触後、シャープは、対象規格の関連部分にかかわる自社のSEP(係争中の特許を含む)を図示したクレームチャートをダイムラーに送付した。

2019年6月7日、ダイムラーは、使用した特許につき原則としてライセンスを取得する意向である旨を回答したが、双方向ライセンスのオファー又はAvanciプラットフォームを経由したライセンス許諾を行うかどうかシャープに尋ねた。双方向ライセンスがオファーされていれば、ダイムラーは、自社のサプライヤーも同様にライセンスを取得できると想定したことを指摘した。

2019年7月23日、ダイムラーは、ダイムラーでなく自社のサプライヤー(ただし、個別の社名には言及されていない)にライセンスが許諾されるべきだとの書簡をあらためてシャープに送付した。ダイムラーは、ダイムラーのサプライヤーにライセンスがオファーされないのであればシャープのETSIに対するFRAND誓約に反していると主張し、シャープの締結済み契約、特にダイムラーに接続ユニットを供給している会社との契約に関する情報を要請した。

2019年8月8日、シャープは、個別ライセンスをオファーする意向であるとダイムラーに回答し、通知した。このため、シャープは、一定の情報、特にダイムラーのサプライヤーにかかわる情報をダイムラーに要請した。

2019年9月18日、ダイムラーは、シャープから要請された情報の提供を拒絶し、シャープによる適切なライセンス要求先として自社のサプライヤーに委ねるとした。

2019年10月22日、シャープは、ダイムラーに双方向のFRAND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。

その後、シャープは、ダイムラーを相手取り、ミュンヘン地方裁判所(裁判所)に権利侵害訴訟を提起した。ダイムラーの複数のサプライヤーがダイムラーを援護するため当該訴訟に参加した。 2019年12月17日、訴訟が提起された後、ダイムラーは、係争中の権利侵害訴訟の停止に同意するようシャープに要請した後、カウンターオファーを行った。2019年12月31日、シャープは、ダイムラーのこのカウンターオファーを拒絶した。

審理の過程で、シャープは、訴訟に参加していたダイムラーのサプライヤー1社との間で、ライセンス契約に関し合意した。結果として、シャープは、審理での主張内容を修正した。

この判決 [45] をもって、裁判所は、ダイムラーに差止命令を下すとともに、ダイムラーの損害賠償責任を判示した。さらに裁判所は、侵害製品のリコール及び破棄、計算書の提出、並びにシャープに対する損害賠償金の算定に必要な情報の提供をするようダイムラーに命じた。
 

B. 判決理由

裁判所は、係争中の特許が4G/LTE規格の実施に必須 [46] であり、侵害されていた [47] と認めた。これにより、シャープは、差止命令の救済手段を求める権利がある [48] 。 ダイムラーは、いわゆる「FRAND宣言を理由とする抗弁」を展開し、シャープが権利侵害訴訟の提起によって市場支配的地位を濫用し、これがEU機能条約(TFEU)第102条に反していることから、差止命令の申立ては却下されるべきと主張した。特に、Huawei対ZTE事件 [49] でEU司法裁判所(CJEU)が示した行動要件(Huwaei決定又はフレームワーク)をシャープが遵守していなかった点について主張した。 裁判所は、ダイムラーによるFRAND宣言を理由とする抗弁を却下し、ダイムラーが自社サプライヤー由来のFRAND抗弁に依拠することはできないと認定した [50]

市場支配力の濫用

裁判所によれば、特許保有者が支配的地位に付帯する「特段の責任」を果たすための「十分な努力」を怠った上、原則として「ライセンスを取得する意向である」実施者との契約締結を推進した場合、SEPの行使による市場支配的地位の濫用が生じうる [51] 。ただし、この場合、権利保有者の許諾を得ることなく保護対象の技術を既に使用している実施者がFRAND条件でライセンスを取得する意向でなければならない [52] 。裁判所は、SEP保有者が規格実施者にライセンス取得の「強要」を求めることはできないと説明した [52]

上記を踏まえ、裁判所は、シャープが本件訴訟を提起したことはTFEU第102条に定められる濫用にあたらないと認めた [53] 。裁判所は、シャープが市場支配的地位を有していたか否かについては確証せず、本件においては有していたと想定するに留めた [53] 。それにもかかわらず、(想定された)支配的地位の濫用が認められなかったのは、ダイムラーがシャープのSEPポートフォリオにかかわるライセンスの取得することについて十分に明確な意欲を表明しなかったためである [54]
 

Willingness

裁判所は、「実際にいかなるFRAND条件であろうと」、実施者がSEP保有者とのライセンス契約を締結し、爾後、「目標志向」の方法でライセンス協議に従事する誠実意思を有する場合、これを「明確に」かつ「疑義のないよう」宣言しなければならないと説明した(引用判例、連邦司法裁判所、2020年5月5日判決、Sisvel対Haier、事件番号KZR 36/17、及び英国高等法院、2017年4月5日判決、事件番号[2017] EWHC 711(Pat) – Unwired Planet対Huawei) [52]

つまり、実施者は、ライセンス協議を遅延させてはならない [55] 。裁判所の見地からすると、特許で保護された標準化技術を協議前に既に利用している実施者はその特許が満了するまでライセンス契約の締結を遅延させる単独の利益又は優勢な利益を有しているため、遅延させてはならない点が特に重要である [55]

その上で、裁判所は、ダイムラーが「誠実意思を有する」実施者としてふるまっていなかったと認定した [54]

シャープへのカウンターオファー前のダイムラーの行動を見た上で、裁判所は、「明確な」誠実意思の宣言が欠落していたと判示した [56] 。2019年6月7日のシャープに対する最初の回答で、ダイムラーは、シャープの特許が使用されている場合でも、ライセンス協議に関する一般的な意思を超える確約をするとの表明を一切しなかった [57] 。さらに言えば、2019年7月23日付のダイムラーの書簡では、ダイムラーは、シャープに対して自社のサプライヤー(特定しないで)に差し向け、シャープがサプライヤーにライセンスを許諾する義務を負っていると主張しており、適切な誠実意思が宣言されていなかった [58] 。2019年9月18日の陳述書でも、ダイムラーは、自社のサプライヤーに委ねるとし、かつ、ライセンスオファーに必要な情報をシャープに提供することを拒絶していた [59] 。裁判所は、シャープから要請される情報を提供する法的義務はないが、ダイムラーがその提供を拒絶したことで、「目標志向」で協議に従事しなかっただけでなく、当該協議を遅延させることがねらいであったことが明らかになった点に着目した [60] 。これは、ダイムラーの回答がシャープの要請の都度およそ6週間後に行われていた事実からも確認されている。裁判所は、ダイムラーが回答に時間を要した理由を確認しなかった [60]

さらに、裁判所は、ダイムラーの「誠実意思を有しない」実施者としての行為は、Avanciプラットフォームとの協議でのダイムラーの全体的な態度からも明らかであると事実認定した [61] 。裁判所は、FRAND宣言を理由とする抗弁を申し立てる実施者の「誠実意思」を評価するにあたっては、時機的に、権利侵害通知受領後直接に発生した事実のみならず、全体的な行為を考慮に入れなければならないと判示した [62] 。誠実意思評価の基準は、特許保有者が先に実施者に接近したか、実施者が主導してライセンスを求めたかの「やや行き当たりばったりの」事実に依拠するものであってはならない [63] 。Huawei判決において示された義務(そのひとつが、ライセンス取得の「誠実意思」を表明することにより権利侵害通知に反応すること)は、原則としてCJEUの命令において「措置」として従うべきものであるが、両当事者の行動上例外が認められ、かつ、Huaweiフレームワークの純粋な「形式的」見解が適切でないと思われる場合には、ケースバイケースで例外を認めなければならない [64] 。裁判所によれば、ダイムラーが2016年9月以後Avanciと接触しており、いずれの時間的段階においてもライセンス取得の意向を表明していないことから、本件はその例外に該当した [65]

さらに裁判所は、2019年12月17日付のダイムラーによるカウンターオファーについて、権利侵害訴訟提起後になされたものに過ぎず、意向表明の欠如を是正することにならないと認定した [66] 。裁判所の見解によれば、本件において係属中の訴訟手続の停止についてシャープに同意が求め後カウンターオファーがなされた事実は、ダイムラーが専ら遅延を生じさせようとして行ったことを示しており、よって、当該カウンターオファーはその時点までにダイムラーが示していた「明らかな意向の欠如」を補うに値するものでなかった [67] 。この点に関し、裁判所は、審理が進むにつれ厳格さが増す要件が求められるが、係属中の訴訟手続中、(カウンターオファー等により)不備を是正する機会が原則として与えられていると述べた [68] 。 さらに裁判所は、ダイムラーのカウンターオファーが内容の点で、「実際にいかなるFRAND条件であろうと」ライセンスを取得する意向を表明するものでなかったと強調した [69] 。ロイヤルティ計算に異なる複数の「基準」を用いることで、ダイムラーは、シャープからオファーされたか、Avanciが競業者をとりまとめたオファーののごく一部のみについてカウンターオファーを行い、カウンターオファーの拒絶が「論理上必要」となるように仕向けていた [70]

この流れにおいて、裁判所は、意向の評価にはダイムラーの態度のみが関係すると明言した [71] 。さらに、ダイムラーは、差止命令を回避するために、訴訟に参加していたサプライヤーがシャープからライセンスを取得する意向を有していたとする「主張」には依拠することができなかった [72] 。よって、裁判所は、ダイムラーのサプライヤーが実際に「誠実意思を有するライセンシー」として行為していたかどうか調査しなかった [72]

非差別性/ライセンス許諾レベル

上記に加え、裁判所は、シャープがエンドデバイスメーカーであるダイムラーのみにライセンス取得を求めることにより、濫用的又は非差別的に行動していたのではなかったと説示した [73] 。 裁判所の見解では、シャープはダイムラーのサプライヤーにライセンスを許諾する義務を負っていなかった [74] 。(ドイツの)自動車業界においては自動車メーカーにコンポーネントを販売するサプライヤーが当該コンポーネントに関するライセンスを取得するのが一般的であるとはいえ、シャープがその慣行を尊重し、受け入れる義務を負うものではない [75] 。反対に、ダイムラーは、自社製品での無線通信技術の利用度が増す限り、その分野で一般的な、エンドデバイスメーカーへもライセンスを許諾するという慣行を受け入れなければならない [75]

