German Court Rejects Unwired Planet Portfolio-Splitting Strategy as “Flagrant” FRAND Violation, as Global SEP Landscape Continues to Evolve

April 8, 2019

A recent ruling in a Düsseldorf lawsuit filed by Unwired Planet International Limited may signal a dramatic shift in how Germany approaches fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory (FRAND) licensing disputes. On April 5, the Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf issued an opinion after a February hearing in which it criticized Unwired Planet and other NPEs that acquire standard essential patents (SEPs) to seek higher licensing rates, asserting that such behavior is a “flagrant violation of the ban on discrimination under the FRAND rules”. That ruling, combined with a nascent legislative reform effort over injunctive relief, indicates that Germany may soon start to become less friendly toward patent plaintiffs overall. This is the second time in the past year that the Unwired Planet campaign has played a significant role in the development of European SEP jurisprudence, following the UK Court of Appeal’s ruling in Unwired Planet v. Huawei. Meanwhile, Chinese courts have only just begun to telegraph their posture toward international FRAND disputes, and a pending US appeal in litigation between two operating companies may soon provide further clarity on how American courts will approach these issues.

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