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

LG Mannheim

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

A. Facts

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

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

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

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

B. Court’s Reasoning

1. Notice of Infringement

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

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

2. The SEP Owner’s Licensing Offer

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

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

3. The standard implementer’s reaction

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

C. Other Important Issues

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

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

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

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

Updated 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 26 1月 2017

NTT DoCoMo v HTC

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

  1. Facts
    Claimant owns the patent EP 1 914 945, declared to be essential with regard to ETSI’s UMTS standard. Defendant markets devices implementing the UMTS standard (in particular the HSUPA/EUL technology). On 19 March 2014 Claimant sent to Defendant’s group parent a detailed licensing offer and explained its conditions at several instances before filing suit in April 2015. As of 7 April 2014 and 15 July 2014, Claimant communicated to Defendant’s group parent company claim charts in order to demonstrate standard-essentiality of its patent and further explained the issue in a presentation on 8 July 2014. Defendant submitted its first counter-offer on 30 October 2015. The counter-offer envisaged a 3 year-license limited to some of the countries in which Defendant markets its products. Claimant rejected the counter-offer on 12 November 2015. Defendant did not provide security but merely promised to do so, based on a calculation including sales of relevant devices in Germany only. Claimant rejected this and demanded security based on worldwide sales.
  2. Court’s reasoning
    1. General meaning of the Huawei framework
      Prior to discussing specific conduct requirements established by the Huawei ruling, the court sketches its approach in a general manner. [96] According to the court the Huawei decision establishes a set of rules of due conduct in SEP licensing negotiations. Based on whether the parties comply with these rules the respective court can determine whether an SEP owner’s seeking of an injunction and a recall of products constitutes an abuse of a position of market dominance or a justified reaction to a standard implementer’s delaying tactics. In consequence, the respective court does not—unless it has to decide a claim for the payment of licensing fees and not claims for injunction and recall of products—have to rule on the substance of the offered licensing conditions or their being FRAND. [97] This is in line with recognized commercial practice according to which reasonable parties will not usually want courts to determine their licensing conditions. Furthermore, the ECJ has—from the perspective of the Mannheim District court—stressed that the exercise of the exclusive rights conveyed by a patent will be barred only in very exceptional circumstances. As a result, it is up to the standard implementer to show that such exceptional circumstances are present. [98]
    2. Market power and notice of infringement
      The court does not elaborate on the market power issue. As part of the notice of infringement [99] the court deems it necessary for the proprietor to identify the (allegedly) violated patent, including the patent number, and to inform that the patent has been declared standard-essential. Furthermore, the proprietor has not only to name the standard but to specify the pertinent part of the standard and the infringing element of the implementer’s products in a way that enables the standard implementer to assess whether its use of the standard infringes on the patent-in-suit. The level of detail required must be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending mainly on the expertise of – or available to – the implementer. Presenting claim charts corresponding to recognized commercial practice for licensing negotiations is, in principle, an acceptable way to give notice of the alleged infringement. In casu the court considered the proprietor’s notice as sufficient. [100] In particular, notice was given before the bringing of an action for infringement and the proprietor had submitted claim charts not only with regard to the patent-in-suit but also with regard to six other patents from the portfolio offered for license, a sample which the court deemed in accordance with recognized commercial practice. Sufficient notice having taken place, the court left open the question whether, (1) the Huawei rules applied at all in spite of the action being brought before the ECJ’s decision, and whether (2) the proprietor was obliged to submit claim charts for other patents than the patent-in-suit.
    3. The SEP proprietor’s licensing offer
      The court’s general understanding of the Huawei rules of conduct (cf. above) has a considerable impact on the way it intends to react to a SEP proprietor’s licensing offer: [101] The offer must specify the relevant conditions in a way that, in order to conclude a licensing agreement, the standard implementer has merely to state his acceptance of the offer. The calculation of the license fee, in particular, must be explained in a manner that enables the standard implementer to objectively assess its FRAND conformity. Even if the standard implementer disputes the FRAND character of the offer it is not the court’s business to determine whether the licensing conditions are actually FRAND. Neither is the SEP proprietor prohibited from offering conditions slightly above the FRAND threshold. A differing view of the parties on what constitutes FRAND is to be expected and provides no reason for cartel law-based intervention. An exploitative abuse of market power can, however, be present where the proprietor, after having made a FRAND declaration, offers conditions that are, under the circumstances of the case and without objective justification, manifestly less favorable (in an economic sense) than the conditions offered to other licensees. Correspondingly, the respective court is only required to determine, based on a summary assessment, whether the proprietor’s licensing offer evidently violates the FRAND concept. In casu the court accepted the Huawei compliance of the licensing offer, [102] in particular because the proprietor had explained its calculation of the licensing fee based on the percentage of patents in the WCMA/SIPRO and the VIA patent pools held by the proprietor. The proprietor was not required to prove its share in the patent pools. The parties disagreed over whether the smallest saleable unit forms an appropriate basis for royalty calculation and whether it is acceptable to look only at the size, not the quality of a proprietor’s share in a relevant patent pool. The court, however, considered these issues as not decisive for the Huawei-conformity of the licensing offer.
    4. The standard implementer’s reaction
      As a further consequence of the court’s general approach, the standard implementer’s duty to diligently react to the proprietor’s licensing offer is not removed only because the offer does not fully comply with FRAND. [103] . An exception applies only where it can be established by a mere summary assessment that the offer evidently violates FRAND. If a reaction of the alleged infringer is due, the “diligence”, i.e. timeliness, of this offer has to be determined cases-by-case, based on the principles of good faith and recognized commercial practice. In casu the standard implementer’s reaction was insufficient (1) because a counter-offer was made only 1.5 years after receiving the licensing offer and 0.5 years after the bringing of the proprietor’s action, (2) because security was merely promised, not provided, and (3) because the amount of security offered fell short of the court’s suggestions.
  3. Other important issues
    The court underlines that a SEP proprietor has to respect the Huawei rules of conduct only with regard to an action for prohibitory injunction or the recall of products. It is, however, free from their grip when bringing an action seeking the rendering of accounts in relation to past acts of use or an award of damages in respect of those acts of use.
  • [96] Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 53 et seq.
  • [97] Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 56
  • [98] Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 53
  • [99] Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 57
  • [100] Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 65-69
  • [101] Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 58
  • [102] Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 70-72
  • [103] Case No. 7 O 66/15, para. 59 et seq