上記にかかわらず、シャープは、コンポーネントメーカーにライセンスを許諾する法的義務を一切負っていない。シャープが負っているのは、自社のSEPがカバーする規格への「アクセス権」を付与する義務である [76] 。特許保有者がETSIに確約することにより、SEPのライセンスを第三者に許諾する義務が生じる [77] 41。しかしながら裁判所は、これにより、バリューチェーンのあらゆるレベルでライセンスを許諾する義務が必ずしも生じるわけではないことを強調した [78] 。そのような義務は、競争法又は特許法若しくはETSIのFRAND規約に対する契約法のいずれからも生じない [78] 。 特に、EU競争法では、バリューチェーンのあらゆるレベルでSEPのライセンスを許諾する義務を定めていない [79] 。裁判所によれば、特許保有者は原則として、バリューチェーンのどのレベルをライセンス許諾の対象とするか、自由裁量により選択することができる [80] 。Huawei判決において、CJEUは、FRAND引受けにより、特許保有者からライセンスを許諾される第三者の側に「正当な期待」が生じると指摘した。しかしながら裁判所は、これにより、エンドデバイスメーカーの全サプライヤーにライセンスを許諾する義務が生じるものではないと判示した。市場へのアクセスに必要とされるのは、必ずしもライセンスではなく、「法的に使用できること」である。これは例えばバリューチェーンの最終レベルで付与されるライセンス等を通じて与えられ、サプライヤーはこれに基づき「have-made-rights製造委託権」下で製造することができる [80]

また裁判所は、特許法においても、バリューチェーンの中でSEPライセンスが付与されるべきレベルは定められていないと説明した同判決、paras. 173節以下。。とりわけ、SEPポートフォリオに含まれる特許のすべてが常にコンポーネントメーカーのレベルで消尽するわけではないという事実が、(この場合に見込まれるライセンス料のより効率的な「管理」に加え)エンドデバイスレベルでのライセンス許諾の正当性を示している [82]

最後に、裁判所は、ETSIのFRAND規定は、契約法によって利害関係者たるすべての第三者にライセンスを許諾する義務が特許保有者に課すものではない旨を指摘した [83] 。適用されるフランス法に基づき、ETSI IPRポリシー第6.1条は、ライセンスを求める当事者との間でFRAND契約について協議する義務のみが課されると理解される [84] 。ただし、「装置」に言及した場合、本規定は、すべてのコンポーネントが必ずしも規格全体を実装するわけではないことから、エンドデバイスメーカーにのみ対応することとなる [85] 。裁判所の見地において、以前別の事例において欧州委員会が示した見解に拠っても、別の結論が導き出されることはない同判決、第180~183節。裁判所は、とりわけ、欧州委員会の決定(事件番号AT.39985 – Motorola)、水平的協力協定へのTFEU第101条の適用に関するガイドラインの通達(2011/C 11/01)、及びデジタル単一市場へのICT標準化優先性の通達(COM(2016) 176確定版)に言及した。

サプライヤーのFRAND宣言を理由とする抗弁

さらに裁判所は、サプライヤーによりなされたFRAND宣言を理由とする抗弁をダイムラーが利用することはできないと認めた [87] 。被告がそのような抗弁に依拠できるのは、特許保有者がサプライヤーにライセンスを許諾する義務を負っている場合に限られる。ただし、被告自らが、関連するバリューチェーンでの特許消尽を十分に考慮しSEP保有者との間でライセンス契約を締結する立場にある場合、上記の定めは適用されない [87]

裁判所は、本件がこれにあたるとみなした。ダイムラーのサプライヤーは、シャープに対しライセンスの許諾を請求する権利を有しておらず、標準化技術に対し「法的に保護されたアクセス権」を請求する権利を有していた。これをダイムラーに有利になるよう考慮することはできない [88]
 

C. その他の問題

さらに、裁判所は、比例性の原則(proportionality considerations)に基づくシャープの差止命令請求を制限する根拠はないと裁定した [89] 。ダイムラーは、自社製造の自動車が多数のコンポーネントを組み込んだ「複雑」な製品であり、シャープのSEPに関係するテレマティクス制御ユニットは当該自動車にとって重要性が低いとして、係争中の特許に基づき差止命令が下されるべきでないと論じた。

裁判所は、比例性がドイツ法において、原告から異議が申し立てられる都度検討される、憲法と同等の順位を有する一般原則であり、差止命令による救済手段に関しても考慮される旨を明言した [90] 。連邦裁判所の判例によれば、差止命令は、例外的に、信義則に反する特許保有者の正当化できない排他権で、実施者が不都合を被るおそれがあると即時に執行されない場合があり、 [91] 。 裁判所の見地から、差止命令による救済を求める権利の制限が問題になるのは「ごくわずかな例外的な事例」であることから、その制限に際しては、厳格な条件を定め、特に「法秩序」のみならず「法的な確実性及び予測可能性」を保護しなければならない [92] 。関係事実すべてをケースバイケースで評価する必要がある一方で、実体的及び手続上の包括的なフレームワーク(最初の差止命令の執行を求める場合の供託金差出しの必要性を含む)についても検討する必要がある [92]

裁判所は、差止命令により通常もたらされる結果を超える不都合のみが考慮の対象となりうることを説明した [92] 。権利侵害者には、可能な限り早急にライセンス契約を締結するよう努力し、かつ、遅くとも権利侵害通知受領後、見込まれる差止命令に対する予防措置を講じることが求められる [92]

この背景を鑑み、裁判所は、本件において、対象となるのがダイムラーの自動車に含まれる単一のコンポーネントのみであったとしても、複雑な特許ポートフォリオ(シャープのポートフォリオか、Avanciのポートフォリオかを問わない)に基づくライセンス許諾を巡り紛争が展開されると述べた [93] 。「コネクテッドカー」を参照する技術革新の重大部分は技術的・経済的双方の観点においてモバイル通信技術と密接に関連していることから、シャープの特許により実装された機能がダイムラーの車両にとってさほど重要でないとの反論は、裁判所を説得する材料とならなかった [94] 。最後に裁判所は、ダイムラーがシャープ又はAvanciのいずれともライセンス契約を締結すべく真摯な努力を尽くさなかったとして批判した [95]

  • [45] シャープ対ダイムラー、ミュンヘン地方裁判所、2020年9月10日判決、事件番号7O8818/19(https://www.gesetze-bayern.de/Content/Document/Y-300-Z-BECKRS-B-2020-N-22577?hl=trueから引用)
  • [46] 同判決、第68節以下。
  • [47] 同判決、第 25節以下。
  • [48] 同判決、第90節。
  • [49] Huawei対ZTE、EU司法裁判所、2015年7月16日判決、事件番号C-170/13
  • [50] シャープ対ダイムラー、ミュンヘン地方裁判所、2020年9月10日判決、事件番号7O8818/19第121節。
  • [51] 同判決、第124節。
  • [52] 同判決、第125節。
  • [53] 同判決、第128節。
  • [54] 同判決、第130節以下。
  • [55] 同判決、第126節。
  • [56] 同判決、第132節以下。
  • [57] 同判決、第134節以下。
  • [58] 同判決、第136節以下。
  • [59] 同判決、第138節以下。
  • [60] 同判決、第140節。
  • [61] 同判決、第141節。
  • [62] 同判決、第142節以下。
  • [63] 同判決、第143節以下。
  • [64] 同判決、第144節。
  • [65] 同判決、第146~149節。
  • [66] 同判決、第150節。
  • [67] 同判決、第151及び153節。
  • [68] 同判決、第152節。
  • [69] 同判決、第154節。
  • [70] 同判決、第154節以下。
  • [71] 同判決、第158節及び159節。
  • [72] 同判決、第158節。
  • [73] 同判決、第161節以下。
  • [74] 同判決、第162節。
  • [75] 同判決、第164節。
  • [76] 同判決、第165節。
  • [77] 同判決、第168節。
  • [78] 同判決、第169節。
  • [79] 同判決、第170節以下。
  • [80] 同判決、第171節。
  • [81] 同判決、paras. 173節以下。
  • [82] 同判決、第174節。
  • [83] 同判決、第175節以下。
  • [84] 同判決、第177節以下。
  • [85] 同判決、第178節。
  • [86] 同判決、第180~183節。裁判所は、とりわけ、欧州委員会の決定(事件番号AT.39985 – Motorola)、水平的協力協定へのTFEU第101条の適用に関するガイドラインの通達(2011/C 11/01)、及びデジタル単一市場へのICT標準化優先性の通達(COM(2016) 176確定版)に言及した。
  • [87] 同判決、第167節。
  • [88] 同判決、第185節。
  • [89] 同判決、第92~102節。
  • [90] 同判決、第93節。
  • [91] 同判決、第94節。
  • [92] 同判決、第95節。
  • [93] 同判決、第97節以下。
  • [94] 同判決、第100節以下。
  • [95] 同判決、第99節。

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 [96] 。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 [97]

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 [98] 。 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 [99] 。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 [100] 。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 [101]

2020年5月5日付のこの判決により  [102] (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 [103]

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 [104]

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  [105]

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 [106] 。従って、いくつかの要因を考慮する必要がある [107] 。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 [108]  。

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 [109]

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 [110] 。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  [111] 。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 [112] 。 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 [113]

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 [114] 。 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 [114] 。 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  [114]

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  [115]

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  [115]

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  [116]  。

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  [117] 。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。 [117] 。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。 [118]  。

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) [119]  。
  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 [120]

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 [121] 。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  [122]  。

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 [123]  。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  [123]  。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。 [124]  。

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  [125] [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 [126]  。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 [126]  。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)  [126]  。

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 [127] 。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 [127]

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  [128]  。

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 [129] 。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 [130] 。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  [130]  。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 [130] 。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  [131]  。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  [132]  。

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)  [133]  。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  [133]  。

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  [134]

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 [135]  。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 [135]  。

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  [136]  。

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  [137]  。

 

