Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Nokia on losing track in LTE-essential patent infringement case against Daimler in Mannheim and rumored to struggle in Munich case, too

Next Tuesday (January 21, 2020), the Mannheim Regional Court is scheduled to hold a trial in a Nokia v. Daimler case over EP2286629 on a "method and apparatus to link modulating and coding scheme to amount of resources." With mediation having practically failed (though the mediators might invite everyone to another meeting, it wouldn't be likely to yield a result), the assumption is still that the trial will go forward.

Nokia is going to lose that one in all likelihood. Presiding Judge Dr. Holger Kircher notified the parties and the numerous intervenors (various Daimler suppliers) that, on a preliminary basis, his panel has concluded the patent-in-suit is not essential to the 4G/LTE standard--neither on the basis of a literal infringement theory nor the German equivalent of the Doctrine of Equivalents (DoE).

Therefore, the court doesn't anticipate that FRAND/antitrust matters, the most important one of which is whether Daimler's suppliers are entitled to an exhaustive component-level SEP license from Nokia, would be reached in this case.

Another Nokia v. Daimler case in Mannheim was supposed to go to trial last month, and was postponed (because the parties had agreed on mediation) to March 27.

The next Nokia v. Daimler court clash after next week's trial (which in all likelihood will just result in the rejection of Nokia's complaint on the grounds of non-infringement) will take place in Munich on February 6 (see this list of trial dates). Rumor has it that Presiding Judge Dr. Matthias Zigann of the Munich I Regional Court's 7th Civil Chamber recently indicated that Nokia's royalty demands from Daimler are not FRAND-compliant, in which case Nokia would be denied injunctive relief even if the patent was deemed valid and infringed (as the court thought at an early first hearing last June). I don't know whether the court's preliminary assessment of non-compliance with the FRAND licensing obligation is purely numerical (the royalty Nokia is seeking on a per-car basis is way out of line, but I don't know whether that's where the court has a concern) or related to non-monetary terms.

Things are not going well for Nokia at the moment, but a reversal of fortunes is always a possibility in these types of disputes.

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