Updated 26 1月 2017

Saint Lawrence v Vodafone

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

  1. Facts
    Since 28 August 2014 Claimant, a non-practicing entity, is the proprietor of the European patent EP 1 125 276 B1 “J”, originally granted to applicants “Voiceage, and allegedly covering part of the AMR-WB standard. Defendant is a company active in the telecommunications sector and which markets AMR-WB-based devices, inter alia devices produced by the Intervener in this case. After the adoption (“freeze”) of AMR-WB by ETSI on 10 April 2001, Claimant (who was not an ETSI member during the setting of the AMR-WB standard) made, on 29 May 2001, a commitment towards ETSI to grant licenses on FRAND terms inter alia for patent EP J. Claimant and its parent company “O” offer the SEP and all other patents of the same family to third parties by means of a portfolio license. Licensing conditions are accessible on the Internet and various producers in the sector have taken a license under these conditions. Prior to the submission of the patent infringement action on 23 July 2014 and to the advance payments on costs on 29 July 2014, Claimant alerted neither Defendant nor the manufacturer of the contested embodiments, who acted as an intervener in the present proceedings and became aware of the lawsuit in August 2014. By e-mails on 31 July and (as a reminder) on 9 December 2014, the first of which included a copy of the statement of claims and reached the defendant before it was formally served with the statement, Claimant notified the alleged patent violation to Defendant. After Defendant’s reply as of 12 January 2015, Claimant presented a draft licensing agreement to Defendant by letter as of 22 April 2015. On 9 December 2014, the Intervener (HTC) declared willingness to take a license for that patent, inter alia for the patent-in-suit, provided infringement was found in Mannheim’s District Court. It further declared that it would accept royalties determined by a court or arbitration tribunal. Claimant, in turn, offered a licensing agreement by letters as of 12 January 2015 and 25 March 2015 respectively. In the course of meetings taking place since 23 January 2014, [104] Claimant offered a license to the Intervener. On 23 February 2015 and on 2 April 2015 respectively, the Intervener made two licensing offers, including third party determination (arbitration panel or English court) of the amount of royalty, for the whole German patent portfolio of Claimant. An additional offer for a licensing agreement, limited to Germany and implementing a royalty of USD 0.0055 per patent by reference to the “WCDMA Patent Pools”, was made by the Intervener on 6 March 2015 and 24 September 2015 respectively, but it was finally refused by Claimant on 4 October 2015. Moreover, the Intervener provided a bank “guarantee of payment” as of 3 September 2015, being modified by letter as of 10 November 2015, and also rendered account of past and prospective sales in Germany since 2011.
  2. Court’s reasoning
    1. Market power and notice of infringement
      The court leaves open the question of whether the SEP conferred market power to Claimant since it did, in any case, find no abuse of such potential market power. [105] The court declared the Huawei rules applicable to claims for the recall of products. [106] As regards the Huawei requirement to alert the standard user of the infringement, the decision arrived at various findings of interest: Firstly, the judges found that—in “non-transitional” cases where the lawsuit was brought after the Huawei decision—the infringement notification has to take place before the action is filed, or the latest before the advance payment on costs is made. In transitional cases, such as the present case, a delayed infringement notification, taking place after the advance payment on costs as well as the submission of the court action, but before the statement of claims is served, is admissible. [107] Moreover, an infringement notification could possibly be omitted (in particular) if—as in the present case—the patent user already disposes of all necessary information and lacks willingness to license. [108] In non-transitional cases, however, the court doubts whether it is possible to rectify an omitted infringement notification without withdrawing the action. [109] Secondly, the court specified the minimum content of the infringement notification which has to indicate at least the number of the patent, the contested embodiments and the alleged acts of use performed by the standard implementer. The court did not decide whether additional information has to be provided, in particular regarding the interpretation of the patent claims or on which part of the standard the patent reads, but it stated that such additional information is not harmful to the patent proprietor. [110] Lastly, the court detailed on the particular situation of the Intervener, being Defendant’s manufacturer and supplier in the present case: Even though a FRAND defense successfully raised by the Intervener would in general also cover subsequent levels of the distribution chain, the Huawei requirements apply only indirectly to suppliers of contested embodiments which have not been sued themselves. Accordingly, the SEP proprietor is not obliged to notify the patent infringement to third parties, but as soon as a request to grant a license on FRAND terms is submitted the (adapted) Huawei procedure applies. [111] In casu, no separate infringement notice vis-à-vis the Intervener was required since the Intervener was, since August 2014, aware of the action having been brought.
    2. The SEP owner’s licensing offer
      Since the patent user did not express its willingness to conclude a licensing agreement in due time, the court found Claimant to comply with the Huawei requirement to submit a licensing offer on FRAND terms even though the offer was made in the course of the ongoing litigation. For transitional cases, as the present one, this holds true even if infringement notification and court action take place at the same time. [112] Besides, the court analyzed under which circumstances licensing conditions can be considered as FRAND according to Huawei. In the opinion of the judges, the more licensing agreements implementing comparable terms the SEP proprietor has already concluded, the stronger is the presumption that these conditions are FRAND, unless factual reasons—which are to be demonstrated by the patent user—justify modified terms. Recognized commercial practice in the relevant sector has to be considered when defining the admissible scope of the licensing agreement. If patent portfolios are usually covered by group or worldwide licenses in the relevant market, a (worldwide) portfolio license will be FRAND unless the circumstances of the specific case, e.g. the SEP proprietor’s market activity being limited to one geographic market, require a modification. [113] Accordingly, Claimant’s (worldwide) licensing offer to Defendant for the whole AMR-WB pool, demanding royalties of USD 0.26 per mobile device that implemented the standard and was produced or marketed in countries in which the SEP was in force, and complying with Claimants existing licensing practice (accessible on the Internet and already implemented in 12 licensing agreements) was declared FRAND. While the court considered that comparable licensing agreements “represent an important indicator of the adequacy of the license terms offered” it clarified that the significance of a patent pool as an indication of FRAND conformity is “limited”. Defendant and the Intervener failed to show that the portfolio comprised (non-used) non-SEPs as well. [114] They further failed to show that the pre-concluded licensing agreements provided no valid basis for comparison as they were concluded under the threat of pending litigation. [115] In order to fulfill the Huawei obligation of specifying the calculation of royalties, the SEP proprietor only has to provide the information necessary to determine the amount of royalties to be paid, e.g. the royalty per unit and the products covered by the license. While the court left undecided whether additional indications, e.g. concerning the FRAND character of the licensing offer, are necessary to comply with Huawei, it found that the SEP proprietor’s duty to inform should not be interpreted too strictly as FRAND does regularly encompass a range of values that will be fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory. [116] Claimant’s licensing offer presented to the Intervener was considered as being FRAND for the same reasons. Furthermore, the court emphasized that the contractual clause allowing for judicial review of the royalties offered could be a possible way to avoid abusive practices and to ensure that licensing offers correspond to FRAND terms. [117]
    3. The standard implementer’s reaction
      The court found that the more details the infringement notification contains, the less time remains for the standard user to examine the patent(s) at issue and to express its willingness to conclude a licensing agreement on FRAND terms. In the present case, Defendant did not comply with Huawei because it took more than five months to react and then only asked for proof of the alleged infringement. Given this excessive delay, the court did not decide whether Defendant’s reaction satisfied the Huawei requirements in terms of content. It denied the possibility to remedy a belated reaction by a subsequent declaration of willingness to license. On the contrary, and as a consequence of the patent user’s non-compliance, the SEP proprietor may continue the infringement action without violating Article 102 TFEU, but it still has to grant licenses on FRAND terms. [118] Whether the Intervener satisfied the ECJ criteria was left undecided. [119] The court made some further remarks of interest as to the Huawei requirements concerning the standard implementer: Firstly, it left undecided whether the obligation of the patent user to diligently respond is caused also by a (potentially) non-FRAND licensing offer. [120] Secondly, a standard user who has taken a license is not prevented from challenging validity and essentiality of the SEP afterwards, nor is the SEP proprietor entitled to terminate the license if such a challenge takes place. However, the standard implementer may not delay the (unconditional) conclusion of the licensing agreement until a final court decision on these issues has been rendered. While validity and standard-essentiality is litigated, the licensee remains obliged to pay royalties and it cannot request to insert into the licensing contract a clause entitling it to reclaim paid royalties in case of its success in court. [121] Thirdly, as, in the present case, no specific counter-offers satisfying FRAND terms were submitted and Defendant could not establish that Claimant had waived this requirement the court did not decide on whether a SEP proprietor is obliged to negotiate further although itself and the patent user have submitted FRAND offers. [122] None of the counter-offers of the Intervener were FRAND in terms of content. They were either inadmissibly limited to Germany, contained no precise royalty, were not submitted “promptly” because the standard user had waited until the oral pleadings in the parallel procedure, or they proposed royalties per device which the court considered as too low. [123] While it was therefore held to be irrelevant whether, in the first place, the Intervener duly declared its willingness to license, the court emphasized that the Intervener’s readiness to take a license only after the SEP infringement was determined in court did not satisfy the Huawei standard of conduct. [124] Moreover, the obligation imposed by Huawei to provide appropriate security and to render account was not fulfilled. While Defendant refrained from taking any of these actions, the Intervener waited several months after the counter-offers were refused in order to submit its bank “guarantee of payment”, which was not recognized as “appropriate security” due to its amount and its limitation to acts of use in Germany. [125] Neither was the Intervener’s initial proposal to have the security—if requested by Claimant—determined by an arbitration tribunal or by an English court accepted as an appropriate way to provide security. [126]
  3. Other important issues
    According to the court, the Huawei requirements apply to both non-practicing entities and other market participants. [127] Suing a network operator instead of the undertakings producing devices operating in the network constitutes (at least under the circumstances of this case and absent selective enforcement) no violation of competition law even though this strategy might aim at using the action against the network operator as a “lever” to obtain licensing commitments from the device suppliers. On the other hand, device manufacturers are entitled to a FRAND license as well and can raise the FRAND defense if such a license is not granted. In consequence, the court perceives a fair balance of interests as the SEP proprietor can choose on which level of the chain of production to sue while the undertakings in the chain of production can choose on which level to take a license. [128] Furthermore, no patent ambush-defense based on § 242 BGB could be raised because, firstly, Defendant and the Intervener could not substantiate the alleged patent ambush by “Y” and “C”, being the original SEP proprietors; secondly, they could not show that a different patent declaration conduct would have resulted in a different version of the standard excluding the patent-in-suit; thirdly, the alleged patent ambush would, arguably, have resulted only in a FRAND-licensing obligation and, fourthly, Claimant had declared its willingness to grant a license on FRAND terms anyway. [129]
  • [104] This is the date mentioned by the Court although “23 January 2015” may seem more plausible and the date given by the Court may result from a scrivener’s error.
  • [105] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 184
  • [106] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 187
  • [107] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 195 et seq.
  • [108] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 208-210
  • [109] Case No. 4a O 126/14, para. IV, 3, a, bb, 2, c
  • [110] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 193
  • [111] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 270 et seq.
  • [112] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 222 et seq.
  • [113] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 225 et seq.
  • [114] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 225 et seq. On the relevance of the SIPRO-pool royalty rates, cf. LG Düsseldorf, 31 March 2016 – Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 245-248. On the facts indicating that a worldwide license was appropriate LG Düsseldorf, 31 March 2016 – Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 249-255.
  • [115] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 234-242. The court argued that it is questionable in principle how much the threat of a claim for injunctive relief can (inadmissibly) affect license agreement negotiations, since the Orange Book case law of the BGH (German Federal Court of Justice), the Motorola decision of the European Commission, and now the CJEU judgment in the Huawei Technologies/ZTE Case could be and can be invoked against inappropriate demands that are in breach of antitrust law.
  • [116] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 256 et seq.
  • [117] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 279 et seq.
  • [118] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 214-220
  • [119] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 214-220; 278
  • [120] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 266
  • [121] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 185 et seq.; 262 et seq.
  • [122] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 264
  • [123] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 291 et seq.
  • [124] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 278
  • [125] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 267 et seq.; 299 et seq.
  • [126] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 304
  • [127] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 189
  • [128] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 309-313
  • [129] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 317 et seq.

Updated 16 6月 2021

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

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

A. Facts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With the present judgment [130] , the Court found in favour of Conversant and – among other things – granted an injunction against Daimler.
 

B. Court's reasoning

The Court found that the patent in suit is essential to the LTE standard and infringed [131] . Consequently, the claims asserted by Conversant were given. The claims for injunctive relief as well as the recall and destruction of infringing products were also to be granted. By initiating infringement proceedings against Daimler, Conversant neither abused a dominant market position in terms of Article 102 TFEU (competition law defence, cf. item 1), nor violated its contractual obligations under ETSI's IPR Policy (contract law defence, cf. item 2.) [132] .
 

1. Competition law defence
Dominant market position

The Court held that Conversant had a dominant market position within the meaning of Article 102 TFEU [133] .