  • [96] 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。
  • [97] 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。
  • [98] 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。
  • [99] 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。
  • [100] 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)。
  • [101] 連邦裁判所、2020年3月10日付判決、事件番号No. X ZR 44/18。
  • [102] Sisvel 対Haier、連邦裁判所、2020年5月5日付判決、事件番号KZR 36/17。
  • [103] 同判決、第9節以下、及び第59節。
  • [104] 同判決、第52節。
  • [105] 同判決、第54節。
  • [106] 同判決、第56節。
  • [107] 同判決、第 57節以下。
  • [108] 同判決、第58節。
  • [109] 同判決、第59節以下。
  • [110] 同判決、第61節。
  • [111] 同判決、第63節。
  • [112] 同判決、第62節。
  • [113] 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。
  • [114] 同判決、第64節。
  • [115] 同判決、第65節。
  • [116] 同判決、第67節以下。
  • [117] 同判決、第69節。
  • [118] 同判決、第70節。
  • [119] 同判決、第71節。
  • [120] 同判決、第72節。
  • [121] 同判決、第73節以下。
  • [122] 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。
  • [123] 同判決、第74節。
  • [124] 同判決、第74節及び第85節。
  • [125] 同判決、第89節。
  • [126] 同判決、第85節。
  • [127] 同判決、第87節。
  • [128] 同判決、第86 節以下。
  • [129] 同判決、第91節以下。
  • [130] 同判決、第92節。
  • [131] 同判決、第93節以下。
  • [132] 同判決、第94節。
  • [133] 同判決、第83節。
  • [134] 同判決、第95節。
  • [135] 同判決、第96節。
  • [136] 同判決、第98節。
  • [137] 同判決、第97節。

Updated 23 1月 2018

Unwired Planet v Huawei, [2017] EWHC 711 (Pat)

英国裁判所の決定
5 4月 2017 - Case No. HP-2014-000005

A. Facts

The claimant is a company that grants licenses for patented technologies in the telecommunications industry. The patents at issue (EP (UK) 2 229 744, EP (UK) 2 119 287, EP (UK) 2 485 514, EP (UK) 1 230 818, EP (UK) 1 105 991, EP (UK) 0 989 712) relate to telecommunication network coding and procedures. [138] Most were part of a large patent portfolio that the claimant had acquired from a major telecommunications company in 2013. [139] In 2014, the claimant made a declaration under the ETSI IPR Policy that it was willing to grant licenses on FRAND terms. There were five technical trials relating to the validity, infringement and essentiality of these patents. This summary focuses on the non-technical trial addressed competition law issues, FRAND issues, injunctive relief and damages for past infringements. [140]

In April 2014 the claimant made an open offer to the defendant, a major international smartphone manufacturer, to grant a license in respect of the claimant’s entire global patent portfolio (containing SEPs and non-SEPs). The defendant refused the offer, contending that there was no patent infringement, that the patents were not essential, and that they were invalid. The defendant also argued that the offer was not FRAND and thus did not constitute an abuse of a dominant market position under Art. 102 TFEU. In July 2014 the claimant made a further offer, limited to the claimant’s SEPs. Again, the defendant refused, arguing that the license conditions were not FRAND. [141] In June 2015 both parties made further offers. These offers were the result of directions from the court. The claimant offered a worldwide portfolio license while the defendant wanted to limit the territorial scope to the United Kingdom. [142] Between August and October 2016 the parties exchanged further offers without reaching an agreement. [143]

The Patents Court (Birrs J) held that the claimant was in a dominant position, but did not abuse this position. [144] The defendant was not prepared to take a license on FRAND conditions and the claimant was not in breach of competition law. Thus, the court held that a final injunction to restrain patent infringements should be granted. An injunction for infringements of patents EP (UK) 2 229 744 and EP (UK) 1 230 818 was granted on 7 June 2017. [145]

B. Court’s Reasoning

1. Market Power

The court defined the relevant market for assessing dominance as a distinct market for licensing each SEP individually. [146] European case law indicated that owning an SEP could be a rebuttable presumption for the existence of a dominant position. [147] The claimant’s pleaded position was a non-admission of dominance rather than a denial coupled with a positive case to the contrary. It was the view of the court that this was insufficient to rebut the presumption. In particular, the claimant’s argument of countervailing buyer power was unconvincing because it had not been supported by a proper economic analysis. [148]

2. SEP Proprietor’s Licensing Offer

a. FRAND Declaration as Conceptual Basis

The court pointed out that that the FRAND undertaking also applied in the case that the SEP proprietor was not in a dominant position. It held that the FRAND undertaking operated as a practical constraint on a SEP owner’s market power. [149] The ETSI declaration made by the SEP proprietor is also the starting point for determining the FRAND rate. The underlying issue, which is discussed at length by the court, [150] is if such a declaration forms a contract and whether that contract can benefit third parties. The court acknowledged that the legal effect of this declaration, in particular its enforceability, is a controversial issue under French law. [151] However, the court reasoned that the FRAND declaration is an important aspect of technology standardisation. Holders of SEPs are not compelled to give a FRAND declaration. If they do, the undertaking would be enforceable and irrevocable due to public interest. [151]

The court applied a procedural approach to FRAND. It emphasised that FRAND describes not only a set of license terms, but also the process by which a set of terms are agreed. [152] It applies to both the SEP-holder and the implementer/defendant. In particular, this approach allows for starting offers that leave room for negotiation. On the other hand, making extreme offers and taking an uncompromising approach which prejudices fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory negotiation is not a FRAND approach. [153] This approach also means that the SEP proprietor is under an obligation to make a FRAND offer and to enter into FRAND license agreements. [154]

b. ‘True FRAND Rate’

The court considered that there is only a single set of terms for a given set of circumstances that would meet FRAND conditions (‘true FRAND rate’). [155] This eliminates the so-called Vringo-problem, [156] i.e. if FRAND were a range there would be two different but equally FRAND offers. Thus, if the court would grant or not an injunction, it would be unfair for the alleged infringer or SEP holder respectively. [157]

The court was of the opinion that the true FRAND rate approach does not cause problems under competition law. Theoretically, if only one set of terms is truly FRAND, and if FRAND also represents the line between abusive and non-abusive conduct under Art. 102 TFEU, then every agreed SEP-licence could be at serious risk of being abusive. [158] However, the court took the view that FRAND-compliance and compliance with Art. 102 TFEU are not the same thing (the court pointed out that the CJEU in the Huawei ruling appears to equate an obligation to make a FRAND offer with compliance with Art 102 TFEU).Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 154./span> Since Art. 102 TFEU condemns excessive pricing, [160] a royalty rate can be somewhat higher than the true FRAND rate and still not be contrary to competition law. Conversely, for a breach of competition law, it will be necessary but not sufficient that the rate is not the true FRAND rate. [160]

c. Discrimination

The court held that the correct approach is to start from a global rate as a benchmark and to then adjust this rate as appropriate. [161] It distinguished between two concepts of discrimination. First, the ‘general’ concept of non-discrimination describes an overall assessment of FRAND which can be used to derive the benchmark mentioned above. [162] It is based on the intrinsic value of the patent portfolio, but it does not depend on the licensee. The court held that this benchmark should be applied to all licensees seeking the same kind of license. [163]

Second, the ‘hard-edged’ non-discrimination obligation, which takes into account the nature of the potential licensee, [162] is a distinct concept that could be used to adjust license terms. However, the court held that the FRAND declaration does not introduce such a hard-edged non-discrimination concept. [164] If, contrary to the view taken by the court, the FRAND undertaking did include hard-edged non-discrimination, a licensee could only have the right to a lower rate granted to another licensee (i.e. a specific non-discrimination obligation resulting from the FRAND declaration) if the difference would otherwise distort competition between the two licensees. [163]

d. Territorial Scope of License

The court held that the defendant’s offer that was limited to UK licenses was not FRAND. In the court’s opinion country by country licensing is inefficient for goods such as mobile telecommunications devices that are distributed across borders. [165] It would also be inefficient to negotiate many different licenses and then to keep track of so many different royalty calculations and payments. No rational business would do this, if it could be avoided. [165] This was illustrated by the fact that the vast majority of licenses introduced in the trial were worldwide licenses. [166] Further, it is common ground that the industry assesses patent families rather than individual patents within the family. Assessing portfolios on a family basis inevitably involved tying a patent in one jurisdiction with a patent in another. [167] Thus, according to the court, a worldwide license would not be contrary to competition law. As willing and reasonable parties would agree on a worldwide licence, the insistence by the defendant on a license which was limited to the UK was not FRAND. [168]

C. Other Important Issues

1. Comparable agreements and reasonable aggregate royalty rate

The court held that for determining the royalty rate, the evidence of the parties would be relevant, including evidence of how negotiations actually work in the industry. [169] Other freely-negotiated license agreements might be used as comparables. [170] This may be compared with a top down approach [171] can also be used in which the rate is set by determining the patentee’s share of relevant SEPs and applying that to the total aggregate royalty for a standard, but this may be more useful as a cross-check. [172] Royalty rates determined by other courts might be useful as persuasive precedents. However, in the eyes of the court, a license rate determined at a binding arbitration does not carry much weight as to what parties are usually paying. [169] License agreements must meet certain criteria to be comparable. [173] First, the licensor is the claimant. Second, the license agreement is recent. However, it is not necessary that the licensee is the defendant or a comparable company because different market participants have different bargaining powers, which is reflected in the negotiations and the resulting royalty rates. [173] Finally the court confirmed that a royalty based on the handset price was appropriate and implied a reasonable aggregate royalty rate of 8.8%of the handset price. The court found that the 8.8% was reasonable, in part, because the aggregate implied by either party’s case was higher (10.4% and 13.3%). [174]

2. Principles derived from Huawei v. ZTE

The court also provided a compiled overview of its interpretation of the Huawei v. ZTE ruling. [175] In the eyes of the court, the ‘willingness to conclude a licence on FRAND terms’ refers to a willingness in general. The fact that concrete proposals are also required does not mean it is relevant to ask whether the proposals are actually FRAND or not. If the patentee complies with the procedure as set out by the CJEU, then bringing a claim for injunction is not abusive under Art 102. But even if sufficient notice is given, bringing a claim can constitute an abuse because complying with the procedure does not mean that a patentee can behave with impunity. In other words, there might be other aspects that make the claim abusive. Conversely, bringing such a claim without prior notice will necessarily be abusive.

