Monday, March 16, 2020

Mannheim Regional Court vacates two Nokia v. Daimler patent trials scheduled for tomorrow, one of them due to coronavirus

More than six months ago, the Mannheim Regional Court's press office informed me of four Nokia v. Daimler trial dates, including one that had been scheduled for tomorrow (March 17, 2020). In that one (case no. 2 O 36/19), Nokia is asserting EP2145404 on a "method and apparatus for providing control channels for broadcast and paging services."

About three months ago, it looked like March 17 was going to be really busy, as the court moved another Nokia v. Daimler trial (ase no. 2 O 37/19) from December 10 to that date. The patent-in-suit in that one is EP1273199 on a "method and arrangement for maintaining synchronization in association with resetting a communication connection."

Neither of the two trials is going to take place tomorrow:

  • The trial in case no. 2 O 36/19 over EP'404 was vacated due to the coronavirus situation. The state of Baden-Wurttemberg told its courts to hold hearings and trials only in time-sensitive cases. While Nokia obviously wants leverage over Daimler, the case apparently didn't qualify for a trial under these circumstances.

  • The issue that resulted in the postponement of the trial in case no. 2 O 37/19 over EP'199 was procedural. There's a procedural rule in Germany according to which a party can raise new factual issues only until one week prior to the trial. Otherwise such pleadings can be rejected for being out of time in the court's discretion--or the court might postpone the trial so as to give the other side sufficient time to prepare. Daimler's counsel objected to the untimeliness of a Nokia filing raising new infringement contentions, and the court immediately vacated the trial. A new trial date has not been set yet.

    It strikes me as odd that Nokia would come up with a new infringement theory about three months (!) after the original December 10 trial date. Shifting-sand positions are generally a sign of weakness, though it does occur from time to time that parties turn an otherwise losing case around that way. It is, however, highly unusual that a party would do so now when the case was already about to go to trial on December 10, 2019. That trial was vacated on very short notice (just on the previous day). And the postponement had nothing to do with new theories at the time. Nokia requested it back then on the basis of the parties having agreed to make a mediation effort.

Last month, Nokia lost the first of its Mannheim cases against Daimler. A decision by the Munich I Regional Court in a Nokia v. Daimler case will come down on April 9, with Nokia advocating a gross misreading of the Court of Justice of the EU's Huawei v. ZTE ruling.

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