The exclusivity rights arising from a patent do not establish a dominant market position by themselves. [134] A market dominant position is established, when the patent is technically essential for complying with a standard developed by a standardisation body (or a de facto standard) and technical alternatives are not available for products brought on a (downstream) market [135] . In the Court's eyes, this applied to the patent in suit. [136]

Exceptional circumstances that could exclude Conversant's market dominant position here were not present. According to the Court, the sole fact that Conversant had made a FRAND commitment towards ETSI establishing an obligation to grant FRAND licences did not per se exclude market dominance; decisive is, moreover, whether the SEP holder actually meets this obligation. [137] Furthermore, the additional option to get a license from the patent in suit from Avanci did not limit Conversant's market dominant position. [138]
 

No abuse of market dominance

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

In cases, in which the implementer already uses protected standardised technology, the assessment of the SEP holder's behaviour requires a comprehensive analysis, in which the constitutionally guaranteed strong protection of IPRs, on the one hand, and the interest of users to access the standard, on the other hand, must be balanced against one another. [139] In this context, not only private interests, but also the public interest must be taken into account. [140] The Court highlighted that the public interest is not to be seen as just the 'sole sum of private interests in using standardised technology', but equally includes the substantial interest of the public to protect the integrity of IPRs and secure effective enforcement. [141]

Considering the 'particular nature' of SEPs especially in the telecommunications field, the Court held -in line with the Huawei v ZTE judgment (Huawei judgment) of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) [142] - that it is justified to impose certain conduct obligations on SEP holders. Reason for this is, basically, that -unlike 'regular' patents- SEPs are established in the market through their inclusion in the standard, without further action by the patent holder. [143] Consequently, the need to secure a competitive advantage for the inventor of a patented technology in the market by granting exclusivity rights for a certain period of time is less compelling in relation to SEPs compared to non-standard-essential patents. [144]

Having said that, the Court made, however, clear that the conduct duties imposed on the SEP holder by the Huawei judgement exist only towards an implementer, who 'seriously and not only in words' wants to sign a licence. [145] Accordingly, a defence based on an alleged abuse of market dominance can be successful, only when the implementer that wants to use, or already uses the patent without authorisation is willing to obtain a FRAND licence and refrain from delaying tactics throughout the licensing negotiations with the SEP holder. [146] The Court noted that the key notion underlying the Huawei judgment that parties are best situated to determine FRAND in fair, balanced and swift negotiations relies on a constructive involvement of both parties which is driven by the actual 'sincere motivation' to reach an agreement. [147]
 

Notification of infringement

Looking at the parties' behaviour, the Court held that Conversant fulfilled the duty to notify Daimler about the infringement of its SEPs by sending the letter dated 18 December 2018, which contained sufficient information about its portfolio, including claim charts covering several patents. [148] Whether Conversant had sufficiently explained the royalty calculation underlying the licensing offer that was also attached to this letter, was not relevant, since, at this stage, Conversant had not even been obliged to make an offer to Daimler. [149]
 

Willingness

On the other hand, the Court found that Daimler had not been willing to take a licence from Conversant: On the contrary, the Court identified a 'particularly clear case of missing willingness'. [150]

In terms of content, the implementer must 'clearly' and 'unambiguously' declare willingness to conclude a licence agreement with the SEP holder on 'whatever terms are in fact FRAND' and, subsequently, engage in negotiations in a 'target-oriented' and 'constructive' manner. [151] By contrast, it is not sufficient, in response to the (first) notification of infringement, to just demonstrate willingness to consider signing a licensing agreement or to enter into negotiations about whether and under which conditions taking a licence comes into question. [151]

The Court explained that the assessment of willingness requires a comprehensive analysis of all facts until the end of the oral hearings in the infringement proceedings. [152] Establishing whether willingness is given cannot be a question answered by a 'formalistic snapshot' of the implementer's conduct; what is more, the implementer cannot remain inactive until -in its view- the SEP holder has met its obligations first. [152]

In addition, the Court highlighted that timing in negotiations is a factor, which must be considered in the assessment of willingness as well. [153] Otherwise, implementers would lack motivation to seriously engage in negotiations in a timely manner. [154] Rigid deadlines cannot be set, a case-by-case assessment is needed. [155] An implementer, who has been notified about the infringement, is, however, obliged to legitimize the -unlawful- use of the patent(s) as soon as possible by signing a FRAND-licence with the SEP holder. [155]

Furthermore, the Court reasoned that whether and at which time the implementer made a counteroffer to the SEP holder can also be an 'important indicator' of (un-)willingness. [156] A counteroffer made after the initiation of infringement proceedings will, as a rule, not be acceptable. [157] According to the Court, implementers should not be allowed to engage in negotiations only 'for appearance's shake' and then pull the 'emergency brake' against a potential conviction in infringement proceedings by making a counteroffer. [154] Exceptionally, a counteroffer made during trial could be considered in the assessment of willingness in cases, in which the implementer was willing from the start of the negotiations and always engaged constructively in the discussions with the patent holder. [158]

In line with the above, the Court pointed out that, in general terms, delaying tactics initially applied by an implementer cannot be 'undone' at a later point in time without more ado. [159] Nevertheless, the belated declaration of willingness does not 'automatically' prevent an implementer from raising a 'FRAND-defence' in infringement proceeding: Whether this will be the case or not, shall be decided on a case-by-case basis on grounds of the overall circumstances of the negotiation history. [160]

Against this backdrop and under consideration of Daimler's overall behaviour, the Court reached the conclusion that -although acting in a FRAND-compliant manner would have actually been possible and reasonable [161] - Daimler had chosen to apply delaying tactics [162] .

The Court found that by directing Conversant to its suppliers, Daimler had not expressed willingness to take a licence on 'whatever terms are in fact FRAND', but rather made clear that it was not prepared to take a licence from Conversant itself. [163] Indemnification clauses regarding third-party IPRs potentially agreed between Daimler and its suppliers played insofar no role, as Daimler infringed Conversant's patents independently and must, therefore, be held accountable for that. [163]

A further indication of Daimler's unwillingness was the fact that it took Daimler more than two months to inform Conversant that it had not received a list of portfolio patents that was unintentionally not attached to the e-mail sent by Conversant on 5 July 2020. [164] The Court equally criticized the fact that Daimler had at no point in time posed questions to Conversant on the claim charts provided by the later, but raised concerns against the quality of the patents only in the pending infringement trial. [165]

The Court saw an additional 'substantial' indication of unwillingness in Daimler's response dated 27 July 2020, in which the latter had expressly limited its willingness to sign a licence to products, which were either not licenced yet or purchased by suppliers unwilling to take a licence from Conversant themselves. [166] The Court particularly objected Daimler's choice to define the 'unwillingness' of its suppliers as a condition for signing an own licence with Conversant. [167]

The fact that Daimler had not responded to the proposal to use alternative dispute resolution methods and particularly arbitration for the determination of FRAND-royalties, which Conversant had made at the parties' meeting on 4 December 2019, was also considered as a sign of unwillingness on the side of Daimler. [168]

An additional 'clear' indication of unwillingness and delaying tactics was -according to the Court- the fact that, following the discussion of 4 December 2019, Daimler did not organise a meeting with all tier-1 suppliers, in order to discuss a potential direct licensing option with Conversant, despite having implied that this option had already been discussed with its suppliers. [169]
 

Counteroffer

Subsequently, the Court noted that Daimler's counteroffer dated 8 April 2020 could not remedy the missing willingness which Daimler had displayed until then. [170] Moreover, it rather served as an 'alibi'. [161]

In the eyes of the Court, the counteroffer was belated, since it was made more than 1 year and 4 months after Conversant's offer. [170] What is more, Daimler made the counteroffer during the pendency of the infringement proceedings, which was not acceptable, given that until that point it had been clearly unwilling to take a licence. [171] The Court also explained that Daimler could not excuse the delay by claiming that Conversant had not provided necessary information, since the counteroffer was based on generally known and available data without an underlying detailed analysis; accordingly, it could have been made earlier, that is shortly after receipt of Conversant's initial offer. [172]

Besides that, the Court found that Daimler's counteroffer was, in terms of content, 'evidently not FRAND'. [173] Based on a summary analysis, the licensing fees offered by Daimler were considered to be evidently too low. [174]

The Court noted that FRAND is a range and that there are several methods for calculating FRAND royalties. [174] The Court relied on the so-called 'top-down'-approach (which both Conversant and Daimler had used). [175] Looking at Daimler's 'top-down'-calculation, the Court held that taking the number of all patents declared as standard-essential towards ETSI as the basis for determining Conversant's share of LTE-related SEPs was not in line with FRAND-principles. [176] Considering that not all declared patents are actually standard-essential (a phenomenon described as 'over-declaration'), the use of the total number of declared patents benefits Daimler: Conversant's share of SEPs would per se be higher, if the (lower) number of actually standard-essential LTE patents would be used as basis for the calculation. [176]

In addition, the Court pointed out that the average purchase price of the TCU is no adequate royalty base under FRAND principles. [177] The value of a SEP is reflected by a royalty, which is adequately in proportion to the value of the service provided. [178] According to the Court, in the present case, economic value is created by the offering of LTE-enabled functionalities in Daimler's cars and the use of such functionalities by Daimler's customers. [178] As a consequence, relevant is the value, which Daimler's customers attach to the LTE-based features in a car. [178] The purchase price of TCUs paid by Daimler to its suppliers does not mirror this value. [178]
 

FRAND defence raised by suppliers / licensing level

The Court further explained that Daimler could not invoke the (alleged) willingness of its suppliers to take a licence from Conversant for establishing a FRAND defence. [179]

If an implementer, along with its own declaration of willingness, expresses the wish that licensing takes place at supplier level, it is obliged to comprehensively disclose in writing, which standard-compliant components are integrated in its products and which suppliers provide such components. [180] If this information and disclosure duty is not met, as it was the case here, a request for licensing at supplier level contradicts the implementer's declaration that it is willing to sign an own licence with the SEP holder, and is, therefore, a sign of bad faith (Sec. 242 German Civil Code). [181] In this context, the Court made clear that the implementer is obliged to still pursue bilateral negotiations with the SEP holder in a timely and target-oriented manner, even if -after having provided the aforementioned information to the latter- it is in parallel actively engaged towards facilitating the establishment of a licensing regime at supplier level. [182] In the bilateral negotiations with the SEP holder, the implementer could, however, insist that a clause excluding double payments for components already licensed to suppliers is included in the agreement. [182]