Significantly, the court held, the legal circumstances of this case differ from the circumstances assumed by the CJEU in a crucial respect. A FRAND undertaking can be effectively enforced irrespective of Art 102. The defendant does not need Art 102 TFEU to have a defence to the injunction claim.
  • [138] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 2.
  • [139] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), paras 54 et seqq.
  • [140] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 3.
  • [141] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 5.
  • [142] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), paras 7-8.
  • [143] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), paras 11-14.
  • [144] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 807.
  • [145] Unwired Planet v Huawei, EWHC 1304 (Pat).
  • [146] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 631.
  • [147] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 634.
  • [148] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), paras 636-646.
  • [149] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 656.
  • [150] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), paras 108-145.
  • [151] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 146.
  • [152] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 162.
  • [153] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 163.
  • [154] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 159.
  • [155] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 164.
  • [156] See Vringo v ZTE [2013] EWHC 1591 (Pat) and [2015] EWHC 214 (Pat).
  • [157] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 158.
  • [158] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 152.
  • [159] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 154./span> Since Art. 102 TFEU condemns excessive pricing,Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 153. a royalty rate can be somewhat higher than the true FRAND rate and still not be contrary to competition law. Conversely, for a breach of competition law, it will be necessary but not sufficient that the rate is not the true FRAND rate.Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 153.
  • [160] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 153.
  • [161] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 176.
  • [162] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 177.
  • [163] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 503.
  • [164] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 501.
  • [165] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 544.
  • [166] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 534.
  • [167] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 546.
  • [168] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 572.
  • [169] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 171.
  • [170] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 170
  • [171] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 178
  • [172] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 806 (10)
  • [173] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 175.
  • [174] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), para 476.
  • [175] Unwired Planet v. Huawei [2017] EWHC 711(Pat), 744.

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 [176] . 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 [177] (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 [178] . 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 [180] . 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) [183] .
 

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 [192] . 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 [192] .

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. [193] 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. [194] The fact that a party fails to contribute in negotiations towards a FRAND agreement will regularly be considered to its detriment. [195] 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. [196]

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. [197] Otherwise, competition could be distorted, because the infringer would gain unfair advantages over implementers that have taken a licence in a timely manner. [197]

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. [201]

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. [212] 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 [213] . 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 [213] . 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 [214] . 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. [215]

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 [216] . 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 [218] .

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. [220] 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'. [220]

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 [228] . 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. [235]

What is more, Sisvel's claim for damages was not limited to the amount of a FRAND licensing rate ('licensing analogy'). [236] 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. [235] 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

  • [176] 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).
  • [177] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [178] 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).
  • [179] Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 28 April 2020, Case No. X ZR 35/18.
  • [180] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 5 May 2020, Case No. KZR 36/17.
  • [181] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17 (cited by ).
  • [182] Ibid, paras. 10-43.
  • [183] Ibid, para. 44.
  • [184] Ibid, paras. 48 et seqq.
  • [185] Ibid, para. 49.
  • [186] Ibid, para. 52.
  • [187] Ibid, para. 53.
  • [188] Ibid, para. 54.
  • [189] Ibid, para. 55.
  • [190] Ibid, para. 84.
  • [191] Ibid, paras. 86 et seqq.
  • [192] Ibid, para. 57.
  • [193] Ibid, para. 58.
  • [194] Ibid, para. 59.
  • [195] Ibid, para. 60.
  • [196] Ibid, para. 62.
  • [197] Ibid, para. 61.
  • [198] Ibid, para. 63.
  • [199] Ibid, para. 65.
  • [200] Ibid, para. 68.
  • [201] Ibid, paras. 66 and 68.
  • [202] Ibid, para. 69.
  • [203] Ibid, para. 69. See Nokia v Daimler, District Court of Duesseldorf, order dated 26 November 2020, Case No. 4c O 17/19.
  • [204] Ibid, paras. 70 and 71.
  • [205] Ibid, para. 71.
  • [206] Ibid, para. 72.
  • [207] Ibid, para. 73.
  • [208] Ibid, para. 74.
  • [209] Ibid, para. 76.
  • [210] Ibid, para. 77.
  • [211] Ibid, paras. 79 et seqq.
  • [212] Ibid, para. 83.
  • [213] Ibid, para. 87.
  • [214] Ibid, paras. 88 et seqq.
  • [215] Ibid, para. 89.
  • [216] Ibid, paras. 93 et seqq.
  • [217] Ibid, para. 95.
  • [218] Ibid, paras. 96-99.
  • [219] Ibid, paras. 102 et seqq.
  • [220] Ibid, para. 102.
  • [221] Ibid, paras. 108 et seqq.
  • [222] Ibid, para. 116.
  • [223] Ibid, para. 118.
  • [224] Ibid, paras. 124 et seqq.
  • [225] Ibid, para. 124.
  • [226] Ibid, para. 125.
  • [227] Ibid, para. 126.
  • [228] 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.
  • [229] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17, para. 107.
  • [230] Ibid, para. 56.
  • [231] Ibid, paras. 127 et seqq.
  • [232] Ibid, para. 130.
  • [233] Ibid, para. 131.
  • [234] Ibid, paras. 131 et seq.
  • [235] Ibid, para. 135.
  • [236] Ibid, paras. 134 et seqq.

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 [237] , 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 [238] , 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 [239] .

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 [240] . 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 [241] (Huawei framework or obligations) [242] .

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 [243] . 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’ [243] . 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 [243] .

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 [244] . 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 [245] . 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 [246] .

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 [247] . 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 [247] .

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 [248] . For this, the patent holder must use procedural tools available under German law, particularly a motion for suspension of the trial [248] . 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 [248] . In case such a motion is filed, the Court expects that a ‘willing’ implementer will consent to a suspension of the proceedings [248] .

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 [249] . 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 [250] . 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 [250] . 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 [250] .

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 [251] . 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 [252] . 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 [252] . 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 [252] .

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 [253] .

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 [254] . 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 [254] . Delaying tactics potentially applied by the implementer must be prevented [254] . 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 [255] . 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 [255] .

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 [256] .

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 [257] . This duty exists besides the patent holder’s duty to make a FRAND licensing offer to the implementer [258] .

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 [259] . The extent of the information to be shared depends on the circumstances of the specific ‘licensing situation’ [259] .

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 [260] .

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 [260] .

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 [260] . 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 [260] . 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 [260] .

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 [260] . Furthermore, the SEP holder would need to facilitate the conclusion of a Non-Disclosure Agreement which would allow sharing further information with the implementer [260] .

Based on the above considerations, the Court found that Philips had not fulfilled its information duty at any time [261] . 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 [262] . 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 [263] .

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 [264] . In this respect, the Court seemed to agree, however, with the notion that FRAND is a range providing parties with a degree of flexibility [265] .

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 [266] .

Such a right does not arise either from German civil law (Articles 809 and 810 German Civil Code) [266] or Article 102 TFEU [267] . Furthermore, a right for disclosure of comparable agreement can neither be extracted by the SEP holder’s FRAND commitment to ETSI [268] . 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 [269] .

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 [270] . 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 [271] . This is particularly true with respect to SEP holder’s claim to request information about expenses and profits from the implementer5 [272] .

  • [237] Philips v Wiko, District Court (Landgericht) of Mannheim, judgment dated 25 November 2016, Case No. 7 O 44/16.
  • [238] 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.
  • [239] Ibid, paras. 37-87.
  • [240] Ibid, para. 88.
  • [241] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C 170/13.
  • [242] Philips v Wiko, Higher District Court of Mannheim, judgment dated 25 November 2016, para. 108.
  • [243] Ibid, para. 107.
  • [244] Ibid, paras. 117 et seqq.
  • [245] Ibid, para. 119.
  • [246] Ibid, paras. 120 et seq.
  • [247] Ibid, para. 120.
  • [248] Ibid, para. 125.
  • [249] Ibid, para. 126.
  • [250] Ibid, para. 127.
  • [251] Ibid, para. 111.
  • [252] Ibid, para. 112.
  • [253] Ibid, paras. 115 and 117.
  • [254] Ibid, para. 115.
  • [255] Ibid, para. 129.
  • [256] Ibid, paras. 131 et seqq.
  • [257] Ibid, paras. 132 et seq.
  • [258] Ibid, para. 135.
  • [259] Ibid, para. 133.
  • [260] Ibid, para. 134.
  • [261] Ibid, paras. 136 et seqq.
  • [262] Ibid, para. 136.
  • [263] Ibid, para. 138.
  • [264] Ibid, para. 131.
  • [265] Ibid, para. 106.
  • [266] Ibid, paras. 157 et seqq.
  • [267] Ibid, paras. 162 et seqq.
  • [268] Ibid, paras. 160 et seq.
  • [269] Ibid, para. 161.
  • [270] Ibid, para. 143.
  • [271] Ibid, para. 144.
  • [272] Ibid, paras. 145 et seqq.

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) [273] . 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 [274] .

The Defendant offers communication services in Germany to retail and wholesale clients, including DSL connections using the standards ADSL2+ and VDSL2 [275] .

The Intervener supplies the Defendant with equipment (especially DSL transceivers and DSL Boards), allowing network services based on the above standards [275] .

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) [276] . 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 [277] . 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 [278] . Taking the ongoing liability proceedings in Germany into account, the Dublin High Court stayed its proceedings [278] .

In September 2017, the Claimant brought a second action against the Defendant before the District Court of Düsseldorf, requesting for injunctive relief (injunction proceedings) [279] . In February 2018, the Claimant made another licensing offer to the Defendant in the pending injunction proceedings [277] .

With the present judgment, the Court dismissed Claimant’s action in the injunction proceedings [280] .


B. Court’s reasoning

Although the Court held that the services offered by the Defendant infringe the SEP in suit [281] , it found that the Claimant cannot enforce its patent rights for the time being [282] , 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) [280] .

1. Dominant market position

The Court found that the Claimant holds a dominant market position in terms of Article 102 TFEU [284] .

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 [285] . Each SEP outlines an own relevant (licensing) market, unless – from the SEP users’ perspective – equivalent alternative technologies for the same technical problem exist [286] . 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 [287] , it defined the relevant market as the market for products and services allowing for internet connections through DSL technology [288] .

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 [289] . 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 [289] . 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 [289] .

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 [289] . 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) [289] . 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 [289] .

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 [290] .

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 [291] . 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 [292] .

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 [293] .

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 [294] . 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 [294] .

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 [295] . 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 [295] . 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 [295] .

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) [296] . 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) [296] . 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 [296] .

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 [297] .

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 [298] .

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 [299] . Given the circumstances of the specific case, even an implicit behaviour can suffice [299] .

In terms of timeliness, the Court held that a strict deadline, within which the SEP user ought to make its declaration, cannot be set [300] . The respective time frame must be determined on a case-by-case basis under consideration of the circumstances of each case [300] . 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 [300] . 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 [300] .

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 [301] . 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 [302] .

