Uniloc USA, Inc. et al v. Apple Inc.
- Filed: 05/26/2017
- Closed: 01/12/2018
- Latest Docket Entry: 01/19/2018
December 30, 2020
Last month, District Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California dismissed one of the many cases filed against Apple by subsidiaries of Uniloc Corporation Pty. Limited, holding that the NPE lacked standing because it had relinquished certain patent rights to funder Fortress Investment Group LLC by defaulting on a financing agreement. Judge Alsup has now dealt Uniloc another blow, in a related battle over confidentiality. After previously rejecting Uniloc’s attempt to seal a wide swath of information about its patent assertion business, Judge Alsup has ordered the NPE to disclose further information about its licenses with third parties, ruling on remand after the Federal Circuit, while largely upholding his earlier decision, directed him to revisit that issue. Meanwhile, Judge Alsup’s order on the plaintiff’s standing defects has continued to ripple through Uniloc’s other campaigns, triggering the dismissal of another set of cases, against Google.
December 11, 2020
The Northern District of California has just dismissed one (3:18-cv-00358) of the many cases filed by subsidiaries of Uniloc Corporation Pty. Limited against Apple throughout 2017 and 2018—for reasons that could ripple through the whole set of Uniloc campaigns. Uniloc has been backed by Fortress Investment Group LLC for years, the two enterprises entering into a complex set of agreements that, according to District Judge William Alsup, deprived the Uniloc subsidiaries of standing to file suit by the time that they did. Judge Alsup had considered an Apple motion challenging standing before, reaching the opposite result in 2019. In reversing course, however, the court cited two previously missing “crucial facts”, both of which contributed to a “broader error of law” in the prior ruling.
Federal Circuit Largely Upholds Dismissal of Uniloc Sealing Bid, Soundly Rejecting “Overbroad” RedactionsJuly 12, 2020
In late 2018, subsidiaries of Australian NPE Uniloc Corporation Pty. Limited became embroiled in a dispute with Apple over whether the complex nature of the NPE’s relationship with Fortress Investment Group LLC caused a standing defect in four Uniloc infringement suits. While that dispute has gone dormant, another battle resulted from Uniloc’s related motion to seal—which covered not only certain facts cited by Apple in its standing challenge, but also a wide swath of information encompassing Uniloc’s patent assertion business, its various agreements with Fortress, details on Uniloc licenses with third parties, and even certain materials already in the public record. Last year, District Judge William Alsup denied Uniloc’s motion to seal and rejected its attempt to make a more limited set of redactions. The Federal Circuit has just upheld most of those rulings, affirming as to Uniloc-specific information and echoing Judge Alsup’s conclusion that Uniloc should have made its request narrower in the first place. However, the appeals court remanded as to whether details of certain third-party licenses should stay sealed.
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Federal Circuit Addresses Apple-Uniloc Standing Battle in Related Alice Appeal, Calling Fortress Agreement “Little More Than a ‘Hunting License’”September 1, 2019
An ongoing dispute over standing continues to simmer in litigation between Uniloc Corporation Pty. Limited and Apple, the latter of which has alleged that the NPE relinquished certain rights in the patents-in-suit by defaulting under a long series of agreements with Fortress Investment Group LLC—thereby depriving Uniloc of the right to sue. District Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California rejected those arguments earlier this year, ruling that any default(s) by Uniloc had since been cured. While Judge Alsup declined to reconsider that decision in early August, he also allowed Apple to later seek a trial and conduct discovery on the issues of default and cure. Any additional evidence such discovery might uncover could now spill over into another Uniloc case, dismissed under Alice before the standing battle began and currently on appeal, as the result of a new Federal Circuit ruling. On August 30, the appeals court remanded that lawsuit for consideration of Apple’s subsequently raised standing challenge, ordering Judge Alsup to supplement the record and resolve the same jurisdictional issues hanging over the other four proceedings.
Judge Alsup Declines to Revisit Ruling on Apple-Uniloc Standing Battle but Allows Discovery on Fortress AgreementsAugust 9, 2019
An ongoing dispute over standing in litigation between Apple and Uniloc Corporation Pty. Limited (Uniloc) continues to evolve. Last year, Apple sought the dismissal of four of Uniloc’s cases against it after learning of a complex set of agreements between the NPE and Fortress Investment Group LLC, arguing that Uniloc’s alleged “defaults” under those agreements had deprived Uniloc of standing by automatically shifting certain rights in the asserted patents to Fortress. District Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California denied that motion in January, instead holding that Fortress had shown through its conduct that Uniloc had cured any such defaults. On August 7, Judge Alsup declined Apple’s request to reconsider that ruling but included two notable exceptions that could leave the door open for further litigation on standing: he permitted Apple to later seek a trial on the issues of default and cure and allowed it to seek discovery on those same topics. Judge Alsup’s decision to approve discovery is a notable setback for Uniloc, which continues to fight a prior order requiring it to disclose a variety of information about its agreements with Fortress, its prior licenses, and other related documents.