In line with the above, the Court confirmed that by seeking to license Daimler, Conversant did not act in an abusive or discriminatory way. [183]

In the view of the Court, the fundamental question whether the so-called 'license-to-all' or 'access-to-all' approach should be followed with respect to SEP licensing in a supply chain, did not need to be answered here. [184] In legal disputes between a SEP holder and an end-device manufacturer it is sufficient from a competition law angle that the objectives pursued by the SEP holder in the proceedings do not exclude suppliers from the market; this is true, when suppliers are granted access to the standardised technology through 'have-made' rights established by the licence signed by the end-device manufacturer, as Conversant had offered. [184] Whether suppliers have individual claims for being granted a licence is a distinct question, that could be potentially raised in separate proceedings between the SEP holder and the supplier. [185]

The Court added that the SEP holder is free to decide against which infringer within a supply chain court proceedings will be initiated. [186] The respective right of choice is derived from the constitutionally guaranteed protection of property as well as the very nature of patents as exclusionary rights. [187]

According to the Court, the common practice in the automotive field that components are sold to car manufacturers free of third-party rights does not render Conversant's pursuit to license Daimler abusive in antitrust terms. [188] Respective agreements between end-device manufacturers and suppliers have only bilateral (contractual) effects and cannot impair the legal position of third parties. [188] In particular, they cannot limit the SEP holder's right to choose the level of the value chain for the assertion of its patents. [189] The Court noted that the need to abandon existing practices in the automotive sector is of no importance from an antitrust angle, given that the integration of additional technologies serves Daimler's economic interest to access new markets and customer groups. [189]

In this context, the Court also explained that the SEP holder is not obliged to perform duties under the Huawei judgment towards suppliers, as far as infringement proceedings are initiated only towards the end-device manufacturer. [190] Accordingly, a supplier joining such proceedings cannot invoke that the SEP holder abused its market dominance e.g. by omitting a separate notification of infringement addressed to the supplier. [191] The Court denied such comprehensive notification duty of SEP holders, since in multi-level supply chains it is neither feasible nor reasonable to identify all suppliers involved. [192]

In the Court's view, the question whether the SEP holder has abused its market dominance by denying a direct licence to a supplier is subject to general competition law principles. [193] In the present case, the Court did not see sufficient grounds for such abuse. [193] It was not convinced that -absent an own bilateral licence- suppliers are left without rights or face legal uncertainty. [194] The fact that an individual bilateral licence would give suppliers broader freedom to operate than 'have-made' rights might serve their commercial interests, is, however, not of relevance with respect to proceedings between SEP holders and end-device manufacturers, as long as adequate access to the standard is provided to suppliers through 'have-made' rights. [195] Insofar, the Court noted that co-operation within a supply chain on basis of 'have-made' rights is wide-spread and common in practice and also supported by EU law (Commission notice of 18 December 1978 concerning its assessment of certain subcontracting agreements in relation to Article 85 (1) of the EEC Treaty, OJ C 1, 3 January 1979). [195]

Finally, the Court dismissed the argument, that Conversant had allegedly colluded with other members of the Avanci platform to specifically discriminate implementers by excluding access to the relevant standards. [196] The Court saw no indication that this was the case here, but rather highlighted the pro-competitive effects which patent pools are generally recognised to have, not least by EU law (para. 245 of the Guidelines on the application of Article 101 TFEU to technology transfer agreements; 2014/C 89/03). [196]
 

2. Contract law defence

The Court further found that Daimler could not defend itself against the claim for injunctive relief by invoking a contractual claim against Conversant for being granted a FRAND licence, since such claim did not exist. [197] Daimler had argued that Conversant's FRAND commitment towards ETSI prevented the latter from asserting claims for injunctive relief before court.

The Court found that the ETSI FRAND undertaking does not establish duties or rights different than those established by European competition law (especially Art. 102 TFEU), which Conversant had met in the present case. [198] In legal terms, the ETSI FRAND undertaking is a contract for the benefit of a third party under French law ('stipulation pour l'autrui'), containing a binding promise of the SEP holder to grant a FRAND licence at a later point in time. [199] The content and the extent of the corresponding obligation to negotiate a licence is, however, to be interpreted in line with the Huawei judgment, which has defined a standard of conduct based on Art. 102 TFEU. [199] The fact that the ETSI FRAND commitment materialises the requirement to provide access to the standard stipulated by Art. 101 TFEU speaks also in favour of applying a uniform standard of conduct. [199] In the eyes of the Court, French law cannot establish further going conduct duties, since it must be interpreted within the spirit of EU law. [199]
 

C. Other important issues

Finally, the Court took the view that there are no grounds for a limitation of Conversant's claim for injunctive relief due to proportionality considerations. [200] Under German law, proportionality is a general principle of constitutional rank to be considered also with respect to injunctive relief, if a respective objection is raised by the defendant in trial. [200] The Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) has also recognised that an injunction might not be immediately enforceable in exceptional cases, in which the implementer would suffer hardships not justified by the patent holder's exclusionary right in violation of the principle of good faith ('Wärmetauscher'ruling dated 10 May 2016, Case No. X ZR 114/13). [200] In the eyes of the Court, Daimler had, however, not pleaded any relevant facts in the present proceedings. [200]

  • [130] Conversant v Daimler, District Court of Munich I, 30 October 2020, Case-No. 21 O 11384/19 (cited by juris).
  • [131] Ibid, paras.122-265.
  • [132] Ibid, para. 285.
  • [133] Ibid, para.286.
  • [134] Ibid, para.288.
  • [135] Ibid, paras.287 et seqq.
  • [136] Ibid, paras.291 et seqq.
  • [137] Ibid, para.295.
  • [138] Ibid, para.296.
  • [139]  Ibid, para. 299.
  • [140] Ibid, para. 300.
  • [141] Ibid, para.300.
  • [142] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [143] Conversant v Daimler, District Court of Munich I, 30 October 2020, Case-No. 21 O 11384/19, para.301.
  • [144] Ibid, para.301.
  • [145] Ibid, para.307.
  • [146] Ibid, para.308.
  • [147] Ibid, paras.302 and 308.
  • [148] Ibid, paras. 323 et seqq.
  • [149] Ibid, para.324. The Court expressed, nevertheless, doubts that the sole reference to the calculation method used by the UK High Court in Unwired Planet v Huawei would prove sufficient for the explanation of the rates offered by Conversant to Daimler.
  • [150] Ibid, para. 309.
  • [151] Ibid, para. 310.
  • [152] Ibid, para. 316.
  • [153]  Ibid, para. 311.
  • [154] Ibid, para. 312.
  • [155] Ibid, para. 320.
  • [156] Ibid, para. 311.
  • [157] Ibid, paras. 312 and 316.
  • [158] Ibid, para. 315.
  • [159] Ibid, paras.317 et seqq.
  • [160] Ibid, para. 321.
  • [161] Ibid, para.357.
  • [162] Ibid, paras.322 and 358.
  • [163] Ibid, para.328.
  • [164] Ibid, paras.331 and 336.
  • [165] Ibid, para.332.
  • [166] Ibid, paras.334 and 336.
  • [167] Ibid, para.335.
  • [168] Ibid, para.337.
  • [169] Ibid, para.338.
  • [170] Ibid, para.339.
  • [171] Ibid, para.340.
  • [172] Ibid, paras.355 et seq.
  • [173] Ibid, paras.341 and 354.
  • [174] Ibid, para.341.
  • [175] Ibid, paras.341 and 348.
  • [176] Ibid, para.352.
  • [177] Ibid, para.353.
  • [178] Ibid, para.353
  • [179] Ibid, para.360.
  • [180] Ibid, para.362.
  • [181] Ibid, paras.362 and 364.
  • [182] Ibid, para.363.
  • [183] Ibid, para.365.
  • [184] Ibid, para.366.
  • [185] Ibid, para.367.
  • [186] Ibid, paras.368 and 382.
  • [187] Ibid, para.368.
  • [188] Ibid, para.370.
  • [189] Ibid, para.372.
  • [190] Ibid, paras.373 and 376-378.
  • [191] Ibid, para.373.
  • [192] Ibid, paras.373 and382.
  • [193] Ibid, paras.373 and 379.
  • [194] Ibid, para.374.
  • [195] Ibid, para.375.
  • [196] Ibid, para.380.
  • [197] Ibid, para.384.
  • [198] Ibid, paras.384 et seqq.
  • [199] Ibid, para.385.
  • [200] Ibid, para.269.