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 [303] .

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 [304] . 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 [277] .

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 [305] . 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 [306] .

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 [307] . 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 [307] . 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 [307] . In this context, the Court explained that failure to meet the Huawei obligations does not permanently impair SEP holder’s rights [308] . 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 [309] .

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 [279] . Nevertheless, the Court left this question open, because, in its eyes, the Claimant’s offer was not FRAND in terms of content [310] .

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 [311] . In the Court’s view, Claimant’s offer was anyway both not fair and discriminatory [312] .

Fair and reasonable terms

The Court held that the licensing terms offered by the Claimant to the Defendant were not fair and reasonable [313] .

First, the terms did not adequately consider the effects of patent exhaustion [314] . As a rule, FRAND requires licensing offers to contain respective provisions [315] . 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 [316] .

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 [317] . The Defendant would be obliged to pay royalties for past uses, although it is not clear whether the Claimant is entitled to such payments [318] .

Third, the Court found that the exclusion of the Defendant’s wholesale business from Claimant’s licensing offer was also not fair [319] . According to the principle of contractual autonomy, patent holders are free to choose to which stage of the distribution chain they offer licences [320] . 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 [320] .

Non-discrimination

Besides from the above, the Court ruled that the Claimant’s offer was discriminatory [321] .

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 [311] . 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) [322] .

Furthermore, the Court explained that the non-discriminatory element of FRAND does not oblige the SEP holder to treat all users uniformly [323] . The respective obligation applies only to similarly situated users, whereas exceptions are allowed, provided that a different treatment is justified [323] . 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 [324] .

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 [325] . 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 [326] .

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 [327] . 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 [328] . 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 [329] .

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 [330] . 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 [330] . 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) [330] . 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 [330] . 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 [331] .

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 [332] . 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 [333] . 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 [334] .

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 [335] .


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 [336] .

  • [273] District Court of Düsseldorf, 11 July 2018, Case-No. 4c O 81/17Ibid, paras. 3 and 82.
  • [274] Ibid, para. 13.
  • [275] Ibid, para. 12.
  • [276] Ibid, paras. 14 and 211.
  • [277] Ibid, para. 15.
  • [278] Ibid, para. 16.
  • [279] Ibid, para. 236.
  • [280] Ibid, paras. 140 and 313 et seqq.
  • [281] Ibid, paras. 114 et seqq.
  • [282] Ibid, paras. 60 and 140.
  • [283] Huaweiv ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [284] Ibid, para. 142.
  • [285] Ibid, para. 148.
  • [286] Ibid, paras. 153 and 146.
  • [287] Ibid, paras. 159 - 181.
  • [288] Ibid, para. 158.
  • [289] Ibid, para. 147.
  • [290] Ibid, paras. 183 et seqq.
  • [291] Ibid, para. 191.
  • [292] Ibid, para. 188.
  • [293] Ibid, paras. 195 et seqq.
  • [294] Ibid, para. 199.
  • [295] Ibid, para. 198.
  • [296] Ibid, para. 200.
  • [297] Ibid, para. 203.
  • [298] Ibid, para. 205.
  • [299] Ibid, para. 208.
  • [300] Ibid, para. 207.
  • [301] Ibid, para. 210.
  • [302] Ibid, para. 212.
  • [303] Ibid, paras. 215 et seq.
  • [304] Ibid, para. 220.
  • [305] Ibid, paras. 222 et seqq.
  • [306] Ibid, para. 225.
  • [307] Ibid, para. 233.
  • [308] Ibid, para. 228.
  • [309] Ibid, para. 230.
  • [310] Ibid, para. 237.
  • [311] Ibid. para. 241.
  • [312] Ibid, para. 242.
  • [313] Ibid, paras. 283 et seqq.
  • [314] Ibid, para. 285.
  • [315] Ibid, para. 288.
  • [316] Ibid, paras. 292 et seq.
  • [317] Ibid, paras. 298 et seqq.
  • [318] Ibid, para. 301.
  • [319] Ibid, para. 306.
  • [320] Ibid, para. 311.
  • [321] Ibid, para. 271.
  • [322] Ibid, para. 250.
  • [323] Ibid, para. 248.
  • [324] Ibid, para. 267.
  • [325] Ibid, paras. 256 and 259 et seq.
  • [326] Ibid, para. 262.
  • [327] bid, paras. 258 and 264.
  • [328] Ibid, paras. 263 and 265.
  • [329] Ibid, para. 265.
  • [330] Ibid, para. 273.
  • [331] Ibid, para. 274.
  • [332] Ibid, para. 276.
  • [333] Ibid, para. 277.
  • [334] Ibid, para. 281.
  • [335] Ibid, para. 315.
  • [336] Ibid, paras. 75 et seq.

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 [337] for its position the court stressed that the ECJ intended the Huawei framework to be fact-sensitive. [338]
      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. [339]
    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. [340]
      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. [341]
  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. [342]
    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. [343]
  • [337] For details, cf. OLG Düsseldorf, 9 May 2016 - Case No. I-15 U 36/16, para. 2, b, aa
  • [338] Case No. I-15 U 36/16, para. 2, b, aa
  • [339] Case No. I-15 U 36/16, para. 2, b, bb
  • [340] Case No. I-15 U 36/16, para. 2, b, cc
  • [341] Case No. I-15 U 36/16, para. 2, b, ff
  • [342] Case No. I-15 U 36/16, para. 2, b, ee
  • [343] Case No. I-15 U 36/16, para. 2, b, dd

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) [344] . 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) [345] .

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 [346] .

MPEG LA uses a standard licensing agreement, which is publicly available at its website [347] . It has signed licensing agreements with approx. 1,400 implementers [347] .

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) [348] .

On 15 September 2011, the parent company asked MPEG LA to send any relevant documents by mail to its IPR Manager [349] . A copy of MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement reached the parent company in late September 2011 [350] .

In 2012, the parent company acquired patents included in the MPEG LA pool [345] .

Since MPEG-LA and the parent company could not reach an agreement on a licence covering the MPEG LA pool [351] , 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 [352] .

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 [353] . 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 [354] . 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 [355] .

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 [356] . 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 [357] (Huawei obligations or framework) with respect to dominant undertakings [358] .

1. Dominant market position

The Court found that the Claimant holds a dominant market position in terms of Article 102 TFEU [359] .

The Court defined the relevant market for the assessment of dominance as the market for licences for any given patent [360] . A dominant market position can further also exist, when the patent holder can hinder competition in downstream markets for standard-compliant products and services [360] .

The Court made, however, clear that ownership of a SEP does not per se establish market dominance [361] . A dominant market position is given, when the use of the SEP is required for entering the market [361] . The same is true, if the patent user could not market competitive products or services, without access to the respective SEP [361] .

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 [362] .

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 [363] . 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) [364] . 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 [365] .

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 [366] . 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 [367] ), since with respect to the SEP in suit a ‘routine’ practice already existed prior to the Huawei judgement [368] . The Court explained that the Huawei judgment does not contain either an explicit or an implicit limitation of its scope of application [369] . 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 [370] . 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 [371] . 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 [372] .

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 [373] .

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 [374] .

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 [375] . The sole fact that a company belongs to a group justifies such an assumption, unless indications to the contrary exist [375] . 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) [376] . 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 [377] . 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 [378] . 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 [379] .

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 [380] . 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 [381] . A notification of infringement is, therefore, not necessary, when it constitutes just a ‘pointless formality’ [381] . 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 [381] . The respective test is, however, subject to strict conditions [381] .

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) [382] . 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) [383] , 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 [384] .

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 [385] .

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 [386] . The implementer is not required to refer to a specific licensing agreement [386] .

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 [387] .

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 [388] .

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 [389] . 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 [390] . Whether subsidiaries can (or should) also be licensed, will be the object of these negotiations [391] . 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 [392] . 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 [393] .

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 [394] . 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 [395] .

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 [396] . 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) [397] . 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 [397] . 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 [397] . 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 [398] .

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 [399] . 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 [399] . 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 [400] .

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 [401] . 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 [401] . 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 [401] . In this respect, comparable agreements can serve as an ‘important indicator’ of the fair and reasonable character of the offered royalty rates [401] .

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 [402] . 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 [402] . 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 [403] . 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 [403] .

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 [404] . In the electronics and mobile communications industries, licences covering a group of companies are in line with the industry practice [405] . 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 [406] .

In addition, the Court made clear that pool licences, as the one offered to the parent company, are appropriate under the Huawei framework [407] . An offer for a pool licence cannot per se be seen as abusive (Article 101 TFEU) [408] . 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 [408] .

Implementer’s counter-offer

The Court found that the Defendant failed to make a FRAND counter-offer [409] .

Sending signed copies of MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement back to MPEG LA can be regarded as a counter-offer [410] . 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 [411] . 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 [412] .

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 [413] .

  • [344] Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (MPEG-LA) v ZTE, District Court of Düsseldorf, judgement dated 9 November 2018, cited by www.nrwe.de, para. 56.
  • [345] Ibid, para. 58
  • [346] Ibid, para. 57
  • [347] Ibid, para. 59
  • [348] Ibid, paras. 61 et seqq. and 340
  • [349] Ibid, para. 65
  • [350] Ibid, para. 66
  • [351] Ibid, para. 73
  • [352] Ibid, para. 42
  • [353] bid, para. 74
  • [354] Ibid, paras. 75 et seq
  • [355] Ibid, para. 75
  • [356] Ibid, paras. 127 – 254
  • [357] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13
  • [358] Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (MPEG-LA) v ZTE, District Court of Düsseldorf, judgement dated 9 November 2018, cited by www.nrwe.de, Ibid, para. 280
  • [359] Ibid, para. 283 and paras. 291 et seqq
  • [360] Ibid, para. 286
  • [361] Ibid, para. 287
  • [362] Ibid, paras. 291 et seqq
  • [363] Ibid, para. 296
  • [364] Ibid, para. 300
  • [365] Ibid, para. 302
  • [366] Ibid, para. 308
  • [367] 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
  • [368] Ibid, para. 305
  • [369] Ibid, paras. 306 et seqq
  • [370] Ibid, para. 310
  • [371] Ibid, para. 311
  • [372] Ibid, para. 312
  • [373] Ibid, para. 421
  • [374] Ibid, para. 314
  • [375] Ibid, para. 320
  • [376] Ibid, para. 318
  • [377] Ibid, para. 329
  • [378] Ibid, paras. 336 et seq
  • [379] Ibid, para. 338
  • [380] Ibid, para. 198
  • [381] Ibid, para. 315
  • [382] Ibid, paras. 340 et seq
  • [383] Ibid, paras. 342 et seqq
  • [384] Ibid, para. 344
  • [385] Ibid, para. 346
  • [386] Ibid, para. 348
  • [387] Ibid, para. 352
  • [388] Ibid, para. 367
  • [389] Ibid, para. 369
  • [390] Ibid, para. 370
  • [391] Ibid, para. 378
  • [392] Ibid, para. 371
  • [393] Ibid, para. 374
  • [394] Ibid, para. 376
  • [395] Ibid, para. 377
  • [396] Ibid, para. 380
  • [397] Ibid, para. 381
  • [398] Ibid, para. 386
  • [399] Ibid, para. 382
  • [400] Ibid, para. 387
  • [401] Ibid, para. 391
  • [402] Ibid, para. 392
  • [403] Ibid, para. 393
  • [404] Ibid, para. 397
  • [405] Ibid, para. 398
  • [406] Ibid, para. 399
  • [407] Ibid, para. 402
  • [408] Ibid, para. 404
  • [409] Ibid, para. 410
  • [410] Ibid, para. 413
  • [411] Ibid, para. 416
  • [412] Ibid, para. 417
  • [413] 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 [414] 、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 [415] 。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 [416]

