Uniloc USA, Inc. et al v. Apple Inc.
- Filed: 07/12/2017
- Closed: 01/12/2018
- Latest Docket Entry: 01/29/2018
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.
September 16, 2018
The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) saw activity in August 2018 involving a variety of frequent litigants. This included petitions for inter partes review (IPR) filed against two NPEs controlled by Fortress Investment Group LLC, INVT SPE LLC and Uniloc 2017 LLC, the latter of which has in recent months cofiled a barrage of lawsuits with subsidiaries of Australian NPE Uniloc Corporation Pty. Limited (Uniloc). The PTAB also instituted trial in August for IPRs against Uniloc 2017 and some of its campaign coplaintiffs, and in an IPR against an NPE controlled by patent attorney Brian Yates, whose US litigation has waned as he pursues a new patent licensing initiative through his company iPEL, Inc. Finally, the PTAB issued final decisions in August for IPRs against Uniloc, Empire IP LLC, and Quarterhill Inc.
Uniloc Files Its Sixth 2017 Suit Against Huawei, Its Fourth Against Motorola Mobility, and Its First Against Wink LabsNovember 19, 2017
Uniloc Luxembourg S.A. and Uniloc USA, Inc. (collectively, Uniloc) continue to grow the campaigns begun in 2017, of which there have been a dozen so far, even as USPTO assignment records suggest more litigation from the NPE may be coming. Last week, Uniloc added Lenovo (Motorola Mobility) (1:17-cv-01657) and Wink Labs (1:17-cv-01656) to a campaign over a patent, received from HP Enterprise (HPE), broadly related to exercising remote control over a wireless network. Motorola Mobility (1:17-cv-01658) was also added to the Uniloc campaign litigating another patent received from HPE, this one generally related to the exchange of information from a “portable computer” and a telephone, while Huawei (2:17-cv-01746) has been added to a sixth Uniloc campaign in 2017, that one litigating a former Fullpower Technologies patent broadly related to waking up a device based on its motion.
October 15, 2017
So far in 2017, Uniloc Luxembourg S.A. and Uniloc USA, Inc. (collectively, Uniloc) have initiated ten litigation campaigns, all of them against Apple, six asserting patents received from HP Enterprise (HPE), three asserting patents originally developed by Fullpower Technologies, and one asserting Uniloc’s own patent. In August and September, Uniloc added cases against Samsung to four of those campaigns, and it has now added cases against LG Electronics (LGE) to seven of them. All of the cases brought so far this month have been filed in the Northern District of Texas.
July 16, 2017
In a mid-May 2017 transaction, Uniloc Luxembourg S.A. and Uniloc USA, Inc. (collectively, Uniloc) acquired 13 patents from HP Enterprise (HPE). With two cases filed this past week added to three filed back in May, Uniloc has now asserted six of those patents against Apple. On July 12, Uniloc sued Apple (2:17-cv-00534) over a single patent (6,622,018) generally related to exercising remote control over a wireless network, accusing Apple of infringement through the manufacture and sale of iOS and MacOS devices that can control remote devices over a wireless connection through AirPlay, with the iOS devices further alleged to infringe through the Apple TV Remote and Apple Home apps. The NPE then sued Apple (2:17-cv-00535), on that same day, over two patents (6,161,134; 6,446,127) generally related to the exchange of information from a “portable computer” and a telephone. The accused products identified in this second July case are various devices (iPhones, iPads, iPod touches, and Macs) that offer the Continuity feature, which in relevant part allows the user to make a phone call from a separate iPhone. Uniloc has now begun nine new litigation campaigns in 2017, each one against only Apple (so far).