Updated 26 1月 2017

Saint Lawrence v Vodafone 2

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

  1. Facts
    Since 28 August 2014 Claimant, a non-practicing entity, is the proprietor of the European patent EP J, originally granted to applicants “Y” and “C”, and allegedly covering part of the AMR-WB standard. Defendant is a company active in the telecommunications sector and which markets AMR-WB-based devices, inter alia devices produced by the Intervener in this case. After the adoption (“freeze”) of AMR-WB by ETSI on 10 April 2001, Claimant (who was not an ETSI member during the setting of the AMR-WB standard) made, on 29 May 2001, a commitment towards ETSI to grant licenses on FRAND terms inter alia for patent EP J. Claimant and its parent company “O” offer the SEP and all other patents of the same family to third parties by means of a portfolio license. Licensing conditions are accessible on the Internet and various producers in the sector have taken a license under these conditions.
    Prior to the submission of the patent infringement action on 23 July 2014 and to the advance payments on costs on 29 July 2014, Claimant alerted neither Defendant nor the manufacturer of the contested embodiments, who acted as an intervener in the present proceedings and became aware of the lawsuit in August 2014. By e-mails on 31 July and (as a reminder) on 9 December 2014, the first of which included a copy of the statement of claims and reached the defendant before it was formally served with the statement, Claimant notified the alleged patent violation to Defendant. After Defendant’s reply as of 12 January 2015, Claimant presented a draft licensing agreement to Defendant by letter as of 22 April 2015.
    On 9 December 2014, the Intervener declared willingness to take a license, inter alia for the patent-in-suit, provided infringement was found in court. It further declared that it would accept royalties determined by a court or arbitration tribunal. Claimant, in turn, offered a licensing agreement by letters as of 12 January 2015 and 25 March 2015 respectively. In the course of meetings taking place since 23 January 2014, [201] Claimant offered a license to the Intervener. On 23 February 2015 and on 2 April 2015 respectively, the Intervener made two licensing offers, including third party determination (arbitration panel or English court) of the amount of royalty, for the whole German patent portfolio of Claimant. An additional offer for a licensing agreement, limited to Germany and implementing a royalty of USD 0.0055 per patent by reference to the “WCDMA Patent Pools”, was made by the Intervener on 6 March 2015 and 24 September 2015 respectively, but it was finally refused by Claimant on 4 October 2015. Moreover, the Intervener provided a bank “guarantee of payment” as of 3 September 2015, being modified by letter as of 10 November 2015, and also rendered account of past and prospective sales in Germany since 2011.
  2. Court’s reasoning
    The considerations of the court are almost exactly the same as those in the case LG Düsseldorf, 31 March 2016 – Case No. 4a O 73/14.
    1. Market power and notice of infringement
      The court leaves open the question of whether the SEP conferred market power to Claimant since it did, in any case, find no abuse of such potential market power. [202] The court declared the Huawei rules applicable to claims for the recall of products. [203]
      As regards the Huawei requirement to alert the standard user of the infringement, the decision arrived at various findings of interest: Firstly, the judges found that—in “non-transitional” cases where the lawsuit was brought after the Huawei decision—the infringement notification has to take place before the action is filed, or the latest before the advance payment on costs is made. In transitional cases, such as the present case, a delayed infringement notification, taking place after the advance payment on costs as well as the submission of the court action, but before the statement of claims is served, is admissible. [204] Moreover, an infringement notification could possibly be omitted (in particular) if—as in the present case—the patent user already disposes of all necessary information and lacks willingness to license. [205] In non-transitional cases, however, the court doubts whether it is possible to rectify an omitted infringement notification without withdrawing the action. [206]
      Secondly, the court specified the minimum content of the infringement notification which has to indicate at least the number of the patent, the contested embodiments and the alleged acts of use performed by the standard implementer. The court did not decide whether additional information has to be provided, in particular regarding the interpretation of the patent claims or on which part of the standard the patent reads, but it stated that such additional information is not harmful to the patent proprietor. [207]
      Lastly, the court detailed on the particular situation of the Intervener, being Defendant’s manufacturer and supplier in the present case: Even though a FRAND defense successfully raised by the Intervener would in general also cover subsequent levels of the distribution chain, the Huawei requirements apply only indirectly to suppliers of contested embodiments which have not been sued themselves. Accordingly, the SEP proprietor is not obliged to notify the patent infringement to third parties, but as soon as a request to grant a license on FRAND terms is submitted the (adapted) Huawei procedure applies. [208] In casu, no separate infringement notice vis-à-vis the Intervener was required since the Intervener was, since August 2014, aware of the action having been brought.
    2. The SEP owner’s licensing offer
      Since the patent user did not express its willingness to conclude a licensing agreement in due time, the court found Claimant to comply with the Huawei requirement to submit a licensing offer on FRAND terms even though the offer was made in the course of the ongoing litigation. For transitional cases, as the present one, this holds true even if infringement notification and court action take place at the same time. [209]
      Besides, the court analyzed under which circumstances licensing conditions can be considered as FRAND according to Huawei. In the opinion of the judges, the more licensing agreements implementing comparable terms the SEP proprietor has already concluded, the stronger is the presumption that these conditions are FRAND, unless factual reasons—which are to be demonstrated by the patent user—justify modified terms. Recognized commercial practice in the relevant sector has to be considered when defining the admissible scope of the licensing agreement. If patent portfolios are usually covered by group or worldwide licenses in the relevant market, a (worldwide) portfolio license will be FRAND unless the circumstances of the specific case, e.g. the SEP proprietor’s market activity being limited to one geographic market, require a modification. [210] Accordingly, Claimant’s (worldwide) licensing offer to Defendant for the whole AMR-WB pool, demanding royalties of USD 0.26 per mobile device that implemented the standard and was produced or marketed in countries in which the SEP was in force, and complying with Claimants existing licensing practice (accessible on the Internet and already implemented in 12 licensing agreements) was declared FRAND. While the court considered that comparable licensing agreements “represent an important indicator of the adequacy of the license terms offered” it clarified that the significance of a patent pool as an indication of FRAND conformity is “limited”. Defendant and the Intervener failed to show that the portfolio comprised (non-used) non-SEPs as well. [211] They further failed to show that the pre-concluded licensing agreements provided no valid basis for comparison as they were concluded under the threat of pending litigation. [212]
      In order to fulfill the Huawei obligation of specifying the calculation of royalties, the SEP proprietor only has to provide the information necessary to determine the amount of royalties to be paid, e.g. the royalty per unit and the products covered by the license. While the court left undecided whether additional indications, e.g. concerning the FRAND character of the licensing offer, are necessary to comply with Huawei, it found that the SEP proprietor’s duty to inform should not be interpreted too strictly as FRAND does regularly encompass a range of values that will be fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory. [213]
      Claimant’s licensing offer presented to the Intervener was considered as being FRAND for the same reasons. Furthermore, the court emphasized that the contractual clause allowing for judicial review of the royalties offered could be a possible way to avoid abusive practices and to ensure that licensing offers correspond to FRAND terms. [214]
    3. The standard implementer’s reaction
      The court found that the more details the infringement notification contains, the less time remains for the standard user to examine the patent(s) at issue and to express its willingness to conclude a licensing agreement on FRAND terms. In the present case, Defendant did not comply with Huawei because it took more than five months to react and then only asked for proof of the alleged infringement. Given this excessive delay, the court did not decide whether Defendant’s reaction satisfied the Huawei requirements in terms of content. It denied the possibility to remedy a belated reaction by a subsequent declaration of willingness to license. On the contrary, and as a consequence of the patent user’s non-compliance, the SEP proprietor may continue the infringement action without violating Article 102 TFEU, but it still has to grant licenses on FRAND terms. [215] Whether the Intervener satisfied the ECJ criteria was left undecided. [216]
      The court made some further remarks of interest as to the Huawei requirements concerning the standard implementer: Firstly, it left undecided whether the obligation of the patent user to diligently respond is caused also by a (potentially) non-FRAND licensing offer. [217] Secondly, a standard user who has taken a license is not prevented from challenging validity and essentiality of the SEP afterwards, nor is the SEP proprietor entitled to terminate the license if such a challenge takes place. However, the standard implementer may not delay the (unconditional) conclusion of the licensing agreement until a final court decision on these issues has been rendered. While validity and standard-essentiality is litigated, the licensee remains obliged to pay royalties and it cannot request to insert into the licensing contract a clause entitling it to reclaim paid royalties in case of its success in court. [218] Thirdly, as, in the present case, no specific counter-offers satisfying FRAND terms were submitted and Defendant could not establish that Claimant had waived this requirement the court did not decide on whether a SEP proprietor is obliged to negotiate further although itself and the patent user have submitted FRAND offers. [219]
      None of the counter-offers of the Intervener were FRAND in terms of content. They were either inadmissibly limited to Germany, contained no precise royalty, were not submitted “promptly” because the standard user had waited until the oral pleadings in the parallel procedure, or they proposed royalties per device which the court considered as too low. [220] While it was therefore held to be irrelevant whether, in the first place, the Intervener duly declared its willingness to license, the court emphasized that the Intervener’s readiness to take a license only after the SEP infringement was determined in court did not satisfy the Huawei standard of conduct. [221]
      Moreover, the obligation imposed by Huawei to provide appropriate security and to render account was not fulfilled. While Defendant refrained from taking any of these actions, the Intervener waited several months after the counter-offers were refused in order to submit its bank “guarantee of payment”, which was not recognized as “appropriate security” due to its amount and its limitation to acts of use in Germany. [222] Neither was the Intervener’s initial proposal to have the security—if requested by Claimant—determined by an arbitration tribunal or by an English court accepted as an appropriate way to provide security. [223]
  3. Other important issues
    According to the court, the Huawei requirements apply to both non-practicing entities and other market participants. [224]
    Suing a network operator instead of the undertakings producing devices operating in the network constitutes (at least under the circumstances of this case and absent selective enforcement) no violation of competition law even though this strategy might aim at using the action against the network operator as a “lever” to obtain licensing commitments from the device suppliers. On the other hand, device manufacturers are entitled to a FRAND license as well and can raise the FRAND defense if such a license is not granted. In consequence, the court perceives a fair balance of interests as the SEP proprietor can choose on which level of the chain of production to sue while the undertakings in the chain of production can choose on which level to take a license. [225]
    Furthermore, no patent ambush-defense based on § 242 BGB could be raised because, firstly, Defendant and the Intervener could not substantiate the alleged patent ambush by “Y” and “C”, being the original SEP proprietors; secondly, they could not show that a different patent declaration conduct would have resulted in a different version of the standard excluding the patent-in-suit; thirdly, the alleged patent ambush would, arguably, have resulted only in a FRAND-licensing obligation and, fourthly, Claimant had declared its willingness to grant a license on FRAND terms anyway. [226]
  • [201] This is the date mentioned by the court although “23 January 2015” may seem more plausible and the date given by the court may result from a scrivener’s error.
  • [202] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 184
  • [203] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 187
  • [204] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 195 et seq.
  • [205] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 208-210
  • [206] Case No. 4a O 126/14, para. IV, 3, a, bb, 2, c
  • [207] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 193
  • [208] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 270 et seq.
  • [209] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 222 et seq.
  • [210] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 225 et seq.
  • [211] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 225 et seq. On the relevance of the SIPRO-pool royalty rates, cf. LG Düsseldorf, 31 March 2016 – Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 245-248. On the facts indicating that a worldwide license was appropriate LG Düsseldorf, 31 March 2016 – Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 249-255.
  • [212] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 234-242. The court argued that it is questionable in principle how much the threat of a claim for injunctive relief can (inadmissibly) affect license agreement negotiations, since the Orange Book case law of the BGH (German Federal Court of Justice), the Motorola decision of the European Commission, and now the CJEU judgment in the Huawei Technologies/ZTE Case could be and can be invoked against inappropriate demands that are in breach of antitrust law.
  • [213] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 256 et seq.
  • [214] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 279 et seq.
  • [215] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 214-220
  • [216] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 214-220; 278
  • [217] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 266
  • [218] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 185 et seq.; 262 et seq.
  • [219] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 264.
  • [220] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 291 et seq.
  • [221] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 278
  • [222] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 267 et seq.; 299 et seq.
  • [223] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 304
  • [224] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 189
  • [225] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 309-313
  • [226] Case No. 4a O 73/14, para. 317 et seq.