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 [417] (「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 [418]

 

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 [419] 。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 [419]

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 [420] 。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 [421] 。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 [421] 。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 [422]

 

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 [423] 。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 [424]

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 [423] 。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 [423] 。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) [423] 。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 [425]

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 [426] 。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 [427]

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 [428] 。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 [428]

 

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 [429]

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) [430] 。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 [431] 。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 [430]

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 [430] 。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 [430]

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 [432] 。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 [433]

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 [434] 。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 [435]

 

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 [436]

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 [437] 。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 [437]

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 [438] 。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 [438] 。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 [439] 。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 [439]

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 [439] 。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 [439] 。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 [439] 。 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 [440] 。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 [440]

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 [441] 。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 [442] 。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 [443] 。接続機能はこの価値創出の機会を保証するものである [444] 。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 [445]

 

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 [446]

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 [447] 。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 [447] 。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 [447] 。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 [448]

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 [449] 。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 [450] 。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 [451] 。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 [452]

 

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 [453]

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 [454] 。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 [454] 。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 [454]

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 [455] 。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 [456] 。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 [456]

 

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 [457]

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 [458] 。本訴訟はこのような状況でなかった [459]

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 [460] 。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 [460]

 

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 [461] 。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 [462]

  • [414] 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))
  • [415] 同判決、第49節乃至第136節。
  • [416] 同判決、第138節。
  • [417] 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)
  • [418] 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)
  • [419] 同判決、第146節。
  • [420] 同判決、第147節。
  • [421] 同判決、第148節。
  • [422] 同判決、第149節。
  • [423] 同判決、第152節。
  • [424] 同判決、第151乃至第156節。
  • [425] 同判決、第248節。
  • [426] 同判決、第153節以降。
  • [427] 同判決、第154節。
  • [428] 同判決、第155節。
  • [429] 同判決、第157乃至第231節。
  • [430] 同判決、第158節。
  • [431] 同判決、第159節。
  • [432] 同判決、第161節。
  • [433] 同判決、第197乃至第199節。
  • [434] 同判決、第157節、第160節及び第162節乃至第164節。
  • [435] 同判決、第160及び第165節乃至第168節。
  • [436] 同判決、第169節。
  • [437] 同判決、第170節。
  • [438] 同判決、第171節。
  • [439] 同判決、第172節。
  • [440] 同判決、第173節。
  • [441] 同判決、第174節以降。
  • [442] 同判決、第174節。
  • [443] 同判決、第177節。
  • [444] 同判決、第180節。
  • [445] 同判決、第187節以降。
  • [446] 同判決、第201節乃至第212節。
  • [447] 同判決、第202節。
  • [448] 同判決、第203節。
  • [449] 同判決、第205節。
  • [450] 同判決、第210節。
  • [451] 同判決、第213節。
  • [452] 同判決、第215節。
  • [453] 同判決、第216節以降。
  • [454] 同判決、第217節。
  • [455] 同判決、第218節。
  • [456] 同判決、第230節。
  • [457] 同判決、第232節以降。
  • [458] 同判決、第234及び第236節以降。
  • [459] 同判決、第240節以降。
  • [460] 同判決、第239節。
  • [461] 同判決、第253及び第291節。
  • [462] 同判決、第291節。

Updated 6 6月 2017

OLG Düsseldorf 2

OLG Düsseldorf
14 12月 2016 - Case No. I-2 U 31/16

  1. Facts
    The Claimant is holder of a patent declared as essential to a standard (Standard Essential Patent, SEP). The Defendant is a telecommunications company, which inter alia sells mobile phones allegedly using Claimant’s SEPs. Upon Claimant’s action, the Regional Court of Düsseldorf (1) ordered the Defendant to render accounts regarding the sales of mobile phones embedding Claimant’s SEPs and (2) recognized Defendant’s obligation to pay damages to the Claimant resulting from the infringement of its SEPs (cf. Regional Court of Düsseldorf, decision dated 19th January 2016, Case No. 4b O 49/14). The Defendant appealed this judgement. In the appeal proceedings before the Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf (Case No. 2 U 31/16), one issue in dispute was whether the license fees, which the Claimant had calculated, were Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND). The Claimant explained its calculation in a statement to the court that was produced in two versions. In the first version, which was filed only with the court, the information regarding the FRAND calculation (including comparable license agreements pre¬sented as evidence), were fully disclosed. In the second version, which was presented to the Defendant and a third party that had joined the proceedings (Intervener), the respective sections (and evidence) were redacted.
    With the present interlocutory application, the Claimant requested the court to order that disclosure of full information (and evidence) regarding its FRAND calculation shall be required only towards Defendant’s and Intervenor’s counsels, provided that the court would oblige the counsels to full confi-dentiality towards everyone, including their clients themselves (that is the Defendant and the Intervener). The Defendant objected this request. The Intervener, on the other hand, stated that it agreed with the proceeding defined in Claimant’s request.
    In its first decision dated 14th December 2016, the court rejected the application with respect to both the Defendant and the Intervener. Instead, the court encouraged the parties to enter into a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) reinforced by a contractual penalty, in case confidentiality was breached.
    This decision was consequently modified by a further decision rendered by the court on 17th January 2017. The court granted Claimant’s application in respect to the Intervener, but again rejected the application in respect to the Defendant. The court, however, requested from the Defendant to present an offer for an NDA to the Claimant incorporating particularly the following conditions within a deadline of three weeks:
    • The confidential information should be used only in the context of the present litigation.
    • The information would be made available only to four company representatives of the Defendant (as well as any experts engaged by the Defendant in the ongoing litigation).
    • These persons shall be themselves obliged to confidentiality by the Defendant.
    • In case confidentiality was breached, the Defendant shall be liable for payment of a contractual pen-alty amounting to EUR 1 million.




  2. Court’s Reasoning
    In its first decision, the court found that the German rules of Civil Procedure do not provide a legal basis for granting an order in the form requested by the Claimant. [463] Such an order would exclude Defendant’s right to be heard with respect to Claimant’s FRAND calculation, in breach of Art. 103 Sec. 1 of the German Constitutional Law (Grundgesetz). [463] The fact that Defendant’s counsels would have access to the relevant information, does not suffice to meet the requirements set forth by the aforementioned provision. Party’s right to be heard contains also the right to personally participate in the proceedings. Consequently, a limitation of a party’s right to be heard reaching so far as Claimant requested, is not possible, unless the party affected expressly waives its right to personally participate in the proceedings. [463] Since the Defendant decided to not do so, a respective order cannot be rendered against it.
    The fact that the Intervener waived its respective right, can also not justify rendering such an order against the Defendant. [464] The Intervener does not join the proceedings as a party, but merely in support of one of the parties. [465] Accordingly, it cannot make decisions that would affect the party’s standing, such as a declaration to waive the right to be heard. In the present case, the Intervener’s decision to waive its respective right may, therefore, impact its own standing in the proceedings, but cannot affect Defendant’s position.

    As a result, the Claimant can either make the confidential information available to the Defendant or keep this information redacted, accepting that the court cannot take redacted information into consideration for its decision. [466]

    Notwithstanding the above, under reference to the “Umweltengel für Tragetaschen” judgement of the German Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof) [467] the court held, that, as a rule, it can be expected from the implementer of SEPs to enter into a NDA reinforced by a contractual penalty with the SEP holder. [468] SEP implementer is obliged to facilitate FRAND licensing negotiations to the best of its ability. This includes also taking justified confidentiality interests of the SEP holder into account. [468]

    In its second decision dated 17th January 2017 the court applied the above considerations. Since the Intervener waived its right to be heard, the court found that there is no reason to deny Claimant’s request in relation to the Intervener. On the other hand, due to Defendant’s denial to waive its respective right, the court still refrained for granting Claimant’s request against the Defendant. Taking Claimant’s confi¬dentiality interests into account, the court ordered, however, the Defendant to submit an offer for a NDA to the Claimant based particularly on the conditions mentioned above.
  • [463] Judgement dated 14th December 2016, para. 1
  • [464] Judgement dated 14th December 2016, para. 2
  • [465] Judgement dated 14th December 2016, para. 2
  • [466] Judgement dated 14th December 2016, para. 3
  • [467] Bundesgerichtshof, Decision dated 19th February 2014, Case No. I ZR 230/12
  • [468] Judgement dated 14th December 2016, para. 5

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. [469] 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). [470] The Claimant also initiated parallel infringement proceedings against the Defendants in Germany. [471]

The High Court conducted three technical trials first, focusing on the validity and essentiality of four of the SEPs in suit. [472] 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. [472] The parties agreed to postpone further technical trials indefinitely. [472]

In July 2016, Samsung took a licence from the Claimant covering, among other, the SEPs in suit. [473] The Claimant also settled the infringement proceedings with Google. [474]

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. [475]

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) [476] in accordance with the undertaking given by the Claimant towards the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). [477] Pending appeal, the High Court stayed the injunction. [478]

Shortly after the High Court delivered its decision, the Defendants began proceedings against the Claimant in China, which are still pending. [479]

