Recent months have seen the Internet of Things (IoT) licensing platform Avanci, LLC announce license agreements with multiple automotive OEMs, including Audi, Porsche, and Volkswagen, to its portfolio of standard essential patents (SEPs) covering cellular technologies. However, despite Avanci’s traction with those OEMs, the company has now begun to see pushback at the supplier level. On May 10, automotive component supplier Continental filed a declaratory judgment (DJ) complaint in the Northern District of California against Avanci and several of the patent owners participating in its licensing program, alleging that by refusing to offer fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licenses to suppliers, they have committed various antitrust violations and breached their contractual FRAND obligations, further seeking equitable relief (5:19-cv-02520). The dispute echoes similar licensing battles that continue to play out in European courts, including litigation involving patent owners Nokia and Broadcom, respectively, and OEM Daimler—which does not appear to have a relationship with Avanci—filed in German courts and before the European Commission. Similar antitrust claims have also been raised in a US DJ action recently filed by u-blox against InterDigital, Inc., which has since seen filings from the US government that reflect a recent shift in antitrust enforcement policy.
A Texas jury has returned a new damages verdict in litigation brought by Conversant Wireless Licensing S.à.r.l. (f/k/a Core Wireless Licensing S.a.r.l.) against LG Electronics (LGE) (2:14-cv-00912). In September 2016, another jury issued a verdict of infringement in the case’s first trial against LGE, but the court granted LGE a new trial on damages in September 2018 due to a series of errors made by the plaintiff’s damages expert. The resulting verdict in that second trial included a damages award of $3.5M.
The UK Court of Appeal has reaffirmed that English courts may hear disputes over standard essential patent (SEP) licensing. In a January 30 opinion, the court held that the UK was the most convenient forum for an ongoing lawsuit filed by Conversant Wireless Licensing S.à.r.l. against Huawei and ZTE over their refusal to take a global license to the NPE’s portfolio based on allegedly fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. The court’s ruling came despite new evidence offered by the defendants suggesting that China would also be an appropriate forum for the dispute.
The UK High Court of Justice has rejected a jurisdictional challenge in Conversant Wireless Licensing S.à.r.l.’s ongoing litigation against Huawei and ZTE. In an April 16 decision, Justice Henry Carr declined to accept arguments by the defendants, both incorporated in China, that the Court lacked jurisdiction because it could not adjudicate the validity of the Chinese patents in Conversant’s portfolio. Rather, Justice Carr held that a FRAND (fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory) license would allow the defendants to challenge validity in parallel, and that such a license’s terms would account for the consequences of an invalidity ruling in another jurisdiction. Justice Carr also rejected the defendants’ attempt to dismiss the case due to forum non conveniens and for improper service.
Publicly traded NPEs Acacia Research Corporation and Finjan Holdings, Inc. have each provided updates on litigation filed in Germany as part of their third-quarter earnings announcements. The German infringement suit brought by Acacia’s Saint Lawrence Communications GmbH against Apple proceeds in parallel with invalidity actions brought by Apple and Motorola Mobility, while in the US Apple has pursued its own litigation against Acacia, asserting various claims related to the NPE’s allegedly unfair and anticompetitive licensing practices in that campaign. Meanwhile, a neutral expert has been appointed in Finjan’s German lawsuit against ESET as trial comes to a close in its US litigation against Blue Coat Systems, with invalidity actions also pending for that campaign in Germany and the US.
The Federal Circuit has upheld a victory for Apple in a lawsuit brought by Luxembourg-based NPE Core Wireless Licensing S.a.r.l. (2015-2037). In an opinion issued on April 14, the court affirmed District Judge Rodney Gilstrap’s denial of the NPE’s motions for judgment as a matter of law and for a new trial, which followed a Texas jury’s March 2015 verdict that the company’s mobile devices did not infringe five wireless communications patents (6,266,321; 6,978,143; 7,383,022; 7,599,664; 7,804,850).
LG Electronics (LGE) has been granted a new trial on damages against Core Wireless Licensing S.a.r.l., following a Texas jury’s March finding that the company had infringed two user interface patents (8,713,476; 8,434,020) asserted against it by the Luxembourg-based NPE. In a memorandum opinion and order issued on August 23, District Judge Rodney Gilstrap ruled that the jury’s damages award had not been supported by sufficient evidence, accepting LGE’s arguments that a Core Wireless damages expert had provided the jury with a flawed reasonable royalty calculation. Judge Gilstrap also declined to grant a new trial on the issues of infringement and the asserted invalidity of the patents-in-suit.