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 [227] . 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 [228] (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 [229] . 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 [231] . 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) [234] .
 

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 [243] . 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 [243] .

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. [244] 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. [245] The fact that a party fails to contribute in negotiations towards a FRAND agreement will regularly be considered to its detriment. [246] 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. [247]

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. [248] Otherwise, competition could be distorted, because the infringer would gain unfair advantages over implementers that have taken a licence in a timely manner. [248]

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. [252]

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. [263] 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 [264] . 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 [264] . 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 [265] . 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. [266]

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 [267] . 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 [269] .

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. [271] 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'. [271]

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 [279] . 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. [286]

What is more, Sisvel's claim for damages was not limited to the amount of a FRAND licensing rate ('licensing analogy'). [287] 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. [286] 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

  • [227] 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).
  • [228] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the EU, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [229] 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).
  • [230] Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 28 April 2020, Case No. X ZR 35/18.
  • [231] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 5 May 2020, Case No. KZR 36/17.
  • [232] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17 (cited by ).
  • [233] Ibid, paras. 10-43.
  • [234] Ibid, para. 44.
  • [235] Ibid, paras. 48 et seqq.
  • [236] Ibid, para. 49.
  • [237] Ibid, para. 52.
  • [238] Ibid, para. 53.
  • [239] Ibid, para. 54.
  • [240] Ibid, para. 55.
  • [241] Ibid, para. 84.
  • [242] Ibid, paras. 86 et seqq.
  • [243] Ibid, para. 57.
  • [244] Ibid, para. 58.
  • [245] Ibid, para. 59.
  • [246] Ibid, para. 60.
  • [247] Ibid, para. 62.
  • [248] Ibid, para. 61.
  • [249] Ibid, para. 63.
  • [250] Ibid, para. 65.
  • [251] Ibid, para. 68.
  • [252] Ibid, paras. 66 and 68.
  • [253] Ibid, para. 69.
  • [254] Ibid, para. 69. See Nokia v Daimler, District Court of Duesseldorf, order dated 26 November 2020, Case No. 4c O 17/19.
  • [255] Ibid, paras. 70 and 71.
  • [256] Ibid, para. 71.
  • [257] Ibid, para. 72.
  • [258] Ibid, para. 73.
  • [259] Ibid, para. 74.
  • [260] Ibid, para. 76.
  • [261] Ibid, para. 77.
  • [262] Ibid, paras. 79 et seqq.
  • [263] Ibid, para. 83.
  • [264] Ibid, para. 87.
  • [265] Ibid, paras. 88 et seqq.
  • [266] Ibid, para. 89.
  • [267] Ibid, paras. 93 et seqq.
  • [268] Ibid, para. 95.
  • [269] Ibid, paras. 96-99.
  • [270] Ibid, paras. 102 et seqq.
  • [271] Ibid, para. 102.
  • [272] Ibid, paras. 108 et seqq.
  • [273] Ibid, para. 116.
  • [274] Ibid, para. 118.
  • [275] Ibid, paras. 124 et seqq.
  • [276] Ibid, para. 124.
  • [277] Ibid, para. 125.
  • [278] Ibid, para. 126.
  • [279] 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.
  • [280] Sisvel v Haier, Federal Court of Justice, judgment dated 24 November 2020, Case No. KZR 35/17, para. 107.
  • [281] Ibid, para. 56.
  • [282] Ibid, paras. 127 et seqq.
  • [283] Ibid, para. 130.
  • [284] Ibid, para. 131.
  • [285] Ibid, paras. 131 et seq.
  • [286] Ibid, para. 135.
  • [287] Ibid, paras. 134 et seqq.

Updated 6 6月 2019

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

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

A. 事実

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

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

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

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

Philipsは、オランダでは、とりわけ差止命令を求めてAsusに対する訴訟をハーグ地方裁判所(地方裁判所)において提起していた。地方裁判所は、EP 511特許に基づくPhilipsの差止請求を棄却した [288] 。Philipsは、ハーグ控訴裁判所(控訴裁判所)に控訴した。

本判決では、控訴裁判所がEP 511の有効性及び必須性を支持し、TFEU第102条に基づきFRAND違反を主張するAsusの抗弁(FRAND defense)を退け、Asusに対して係争中の特許を侵害している製品についての差止命令を出した [289]


B. 判決理由

控訴裁判所はEP 511特許の新規性及び進歩性を認め当該特許の有効性に対するAsusの異議を棄却した [290] 。更に、控訴裁判所は、当該特許が必須であり侵害されていると認めた [291]

控訴裁判所は、Asusの主張、即ち、Philipsが差止による救済を求めて侵害訴訟を提起する上でETSI に対する契約上のFRAND義務に違反しており、欧州司法裁判所(Court of Justice of the EU: CJEU) がHuawei対ZTE事件において定めた要件(Huawei要件)を遵守しなかったことによりTFEU第102 条 に違反したとの主張を審理した [292] 。特に、Asusは、(a) ETSI のIPR Policyに従った適切かつ適時なEP 511の開示をPhilipsが行なわず、また(b)提示した条件がFRANDである根拠を明確に示さなかったことでPhilipsがHuawei要件に反していたと主張した。

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

控訴裁判所は、ETSIの開示義務の根底にある一般的な目的について、ETSI標準に利用可能な最高の技術を組み入れることであって、Asusが主張したようにETSI 標準への参加者が最低のコストで(必須の)技術ソリューションを選択できるようにすることではないとした [293]  。また、宣言を行う義務の目的は、むしろ、使用者にとって事後的に実施できないSEPが現れないようにリスクを減らすことであるとした [294]

その上で控訴裁判所は、Philipsが行った一般的かつ包括的な宣言はETSIのIPR Policyに基づく義務を果たすために十分であったとした。この点について、控訴裁判所は、Philipsが特定のSEPの宣言を遅く行ったことは(必須でない特許を含めた)超過宣言(over-declaration)を招くとのAsusの主張を退け、逆に控訴裁判所は、早期開示ではETSI 標準に必須でない特許が含まれてしまう可能性の方が高いとした [295]  。更に、控訴裁判所は、欧州委員会の水平的協調行為に関するガイドライン(Horizontal Guidelines )によれば包括的宣言はEU競争法の目的上許容されるSEP宣言の形式の1つであり、Philipsの包括的宣言はTFEU第101条違反に当たらないと指摘した  [296]

FRAND違反を主張するAsusの抗弁(FRAND defense)の第一の根拠を退けた上で、控訴裁判所は、両当事者が交渉上Huawei要件に従っていたか否かについて評価した。控訴裁判所は、前置きとして、Huawei 事件におけるCJEUの判決は、Huawei要件に従わない特許保有者が自動的にTFEU第102条違反を犯したものとされる厳格な要件のセットを定めてはいないと述べた [297]  。このため、控訴裁判所は、本事件の特定の状況と両当事者の行為を評価する必要があるとした。

その次に控訴裁判所は、Huawei要件の第一ステップである侵害者への適切な通知の義務をPhilipsが遵守したか否かを審理した。控訴裁判所は、侵害を受けているとされる特許のリストとそれらが必須である標準をPhilipsが提出したこと及びFRAND条件でライセンスをオファーする意思をPhilipsが宣言したことによりAsusへの通知義務をPhilipsが明確に果たしていたと事件記録が示しているとの見解をとった。 [298]  また、その後の技術的議論において、Philipsは自社のポートフォリオとライセンスプログラムについての更なる詳細(クレームチャート及び標準ライセンスでのロイヤルティ料率を含む)を提供していた [299] 。これに対して、AsusはFRAND条件でのライセンスを受ける意思を表示しなかった。控訴裁判所は、交渉が常にPhilipsの側から始められ、AsusはPhilipsのポートフォリオを評価できる技術専門家を交渉に参加させていなかったと事実認定した [300] 。控訴裁判所は、交渉においてAsusが提起した技術的問題が交渉を遅らせることだけを目的としており「ホールドアウト(hold-out)」と言われる行為に当たるとした  [301]

この時点で既に、控訴裁判所はAsusがHuawei要件に基づく義務に違反しており、Philipsは差止命令を求める権利を有していると判断していたが、更に踏み込んでHuaweiフレームワークの第二ステップ以降の遵守についても検討した。控訴裁判所は、 Philipsが自社の標準ライセンス契約を提示したことは、具体的であり提示した料率の計算法も説明している点でCJEU要件を完全に満たしているとした [302] 。更に、控訴裁判所は、ドイツにおいて訴訟が提起された後にAsusが出したカウンターオファー自体は、PhilipsがHuawei要件を遵守しており従って差止命令を求める権利を有するとの結論を変えるものではないとした [303] 。最後に、控訴裁判所はPhilipsが交わしている比較可能なライセンス契約がFRAND適格であるかを評価するためにそれらへのアクセスを求めたAsusの弁護士による要求を却下した。控訴裁判所は、ETSIのIPR Policy、TFEU第102条、及びHuawei フレームワークの何れも当該要求の根拠とはならないとした [304]

  • [288] Koninklijke Philips N.V.対Asustek Computers INC、ハーグ地方裁判所、2017年、事件番号C 09 512839 /HA ZA 16-712。
  • [289] Koninklijke Philips N.V.対Asustek Computers INC、ハーグ控訴裁判所、2019年5月7日判決、事件番号200.221.250/01。
  • [290] 同判決、第4.63節、第4.68節、第4.75節、第4.80節、第4.82節、第4.93節、第4.100節、及び第4.117節。
  • [291] 同判決、第4.118節 以下。
  • [292] Huawei対ZTE、欧州司法裁判所、2015年7月16日判決、事件番号C-170/13。
  • [293] Koninklijke Philips N.V.対Asustek Computers INC、ハーグ控訴裁判所、2019年5月7日判決、事件番号200.221.250/01、第4.153節以下。
  • [294] 同判決、第4.155節及び第4.157節。
  • [295] 同判決、第4.159節。
  • [296] 同判決、第4.164節。
  • [297] 同判決、第4.171節。
  • [298] 同判決、第4.172節。
  • [299] 同判決。
  • [300] 同判決、第4.172節ないし第4.179節。
  • [301] 同判決、第4.179節。
  • [302] 同判決、第4.183節。
  • [303] 同判決、第4.185節。
  • [304] 同判決、第4.202節以下。

Updated 12 3月 2019

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (MPEG-LA) v ZTE

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

A. Facts

The Claimant, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Angewandten Forschung, holds a patent essential to the practice of the AVC/H.264 standard concerning the compression of video data (Standard Essential Patent of SEP) [305] . 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) [306] .