With the present judgment, the UK Court of Appeal dismissed the Defendants’ appeal against the decision of the High Court. [480]


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. [481]

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. [482]

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 [483] (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”). [484]

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. [485]


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). [486]

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) [487] . [488]

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. [489] Such an undertaking has international effect. [490] It applies to all SEPs of the patent holder irrespective of the territory in which they subsist. [491] This is necessary for two reasons: first, to protect implementers whose equipment may be sold and used in a number of different jurisdictions. [491] 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. [492]

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. [493] German Courts (in Pioneer Acer [494] and St. Lawrence v Vodafone [495] ) as well as the European Commission in its Communication dated 29 November 2017 [496] had also adopted a similar approach. [497]

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. [492] 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. [498] In this way, the implementer would have an incentive to hold out country-by-country, until it was compelled to pay. [498]

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. [499]

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. [500] The reality is that a number of sets of terms may all be fair and reasonable in a given set of circumstances. [500] Whether there is only one true set of FRAND terms or not, is, therefore, more of a “theoretical problem” than a real one. [501] 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. [501]

Furthermore, the Court of Appeal dismissed Defendants’ claim that imposing a worldwide licence is contrary to public policy and disproportionate. [502] In particular, the Defendants argued that this approach encourages over-declaration of patents [503] and is not compatible with the spirit of the Directive 2004/48/EC on the enforcement of intellectual property rights, [504] which requires relief for patent infringement to be proportionate. [505]

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. [506] 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. [507]


2. Non-discrimination

The Court of Appeal rejected the Defendants’ argument [508] 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. [509]

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. [510] 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 [511] 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. [512]

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). [513] 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. [514] 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. [515]

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. [516]

Conversely, the Court of Appeal followed the notion described by the High Court as the “general” non-discrimination approach: [517] 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. [517] For determining the benchmark rate, prior licences granted by the SEP holder to third parties will likely form the “best comparables”. [518]

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. [519] 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. [519]

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. [520] 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. [520] 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. [521]


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. [522]

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. [523] 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 [524] ) and that the constrains imposed upon the SEP holder’s market power by the limitations attached to the FRAND undertaking [525] and the risk of hold-out that is immanent to the structure of the respective market, [526] can either alone or together rebut the assumption that it most likely holds market power. [527]

Notwithstanding the above, the Court of Appeal held that the Claimant had not abused its market power in the present case. [528]

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. [529] 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. [530] 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. [531]

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. [532] This follows from the clear language used by the CJEU with respect to this obligation. [533] The precise content of such notice will depend upon all the circumstances of the particular case. [533] 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. [534]

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. [535]

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. [536] Insofar the court agreed with the respective approach developed by German courts in co-called “transitional” cases (Pioneer v Acer, [537] St. Lawrence v Vodafone [537] and Sisvel v Haier [538] ) [539] .

  • [469] Unwired Planet v Huawei, UK Court of Appeal, 23 October 2018, Case-No. A3/2017/1784, [2018] EWCA Civ 2344, para. 233.
  • [470] Ibid, para. 6 et seqq.
  • [471] Ibid, para. 233.
  • [472] Ibid, para. 7.
  • [473] Ibid, paras. 8 and 137 et seqq.
  • [474] Ibid, para. 8.
  • [475] Ibid, para. 9 et seqq.; para. 31 et seqq.
  • [476] Ibid, para 17.
  • [477] Ibid, para 130.
  • [478] Ibid, para 18.
  • [479] Ibid, para 112.
  • [480] Ibid, para 291.
  • [481] Ibid, paras. 19 and 45 et seqq.
  • [482] Ibid, paras. 20 and 132 et seqq.
  • [483] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgement dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [484] Unwired Planet v Huawei, UK Court of Appeal, 23 October 2018, para. 21, paras. 211 et seqq and para. 251.
  • [485] Ibid, para. 17.
  • [486] Ibid, paras. 74 and 77 et seq.
  • [487] Ibid, para. 82.
  • [488] Ibid, para. 80.
  • [489] Ibid, para. 79 et seq.
  • [490] Ibid, para. 26.
  • [491] Ibid, para. 53.
  • [492] Ibid, para. 54 et seq., para. 59.
  • [493] Ibid, para. 56.
  • [494] Pioneer v Acer, District Court of Mannheim, judgement dated 8 January 2016, Case No. 7 O 96/14.
  • [495] St. Lawrence v Vodafone, District Court of Düsseldorf, judgement dated 31 March 2016, Case No. 4a O 73/14.
  • [496] 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.
  • [497] Unwired Planet v Huawei, UK Court of Appeal, 23 October 2018, para. 74.
  • [498] Ibid, para. 111.
  • [499] Ibid, para. 128.
  • [500] Ibid, para. 121.
  • [501] Ibid, para. 125.
  • [502] Ibid, para. 75.
  • [503] Ibid, para. 92
  • [504] 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)
  • [505] Unwired Planet v Huawei, UK Court of Appeal, 23 October 2018, para. 94.
  • [506] Ibid, para. 96.
  • [507] Ibid, para. 98.
  • [508] Ibid, para. 20 and 132 et seqq.
  • [509] Ibid, paras. 207 and 210.
  • [510] Ibid, para. 176.
  • [511] Ibid, para. 173.
  • [512] Ibid, para. 169 et seq.
  • [513] Ibid, paras. 194 et seqq.
  • [514] Ibid, para. 198.
  • [515] Ibid, para. 198.
  • [516] Ibid, para. 199.
  • [517] Ibid, para. 195.
  • [518] Ibid, para. 202.
  • [519] Ibid, para. 196.
  • [520] Ibid, para. 197.
  • [521] Ibid, para. 200.
  • [522] Ibid, para. 21, paras. 211 et seqq and para. 251.
  • [523] Ibid, para. 212.
  • [524] Ibid, para. 216.
  • [525] Ibid, para. 219.
  • [526] Ibid, para. 220.
  • [527] Ibid, para. 229.
  • [528] Ibid, para. 284.
  • [529] Ibid, para. 269.
  • [530] Ibid, para. 270.
  • [531] Ibid, para. 269 and 282.
  • [532] Ibid, para. 253 and 281.
  • [533] Ibid, para. 271.
  • [534] Ibid, para. 273.
  • [535] Ibid, para. 284
  • [536] Ibid, para. 275
  • [537] See above
  • [538] Sisvel v Haier, Higher District Court of Düsseldorf, judgement dated 30 March 2017, Case No. 15 U 66-15.
  • [539] Unwired Planet v Huawei, UK Court of Appeal, 23 October 2018, para. 279.

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) [540] .

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 [541] .

MPEG LA uses a standard licensing agreement, which is publicly available at its website [542] . Since 2004, MPEG-LA has signed approx. 2,000 agreements with implementers [543] , 1,400 of which are still in force [542] .

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 [544] . On 15 September 2011, the parent company suggested to arrange a call on this issue [545] . 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 [546] .

In November 2013, the discussions between MPEG LA and the parent company ended without success [547] . The parties resumed negotiations in July 2016; again, no agreement was reached [547] .

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 [548] .

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 [549] .

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 [550] . Furthermore, the Defendant made a second counteroffer to the Claimant shortly after the last oral hearing before the Court [551] .

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

B. Court’s reasoning

The Court found that the patent in suit was valid [552] , standard essential [553] and infringed by the products sold by the Defendant in Germany [554] . 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 [555] (Huawei obligations or framework) with respect to dominant undertakings [556] .

Dominant market position

The Court found that the Claimant holds a dominant market position in terms of Article 102 TFEU [557] .

The Court defined the relevant market for the assessment of dominance as the market, in which licences for any given patent are offered [558] . A dominant market position can further also exist, when the patent holder can hinder competition in downstream markets for standard-compliant products and services [558] .

The Court made clear that ownership of a SEP does not per se establish market dominance [559] . A dominant market position is given, when the use of the SEP is required for entering the market [560] . The same is true, if the patent user could not market competitive products or services, without access to the respective SEP [561] .

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 [562] .

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 [563] . 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) [564] . 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 [565] .

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 [566] . 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 [567] ), 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 [568] . 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 [569] . 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 [569] . 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 [570] .

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 [571] .

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 [572] . The sole fact that a company belongs to a group justifies such an assumption, unless indications to the contrary exist [573] . 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) [574] . 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 [575] . 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 [576] .

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 [577] . 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 [577] . A notification of infringement is, therefore, not necessary, when it constitutes just a ‘pointless formality’ [577] . 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 [577] . The respective test is, however, subject to strict conditions [577] .

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) [578] . 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 [579] .

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 [580] .

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 [580] . This is sufficient under the Huawei framework: A general, informal statement suffices [581] . The implementer is not required to refer to a specific licensing agreement (on the contrary, this could be considered harmful under certain circumstances) [581] .

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 [582] .

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 [583] .

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 [584] .

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 [585] . 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 [586] . 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) [587] . 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 [587] . 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 [587] . 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 [588] .

Apart from the above, the Court held that the standard licensing agreement offered to the parent company was FRAND also in terms of content [589] .

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 [590] . 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 [590] . 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 [590] . In this respect, comparable agreements can serve as an ‘important indicator’ of the fair and reasonable character of the offered royalty rates [590] .

Non-discrimination

Regarding to the non-discriminatory element of FRAND, the Court pointed out that it applied only to similar situated cases [591] . Even then, an unequal treatment is allowed, as long as it is objectively justified [591] . 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 [591] . 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 [592] . 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 [592] .

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 [593] . 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 [594] . 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 [595] . 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) [596] .

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 [597] . 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) [598] . 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 [599] . Discounts can further hardly be discriminatory, if they are offered to every (potential) licensee under the same conditions [599] .

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) [600] . 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 [601] .

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 [602] .

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 [603] . 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 [603] .

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 [604] . 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 [605] . 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 [606] . What is more, the Defendant did not show that further licences are needed with respect to the AVC/H.264 standard [607] . 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 [608] .

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 [609] . This assumption is also confirmed by the fact that all existing licensees have accepted this clause [610] .

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) [611] . 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 [611] .

An offer for a pool licence can, nevertheless, violate FRAND in ‘special circumstances’ [612] , for instance, if not all patents included in the pool are used by the licensee [613] . 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 [614] . 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 [615] . 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) [615] .

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 [616] . The Defendant failed, however, to present any reliable evidence that this was the case with the MPEG-LA pool [617] .

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’) [618] . 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 [619] .

