Avanci and Partners Sued in US over OEM-Only Automotive Licensing Strategy as Related Suits Proceed in Europe

May 17, 2019

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.

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