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 [307] .

MPEG LA uses a standard licensing agreement, which is publicly available at its website [308] . It has signed licensing agreements with approx. 1,400 implementers [308] .

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) [309] .

On 15 September 2011, the parent company asked MPEG LA to send any relevant documents by mail to its IPR Manager [310] . A copy of MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement reached the parent company in late September 2011 [311] .

In 2012, the parent company acquired patents included in the MPEG LA pool [306] .

Since MPEG-LA and the parent company could not reach an agreement on a licence covering the MPEG LA pool [312] , 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 [313] .

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 [314] . 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 [315] . 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 [316] .

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 [317] . 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 [318] (Huawei obligations or framework) with respect to dominant undertakings [319] .

1. Dominant market position

The Court found that the Claimant holds a dominant market position in terms of Article 102 TFEU [320] .

The Court defined the relevant market for the assessment of dominance as the market for licences for any given patent [321] . A dominant market position can further also exist, when the patent holder can hinder competition in downstream markets for standard-compliant products and services [321] .

The Court made, however, clear that ownership of a SEP does not per se establish market dominance [322] . A dominant market position is given, when the use of the SEP is required for entering the market [322] . The same is true, if the patent user could not market competitive products or services, without access to the respective SEP [322] .

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 [323] .

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 [324] . 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) [325] . 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 [326] .

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 [327] . 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 [328] ), since with respect to the SEP in suit a ‘routine’ practice already existed prior to the Huawei judgement [329] . The Court explained that the Huawei judgment does not contain either an explicit or an implicit limitation of its scope of application [330] . 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 [331] . 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 [332] . 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 [333] .

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 [334] .

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 [335] .

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 [336] . The sole fact that a company belongs to a group justifies such an assumption, unless indications to the contrary exist [336] . 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) [337] . 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 [338] . 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 [339] . 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 [340] .

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 [341] . 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 [342] . A notification of infringement is, therefore, not necessary, when it constitutes just a ‘pointless formality’ [342] . 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 [342] . The respective test is, however, subject to strict conditions [342] .

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) [343] . 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) [344] , 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 [345] .

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 [346] .

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 [347] . The implementer is not required to refer to a specific licensing agreement [347] .

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 [348] .

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 [349] .

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 [350] . 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 [351] . Whether subsidiaries can (or should) also be licensed, will be the object of these negotiations [352] . 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 [353] . 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 [354] .

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 [355] . 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 [356] .

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 [357] . 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) [358] . 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 [358] . 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 [358] . 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 [359] .

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 [360] . 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 [360] . 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 [361] .

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 [362] . 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 [362] . 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 [362] . In this respect, comparable agreements can serve as an ‘important indicator’ of the fair and reasonable character of the offered royalty rates [362] .

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 [363] . 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 [363] . 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 [364] . 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 [364] .

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 [365] . In the electronics and mobile communications industries, licences covering a group of companies are in line with the industry practice [366] . 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 [367] .

In addition, the Court made clear that pool licences, as the one offered to the parent company, are appropriate under the Huawei framework [368] . An offer for a pool licence cannot per se be seen as abusive (Article 101 TFEU) [369] . 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 [369] .

Implementer’s counter-offer

The Court found that the Defendant failed to make a FRAND counter-offer [370] .

Sending signed copies of MPEG LA’s standard licensing agreement back to MPEG LA can be regarded as a counter-offer [371] . 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 [372] . 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 [373] .

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 [374] .

  • [305] Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (MPEG-LA) v ZTE, District Court of Düsseldorf, judgement dated 9 November 2018, cited by www.nrwe.de, para. 56.
  • [306] Ibid, para. 58
  • [307] Ibid, para. 57
  • [308] Ibid, para. 59
  • [309] Ibid, paras. 61 et seqq. and 340
  • [310] Ibid, para. 65
  • [311] Ibid, para. 66
  • [312] Ibid, para. 73
  • [313] Ibid, para. 42
  • [314] bid, para. 74
  • [315] Ibid, paras. 75 et seq
  • [316] Ibid, para. 75
  • [317] Ibid, paras. 127 – 254
  • [318] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13
  • [319] Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (MPEG-LA) v ZTE, District Court of Düsseldorf, judgement dated 9 November 2018, cited by www.nrwe.de, Ibid, para. 280
  • [320] Ibid, para. 283 and paras. 291 et seqq
  • [321] Ibid, para. 286
  • [322] Ibid, para. 287
  • [323] Ibid, paras. 291 et seqq
  • [324] Ibid, para. 296
  • [325] Ibid, para. 300
  • [326] Ibid, para. 302
  • [327] Ibid, para. 308
  • [328] 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
  • [329] Ibid, para. 305
  • [330] Ibid, paras. 306 et seqq
  • [331] Ibid, para. 310
  • [332] Ibid, para. 311
  • [333] Ibid, para. 312
  • [334] Ibid, para. 421
  • [335] Ibid, para. 314
  • [336] Ibid, para. 320
  • [337] Ibid, para. 318
  • [338] Ibid, para. 329
  • [339] Ibid, paras. 336 et seq
  • [340] Ibid, para. 338
  • [341] Ibid, para. 198
  • [342] Ibid, para. 315
  • [343] Ibid, paras. 340 et seq
  • [344] Ibid, paras. 342 et seqq
  • [345] Ibid, para. 344
  • [346] Ibid, para. 346
  • [347] Ibid, para. 348
  • [348] Ibid, para. 352
  • [349] Ibid, para. 367
  • [350] Ibid, para. 369
  • [351] Ibid, para. 370
  • [352] Ibid, para. 378
  • [353] Ibid, para. 371
  • [354] Ibid, para. 374
  • [355] Ibid, para. 376
  • [356] Ibid, para. 377
  • [357] Ibid, para. 380
  • [358] Ibid, para. 381
  • [359] Ibid, para. 386
  • [360] Ibid, para. 382
  • [361] Ibid, para. 387
  • [362] Ibid, para. 391
  • [363] Ibid, para. 392
  • [364] Ibid, para. 393
  • [365] Ibid, para. 397
  • [366] Ibid, para. 398
  • [367] Ibid, para. 399
  • [368] Ibid, para. 402
  • [369] Ibid, para. 404
  • [370] Ibid, para. 410
  • [371] Ibid, para. 413
  • [372] Ibid, para. 416
  • [373] Ibid, para. 417
  • [374] Ibid, para. 411

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 [375] 、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 [376] 。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 [377]

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 [378] (「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 [379]

 

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 [380] 。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 [380]

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 [381] 。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 [382] 。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 [382] 。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 [383]

 

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 [384] 。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 [385]

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 [384] 。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 [384] 。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) [384] 。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 [386]

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 [387] 。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 [388]

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 [389] 。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 [389]

 

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 [390]

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) [391] 。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 [392] 。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 [391]

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 [391] 。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 [391]

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 [393] 。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 [394]

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 [395] 。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 [396]

 

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 [397]

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 [398] 。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 [398]

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 [399] 。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 [399] 。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 [400] 。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 [400]

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 [400] 。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 [400] 。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 [400] 。 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 [401] 。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 [401]

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 [402] 。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 [403] 。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 [404] 。接続機能はこの価値創出の機会を保証するものである [405] 。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 [406]

 

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 [407]

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 [408] 。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 [408] 。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 [408] 。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 [409]

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 [410] 。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 [411] 。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 [412] 。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 [413]

 

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 [414]

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 [415] 。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 [415] 。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 [415]

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 [416] 。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 [417] 。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 [417]

 

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 [418]

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 [419] 。本訴訟はこのような状況でなかった [420]

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 [421] 。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 [421]

 

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 [422] 。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 [423]