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 [620] . In the electronics and mobile communications industries, licences on a group level are in line with the industry practice and, therefore, FRAND-compliant [621] .

Implementer’s counteroffer

Having said that, the Court found that the Defendant failed to make a FRAND counteroffer [622] .

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 [623] . Furthermore, the counteroffer established different licensing rates for different regions (especially for China) without factual justification [624] .

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 [551] . On the contrary, the Court expressed the view that the purpose of this counteroffer was most likely to delay the infringement proceedings [551] .

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 [625] .

  • [540] Tagivan (MPEG-LA) v Huawei, District Court of Düsseldorf, 9 November 2018, para. 36.
  • [541] Ibid, para. 35.
  • [542] Ibid, para. 37.
  • [543] Ibid, para. 453.
  • [544] Ibid, para. 39.
  • [545] Ibid, para. 43.
  • [546] Ibid, para. 44.
  • [547] Ibid, para. 53.
  • [548] Ibid, para. 2.
  • [549] Ibid, para. 54.
  • [550] Ibid, para. 65.
  • [551] Ibid, para. 716.
  • [552] Ibid, paras. 143-208.
  • [553] Ibid, paras. 209-293.
  • [554] Ibid, paras. 295-302.
  • [555] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [556] Tagivan (MPEG-LA) v Huawei, District Court of Düsseldorf, 9 November 2018, paras. 304 et seqq.
  • [557] Ibid, para. 307.
  • [558] Ibid, para. 310.
  • [559] 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.
  • [560] Ibid, paras. 310 et seq.
  • [561] Ibid, para. 311.
  • [562] Ibid, paras. 315 et seqq.
  • [563] Ibid, para. 321.
  • [564] Ibid, para. 326.
  • [565] Ibid, para. 327.
  • [566] Ibid, para. 330.
  • [567] 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.
  • [568] Ibid, paras. 331 et seqq.
  • [569] Ibid, para. 335.
  • [570] Ibid, para. 337.
  • [571] Ibid, para. 339.
  • [572] Ibid, para. 343.
  • [573] Ibid, para. 345.
  • [574] Ibid, para. 356.
  • [575] Ibid, paras. 357 et seqq.
  • [576] Ibid, paras. 366 et seqq.
  • [577] Ibid, para. 340.
  • [578] Ibid, para. 341.
  • [579] Ibid, paras. 395 et seqq.
  • [580] Ibid, paras. 400 et seqq.
  • [581] Ibid, para. 399.
  • [582] Ibid, para. 405.
  • [583] Ibid, paras. 411-417.
  • [584] Ibid, para. 419.
  • [585] Ibid, para. 421.
  • [586] Ibid, para. 425.
  • [587] Ibid, para. 422.
  • [588] Ibid, paras. 426 et seqq.
  • [589] Ibid, para. 429.
  • [590] Ibid, para. 431.
  • [591] Ibid, para. 432.
  • [592] Ibid, para. 433.
  • [593] Ibid, para. 438.
  • [594] Ibid, para. 443.
  • [595] Ibid, para. 444.
  • [596] Ibid, para. 445.
  • [597] Ibid, para. 579.
  • [598] Ibid, para. 582.
  • [599] Ibid, paras. 583 et seqq.
  • [600] Ibid, para. 564.
  • [601] Ibid, paras. 568 et seqq.
  • [602] Ibid, paras. 573 et seqq.
  • [603] Ibid, para. 451.
  • [604] Ibid, para. 449.
  • [605] Ibid, para. 454.
  • [606] Ibid, paras. 487 et seqq.
  • [607] Ibid, para. 491.
  • [608] Ibid, para. 495.
  • [609] Ibid, paras. 591 et seqq., particularly para. 596.
  • [610] Ibid. para. 597.
  • [611] Ibid. para. 504.
  • [612] Ibid. para. 508.
  • [613] Ibid. para. 514.
  • [614] Ibid. paras. 511 et seqq.
  • [615] Ibid. para. 524.
  • [616] Ibid, para. 528.
  • [617] Ibid, paras. 531-543.
  • [618] Ibid, paras. 545 et seqq.
  • [619] Ibid, para. 546.
  • [620] Ibid, para. 599.
  • [621] Ibid, para. 600.
  • [622] Ibid, para. 603.
  • [623] Ibid, paras. 605 et seqq.
  • [624] Ibid, paras. 617 et seqq.
  • [625] 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. [626]

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. [627]


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) [628] .

In the eyes of the Court, Dolby holds a dominant position [629] . The Court highlighted that owning a patent, even a standard-essential patent, does not constitute per se a condition for market dominance [630] . 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. [630] In the present case, the implementation of the HEVC was required to make a competitive offering in the STB market [631] .

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) [632] .


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. [633]

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. [634] 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. [634]

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. [635] 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. [636]

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. [637] 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. [638] 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. [639]

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 [640] . For this, no strict requirements apply, in terms of content or form; moreover, also an 'implicit behaviour' can suffice [641] . The implementer is, however, required to react in due course. [642] Furthermore, 'willingness' must still exist when the patent holder makes his licensing offer [640] .

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. [643]

On the other hand, MAS had not been willing to obtain a bilateral licence from Dolby. [637] The Court emphasized that the whole conduct of the implementer must be assessed; a 'genuine' willingness to obtain a license must be demonstrated. [644] 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. [645] 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. [646] 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. [647] 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. [648]

Furthermore, HEVC Advance had sufficiently explained the royalty calculation, in line with the Huawei judgment. [649] 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). [650] 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. [651] The more standard licensing agreements signed are shared by the patent holder, the stronger the assumption is, that the offered rates are FRAND. [652]

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. [653] 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. [654] Accordingly, the Court found that the forty third party agreements disclosed by Dolby in the proceedings were enough in the present case. [655]


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. [656] As fair and reasonable can be considered terms offered to a willing party, without exploiting a dominant position. [657] Apart from the royalties, the offer must also prove reasonable with regard to the other terms as well (scope, territory etc.). [657]

Having said that, the Court held that the royalties charged by HEVC Advance's standard licensing agreement are fair and reasonable. [658] 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'. [659] 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. [660]

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. [661] 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). [662]

Also, in the eyes of the Court, MAS was not able to prove that the lack of an adjustment clause is unreasonable [663] . 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. [664] 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. [665]

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. [666] The same clause was agreed in many other licensing agreements signed by HEVC Advance with third parties. [667] In fact, MAS agreed to a similar one in its license agreement with the MPEG LA pool. [667]


Non-discrimination

Besides that, the Court was unable to establish any discrimination against MAS through the licence offered by HEVC Advance. [668] 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. [669] 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. [670] Therefore, not every difference in the terms and conditions of a licence can be seen as abusive. [671] According to the Court, the same principle also applies to the licensing of SEPs. [672]

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. [673] 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. [674] 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. [674] On the contrary, the new royalty calculation leads to a lower licensing burden. [674]

The Court also took the view, that there is also no discrimination in the way the patent-in-suit is enforced. [675] 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. [676] In the case of HEVC Advance, the initial phase of its existence and limitation of resources are relevant for this assessment. [677]

Moreover, no discrimination with respect to the amount of the royalty rate or the scope offered was found. [678] 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. [679]

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. [680] 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. [681]

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. [682] 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 [683] .

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. [684]


Implementer's counteroffer

The Court found that MAS' counteroffer was not FRAND. [685] 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. [686]

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. [687]


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. [688] The quantification of the damages will be possible with the rendering of accounts by MAS. [689]

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. [690]

  • [626] 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.
  • [627] Ibid, paras. 157-184.
  • [628] Ibid, paras. 186 et seqq.
  • [629] Ibid, paras. 189 et seqq.
  • [630] Ibid, paras. 194 et seqq.
  • [631] Ibid, para. 197.
  • [632] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [633] 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.
  • [634] Ibid, para. 210.
  • [635] Ibid, paras. 229 et seqq.
  • [636] Ibid, para. 233.
  • [637] Ibid, para. 759.
  • [638] Ibid, paras. 236 et seqq.
  • [639] Ibid, paras. 760 et seqq.
  • [640] Ibid, para. 237.
  • [641] Ibid, para. 237 and para. 761.
  • [642] Ibid, para. 760.
  • [643] Ibid, para. 238.
  • [644] Ibid, para. 763.
  • [645] Ibid, para. 764.
  • [646] Ibid, para. 765.
  • [647] Ibid, paras. 241 et seqq.
  • [648] Ibid, para. 242.
  • [649] Ibid, paras. 244 et seqq.
  • [650] Ibid, para. 245.
  • [651] Ibid, para. 248.
  • [652] Ibid, para. 255.
  • [653] Ibid, para. 250.
  • [654] Ibid, para. 253.
  • [655] Ibid, para. 249.
  • [656] Ibid, paras. 257 and 258.
  • [657] Ibid, para. 260.
  • [658] Ibid, paras. 264 et seqq.
  • [659] Ibid, para. 268.
  • [660] Ibid, paras. 271 et seqq.
  • [661] Ibid, paras. 280 et seqq.
  • [662] Ibid, para. 284.
  • [663] Ibid, paras. 286 et seqq.
  • [664] Ibid, para. 295.
  • [665] Ibid, para. 298.
  • [666] Ibid, paras. 301 et seqq.
  • [667] Ibid, para. 304.
  • [668] Ibid, paras. 306 et seqq. and paras. 314 et seqq.
  • [669] Ibid, para. 308.
  • [670] Ibid, paras. 308 et seq.
  • [671] Ibid, para. 310.
  • [672] Ibid, para. 311.
  • [673] Ibid, paras. 314 et seqq.
  • [674] Ibid, para. 318.
  • [675] Ibid, para. 321.
  • [676] Ibid, para. 322.
  • [677] Ibid, para. 323.
  • [678] Ibid, paras. 325 et seqq. as well as paras. 443 et seqq.
  • [679] Ibid, para. 326.
  • [680] Ibid, paras. 328 et seqq.
  • [681] Ibid, paras. 329 et seqq.
  • [682] Ibid, paras. 334 et seqq.
  • [683] Ibid, paras. 526 et seqq.
  • [684] Ibid, paras. 665 et seqq.
  • [685] Ibid, paras. 751 et seqq.
  • [686] Ibid, paras. 754.
  • [687] Ibid, para. 756.
  • [688] Ibid, para. 773.
  • [689] Ibid, para. 774.
  • [690] Ibid, paras. 781 et seqq.