March 8, 2019
In October 2018, a battle over standing erupted in litigation between Apple and Uniloc Corporation Pty. Limited (Uniloc). Apple had moved to dismiss four of Uniloc’s cases against it after learning of a complex set of agreements between the NPE and Fortress Investment Group LLC, arguing that Uniloc’s purported “defaults” under those agreements had deprived Uniloc of standing by shifting sufficient rights in the asserted patents to Fortress. District Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California denied that motion in January, holding in part that Fortress had shown through its conduct that Uniloc had cured any defaults that had occurred. Apple has now moved for reconsideration of that order, asserting that at least one of Uniloc’s defaults could not have been excused under the evidence presented and that the purported “cure” was really an implied waiver, which would be barred under the relevant agreements—under which any waiver by Fortress must be in writing. Uniloc, meanwhile, has asked the court to roll back certain redactions in Apple’s motion, arguing that only a narrower set of contractual terms between the NPE and Fortress needed to be withheld.
Standing Battle Escalates in Fortress-Uniloc Cases as Redactions Get Rolled Back, but Key Licensing Terms Remain SealedFebruary 24, 2019
A contentious battle over standing has continued to develop in litigation between Apple and Uniloc Corporation Pty. Limited (Uniloc). Earlier this month, District Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California rejected Apple’s argument that Uniloc’s purported “defaults” under a complex set of agreements with Fortress Investment Group LLC had deprived Uniloc of standing by shifting sufficient rights in the asserted patents to Fortress. Apple has now sought permission to move for reconsideration, asserting that Judge Alsup erred by adopting an argument not briefed by the parties and by finding that Uniloc had cured any defaults that had existed. Meanwhile, a related dispute over confidentiality has also heated up in the wake of Judge Alsup’s mid-January order that Uniloc could not justify the broad withholding of details about its agreements with Fortress. Uniloc has now filed a motion for reconsideration of that decision, seeking a much more limited set of redactions—in the process, revealing new details about the evolving Uniloc-Fortress relationship.
February 3, 2019
District Judge William Alsup in the Northern District of California has ruled on a motion questioning whether Uniloc Luxembourg S.a.r.l. (f/k/a Uniloc Luxembourg S.A.) and Uniloc USA, Inc., subsidiaries of Uniloc Corporation Pty. Limited, had standing to sue at the time that they filed a raft of lawsuits against Apple in their original forum, the Eastern District of Texas. Judge Alsup ruled that the Uniloc plaintiffs did have standing, rejecting Apple’s argument that a purported “default” under a set of December 2014 agreements between Uniloc and Fortress Investment Group LLC, as subsequently and repeatedly amended, had shifted sufficient rights to Fortress to destroy Uniloc’s standing. Apple had also opposed a motion to add Uniloc 2017 LLC as a plaintiff, arguing that joining new patent owner Uniloc 2017 could not fix a lapse in standing caused by a May 2018 transfer of the Uniloc patent portfolio from Uniloc Luxembourg to Uniloc 2017. Judge Alsup ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor, granting their motion to join Uniloc 2017.
November PTAB Activity Included IPRs Against Fortress as Standing Dispute over Uniloc Deal Escalates, with Apple Rejecting “Oxymoronic” CounterattackDecember 7, 2018
In November 2018, Fortress Investment Group, LLC subsidiary Uniloc 2017 LLC was hit by a series of inter partes review (IPR) petitions filed by Apple as the two parties continue to brief a contentious dispute over standing in related district court litigation. November also saw the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) institute trial in IPRs involving Japanese patent monetization firm IP Bridge, Inc. and issue final decisions in IPRs against Quarterhill Inc. and Alacritech, Inc., the latter an operating company-turned-NPE formed by SCSI inventor Larry Boucher.
Fortress Deal Allegedly Running Portfolio Rights Through a “Wood-Chipper” Spawns Both a Standing Fight and a Wave of RefilingNovember 16, 2018
In May 2018, Australian NPE Uniloc Corporation Pty. Limited (Uniloc) assigned more than 600 US patent assets, as well as a number of foreign counterparts—seemingly the bulk of its portfolio—to Fortress Investment Group LLC subsidiary Uniloc 2017 LLC, leading to an avalanche of new litigation. This deal represented the deepening of an existing relationship between the two parties, as a December 2014 security agreement between Uniloc and Fortress indicates that the latter has been funding the former’s litigation for years. That security agreement has now become the focus of a standing dispute in litigation filed by Uniloc prior to its May deal with Fortress. In an October motion to dismiss, defendant Apple has argued that by relinquishing certain licensing rights under the security agreement, and other related agreements, Uniloc’s former patent-holding subsidiary Uniloc Luxembourg S.à r.l. (f/k/a Uniloc Luxembourg S.A.) and its purported successor-in-interest, Uniloc 2017, were deprived of constitutional standing. Uniloc has just fired back, arguing in a November 12 opposition that the rights transferred in the security agreement did not deprive Uniloc Luxembourg of standing under Federal Circuit law. Meanwhile, Fortress has apparently reconsidered the posture of the cases that it has been filing since the May deal with Uniloc, refiling late last week over 40 of those suits with only Uniloc 2017 as the named plaintiff against defendants that include Alphabet (Google), Apple, AT&T, Barnes & Noble, BlackBerry, Cardo Systems, Cisco, Disney (ABC, ESPN), Hulu, Huawei, LG Electronics, Samsung, Terrano, Verizon, and ZTE.