  • [375] 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))
  • [376] 同判決、第49節乃至第136節。
  • [377] 同判決、第138節。
  • [378] 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)
  • [379] 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)
  • [380] 同判決、第146節。
  • [381] 同判決、第147節。
  • [382] 同判決、第148節。
  • [383] 同判決、第149節。
  • [384] 同判決、第152節。
  • [385] 同判決、第151乃至第156節。
  • [386] 同判決、第248節。
  • [387] 同判決、第153節以降。
  • [388] 同判決、第154節。
  • [389] 同判決、第155節。
  • [390] 同判決、第157乃至第231節。
  • [391] 同判決、第158節。
  • [392] 同判決、第159節。
  • [393] 同判決、第161節。
  • [394] 同判決、第197乃至第199節。
  • [395] 同判決、第157節、第160節及び第162節乃至第164節。
  • [396] 同判決、第160及び第165節乃至第168節。
  • [397] 同判決、第169節。
  • [398] 同判決、第170節。
  • [399] 同判決、第171節。
  • [400] 同判決、第172節。
  • [401] 同判決、第173節。
  • [402] 同判決、第174節以降。
  • [403] 同判決、第174節。
  • [404] 同判決、第177節。
  • [405] 同判決、第180節。
  • [406] 同判決、第187節以降。
  • [407] 同判決、第201節乃至第212節。
  • [408] 同判決、第202節。
  • [409] 同判決、第203節。
  • [410] 同判決、第205節。
  • [411] 同判決、第210節。
  • [412] 同判決、第213節。
  • [413] 同判決、第215節。
  • [414] 同判決、第216節以降。
  • [415] 同判決、第217節。
  • [416] 同判決、第218節。
  • [417] 同判決、第230節。
  • [418] 同判決、第232節以降。
  • [419] 同判決、第234及び第236節以降。
  • [420] 同判決、第240節以降。
  • [421] 同判決、第239節。
  • [422] 同判決、第253及び第291節。
  • [423] 同判決、第291節。

Updated 2 8月 2019

Tagivan (MPEG-LA) v Huawei

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

A. Facts

The Claimant, Tagivan II LLC, holds a patent essential to the practice of the AVC/H.264 standard concerning the compression of video data (Standard Essential Patent, or SEP). The patent in question is subject to a FRAND commitment (FRAND stands for Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory terms and conditions) made towards the relevant standardisation body. It was included into a patent pool administered by MPEG LA LLC (MPEG LA), comprising more the 5,000 patents referring to the AVC/H.264 standard (MPEG LA pool) [424] .

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 [425] .

MPEG LA uses a standard licensing agreement, which is publicly available at its website [426] . Since 2004, MPEG-LA has signed approx. 2,000 agreements with implementers [427] , 1,400 of which are still in force [426] .

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 [428] . On 15 September 2011, the parent company suggested to arrange a call on this issue [429] . 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 [430] .

In November 2013, the discussions between MPEG LA and the parent company ended without success [431] . The parties resumed negotiations in July 2016; again, no agreement was reached [431] .

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 [432] .

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 [433] .

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 [434] . Furthermore, the Defendant made a second counteroffer to the Claimant shortly after the last oral hearing before the Court [435] .

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

B. Court’s reasoning

The Court found that the patent in suit was valid [436] , standard essential [437] and infringed by the products sold by the Defendant in Germany [438] . 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 [439] (Huawei obligations or framework) with respect to dominant undertakings [440] .

Dominant market position

The Court found that the Claimant holds a dominant market position in terms of Article 102 TFEU [441] .

The Court defined the relevant market for the assessment of dominance as the market, in which licences for any given patent are offered [442] . A dominant market position can further also exist, when the patent holder can hinder competition in downstream markets for standard-compliant products and services [442] .

The Court made clear that ownership of a SEP does not per se establish market dominance [443] . A dominant market position is given, when the use of the SEP is required for entering the market [444] . The same is true, if the patent user could not market competitive products or services, without access to the respective SEP [445] .

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 [446] .

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 [447] . 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) [448] . 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 [449] .

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 [450] . 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 [451] ), 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 [452] . 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 [453] . 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 [453] . 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 [454] .

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 [455] .

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 [456] . The sole fact that a company belongs to a group justifies such an assumption, unless indications to the contrary exist [457] . 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) [458] . 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 [459] . 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 [460] .

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 [461] . 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 [461] . A notification of infringement is, therefore, not necessary, when it constitutes just a ‘pointless formality’ [461] . 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 [461] . The respective test is, however, subject to strict conditions [461] .

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) [462] . 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 [463] .

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 [464] .

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 [464] . This is sufficient under the Huawei framework: A general, informal statement suffices [465] . The implementer is not required to refer to a specific licensing agreement (on the contrary, this could be considered harmful under certain circumstances) [465] .

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 [466] .

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 [467] .

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 [468] .

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 [469] . 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 [470] . 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) [471] . 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 [471] . 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 [471] . 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 [472] .

Apart from the above, the Court held that the standard licensing agreement offered to the parent company was FRAND also in terms of content [473] .

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 [474] . 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 [474] . 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 [474] . In this respect, comparable agreements can serve as an ‘important indicator’ of the fair and reasonable character of the offered royalty rates [474] .

Non-discrimination

Regarding to the non-discriminatory element of FRAND, the Court pointed out that it applied only to similar situated cases [475] . Even then, an unequal treatment is allowed, as long as it is objectively justified [475] . 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 [475] . 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 [476] . 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 [476] .

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 [477] . 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 [478] . 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 [479] . 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) [480] .

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 [481] . 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) [482] . 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 [483] . Discounts can further hardly be discriminatory, if they are offered to every (potential) licensee under the same conditions [483] .

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) [484] . 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 [485] .

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 [486] .

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 [487] . 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 [487] .

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 [488] . 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 [489] . 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 [490] . What is more, the Defendant did not show that further licences are needed with respect to the AVC/H.264 standard [491] . 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 [492] .

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 [493] . This assumption is also confirmed by the fact that all existing licensees have accepted this clause [494] .

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) [495] . 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 [495] .

An offer for a pool licence can, nevertheless, violate FRAND in ‘special circumstances’ [496] , for instance, if not all patents included in the pool are used by the licensee [497] . 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 [498] . 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 [499] . 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) [499] .

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 [500] . The Defendant failed, however, to present any reliable evidence that this was the case with the MPEG-LA pool [501] .

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’) [502] . 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 [503] .

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 [504] . In the electronics and mobile communications industries, licences on a group level are in line with the industry practice and, therefore, FRAND-compliant [505] .

Implementer’s counteroffer

Having said that, the Court found that the Defendant failed to make a FRAND counteroffer [506] .

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 [507] . Furthermore, the counteroffer established different licensing rates for different regions (especially for China) without factual justification [508] .

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 [435] . On the contrary, the Court expressed the view that the purpose of this counteroffer was most likely to delay the infringement proceedings [435] .

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 [509] .

  • [424] Tagivan (MPEG-LA) v Huawei, District Court of Düsseldorf, 9 November 2018, para. 36.
  • [425] Ibid, para. 35.
  • [426] Ibid, para. 37.
  • [427] Ibid, para. 453.
  • [428] Ibid, para. 39.
  • [429] Ibid, para. 43.
  • [430] Ibid, para. 44.
  • [431] Ibid, para. 53.
  • [432] Ibid, para. 2.
  • [433] Ibid, para. 54.
  • [434] Ibid, para. 65.
  • [435] Ibid, para. 716.
  • [436] Ibid, paras. 143-208.
  • [437] Ibid, paras. 209-293.
  • [438] Ibid, paras. 295-302.
  • [439] Huawei v ZTE, Court of Justice of the European Union, judgment dated 16 July 2015, Case No. C-170/13.
  • [440] Tagivan (MPEG-LA) v Huawei, District Court of Düsseldorf, 9 November 2018, paras. 304 et seqq.
  • [441] Ibid, para. 307.
  • [442] Ibid, para. 310.
  • [443] 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.
  • [444] Ibid, paras. 310 et seq.
  • [445] Ibid, para. 311.
  • [446] Ibid, paras. 315 et seqq.
  • [447] Ibid, para. 321.
  • [448] Ibid, para. 326.
  • [449] Ibid, para. 327.
  • [450] Ibid, para. 330.
  • [451] 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.
  • [452] Ibid, paras. 331 et seqq.
  • [453] Ibid, para. 335.
  • [454] Ibid, para. 337.
  • [455] Ibid, para. 339.
  • [456] Ibid, para. 343.
  • [457] Ibid, para. 345.
  • [458] Ibid, para. 356.
  • [459] Ibid, paras. 357 et seqq.
  • [460] Ibid, paras. 366 et seqq.
  • [461] Ibid, para. 340.
  • [462] Ibid, para. 341.
  • [463] Ibid, paras. 395 et seqq.
  • [464] Ibid, paras. 400 et seqq.
  • [465] Ibid, para. 399.
  • [466] Ibid, para. 405.
  • [467] Ibid, paras. 411-417.
  • [468] Ibid, para. 419.
  • [469] Ibid, para. 421.
  • [470] Ibid, para. 425.
  • [471] Ibid, para. 422.
  • [472] Ibid, paras. 426 et seqq.
  • [473] Ibid, para. 429.
  • [474] Ibid, para. 431.
  • [475] Ibid, para. 432.
  • [476] Ibid, para. 433.
  • [477] Ibid, para. 438.
  • [478] Ibid, para. 443.
  • [479] Ibid, para. 444.
  • [480] Ibid, para. 445.
  • [481] Ibid, para. 579.
  • [482] Ibid, para. 582.
  • [483] Ibid, paras. 583 et seqq.
  • [484] Ibid, para. 564.
  • [485] Ibid, paras. 568 et seqq.
  • [486] Ibid, paras. 573 et seqq.
  • [487] Ibid, para. 451.
  • [488] Ibid, para. 449.
  • [489] Ibid, para. 454.
  • [490] Ibid, paras. 487 et seqq.
  • [491] Ibid, para. 491.
  • [492] Ibid, para. 495.
  • [493] Ibid, paras. 591 et seqq., particularly para. 596.
  • [494] Ibid. para. 597.
  • [495] Ibid. para. 504.
  • [496] Ibid. para. 508.
  • [497] Ibid. para. 514.
  • [498] Ibid. paras. 511 et seqq.
  • [499] Ibid. para. 524.
  • [500] Ibid, para. 528.
  • [501] Ibid, paras. 531-543.
  • [502] Ibid, paras. 545 et seqq.
  • [503] Ibid, para. 546.
  • [504] Ibid, para. 599.
  • [505] Ibid, para. 600.
  • [506] Ibid, para. 603.
  • [507] Ibid, paras. 605 et seqq.
  • [508] Ibid, paras. 617 et seqq.
  • [509] Ibid, para. 625.