January 7, 2018
The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) remained at the center of a heated public debate over the issue of tribal sovereign immunity in December 2017. Motions to dismiss filed by the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe in IPRs against several Allergan patents—acquired by the tribe and licensed back to their original owner to shield them through sovereign immunity—remain pending as the PTAB considers a wave of amicus briefs filed on both sides of the issue. The Board has since denied the tribe’s motion for an oral hearing on discovery related to alleged bias held by the USPTO and its leadership, and that bias’s effect on the selection of judges for the tribe’s case. Meanwhile, among the petitions for inter partes review (IPR) filed in December was one brought by Apple against MEC Resources, LLC, an entity owned by another Native American tribe, which took over an existing lawsuit asserting the challenged patent against Apple in the fall. Also in December, the Board issued institution decisions in petitions against Iridescent Networks, Inc.; Lone Star Silicon Innovations LLC; and publicly traded Quarterhill Inc.; while an IPR against Packet Intelligence LLC ended in an adverse judgment after petitioner Sandvine prevailed in a November trial.
Uniloc Launches Tenth 2017 Campaign Against Apple, Adding Samsung as a Defendant to One Filed EarlierAugust 3, 2017
Uniloc—Uniloc Luxembourg S.A. (as patent owner) and Uniloc USA, Inc. (as exclusive licensee)—has filed yet another lawsuit against Apple (2:17-cv-00571), again asserting one of the 13 patents that the NPE acquired from HP Enterprise (HPE) this past May. The patent generally relates to using a “palm-sized computer” to control a “service” on a network, with infringement allegations focusing on “palm-sized iOS devices” and Apple TV, the former controlling the latter through operation of the Apple TV Remote app. This newest campaign against Apple comes a day after Uniloc added Samsung (2:17-cv-00562) as a defendant in an earlier campaign launched in late May, also against Apple. The complaint against Samsung asserts a single patent, generally related to remotely dialing a telephone number, accusing Samsung of infringement through provision of devices that, in combination, dial a stored telephone number.
June 8, 2017
A variety of NPEs have reacted to the US Supreme Court’s decision in TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods Group Brands (2016-0341) by either dismissing and re-filing their cases in other districts or simply conceding venue challenges. In contrast, Australian NPE Uniloc Corporation Pty. Limited has further dug its heels into the Eastern District of Texas. Shortly after Uniloc filed a series of new and amended complaints against Google, designed to establish proper venue in the Eastern District, defendants in some of the NPE’s other Texas litigation filed a host of venue motions against it. On June 2, Ubisoft (2:16-cv-00745, 2:16-cv-00781) filed two motions both seeking transfer to the Northern District of California or dismissal for improper venue in litigation targeting its software licensing and notification systems, joined by a similar motion filed by Piriform on June 7 (in a consolidated action against AVG, 2:16-cv-00393) seeking dismissal or transfer to Delaware. Ubisoft filed another such motion in Uniloc’s software update campaign on June 2 (2:17-cv-00175), also seeking transfer to the Northern District of California or dismissal for improper venue, joined by another Northern District transfer/dismissal motion brought by Box (2:17-cv-00173), with campaign co-defendant Zendesk (2:17-cv-00176) filing its own motion to dismiss due to improper venue that same day.
May 26, 2017
Uniloc USA, Inc. (as exclusive licensee) and Uniloc Luxembourg S.A. (as patent owner) (collectively, Uniloc) have filed three new cases against Apple. Each new complaint asserts a single patent not seen before in litigation. In the first case (2:17-cv-00454), the NPE accuses Apple of infringing a patent (6,661,203), generally related to changing how a battery is charged based on temperature, through the manufacture and sale of mobile devices (Apple Watch, laptops, iPhones, iPads, and iPods) with built-in mechanisms to prevent overheating. In the second (2:17-cv-00455), Uniloc asserts a patent (6,580,422), generally related to the remote display of graphics from a mobile device, targeting display and/or playback from iPhones or iPads through Apple TV. In the third suit (2:17-cv-00457), Uniloc asserts a single patent (7,092,671) generally related to remotely dialing a telephone number against using iPads and iPhones in combination to dial a stored telephone number. The patents asserted are three out of a group of 13 patents that Uniloc received in a May 16, 2017 transaction from HP Enterprise.