Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Avanci conflict with Tesla escalates as Nokia-fed patent troll Conversant sues Tesla in Texas and Germany

Avanci, which usually refers to itself as a licensing "platform" though its lawyers also described it as a "pool" in at least one U.S. court filing, offers a license to cellular SEPs held by a group whose key members are notorious standard-essential patent (SEP) abusers such as Nokia and Ericsson as well as some trolls they fed with patents. Various additional patents have been contributed by numerous organizations, such as Deutsche Telekom, that elected to come in for convenience and lack the strategic sophistication and foresight to realize the Avanci approach (of refusing to extend licenses to component makers) runs counter to their interests.

One Avanci member, Foxconn-owned Sharp, sued Tesla in Japan last month, requesting the Tokyo District Court to impose an import ban. Sisvel, a patent troll and Avanci member, sued Tesla in the District of Delaware in December over former Nokia patents. Yet another Avanci member, Nokia, may have an interim agreement with Tesla in place as an unnamed American car maker "X" was referenced in the public part of a Nokia v. Daimler trial in Munich in February; should Tesla have been that mysterious U.S. company, then they actually provided a fair amount of information that Daimler presented to the Munich court while the courtroom was sealed. And now we're witnessing an all-out Avanci v. Tesla patent litigation campaign as Conversant Wireless Licensing is asserting various Nokia patents against Tesla in two complaints filed in the Western District of Texas last week (this post continues below the two documents):

20-04-24 TXWD20cv323 Conver... by Florian Mueller on Scribd

20-04-24 TXWD20cv324 Conver... by Florian Mueller on Scribd

Conversant previously filed some German SEP lawsuits against Tesla as well:

"After no further communication from Tesla, on or about February 26, 2020, Conversant filed patent infringement complaints against Tesla, Inc. and its German subsidiary Tesla Germany GmbH before the Manheim [sic] Regional Court in Germany."

The correct spelling of the German city name is, of course, Mannheim. There are a few towns named "Manheim" in the U.S., but anyone who's ever driven from O'Hare Airport to downtown Chicago has seen "Mannheim Road".

I'm trying to find out how many cases Conversant brought in Mannheim, and what the patents-in-suit are. I just emailed the Mannheim Regional Court's spokesman before writing this post. At this stage the Mannheim court can't provide case and patent numbers, but I hope this will change in the months ahead.

The combination of Sharp and Conversant suing Tesla in different jurisdictions is the usual bulling with which Avanci is trying to coerce Daimler into a SEP license agreement on supra-FRAND terms while the likes of Nokia and its trolls refuse to license automotive suppliers, an issue that I hope Tesla will raise as well. Tesla is far more of a digital company than Daimler and therefore may be vertically more integrated with respect to cellular data communications, so it wouldn't surprise me should Tesla not buy telematics control units (TCUs) from the likes of Continental, but even Tesla won't make its own baseband chips. In contravention of its FRAND licensing obligations, Nokia licenses only end-product makers.

With respect to component-level licensing, a new academic paper was published yesterday in reply to a write-up by Nokia's outside counsel (which also mentioned this blog because of a recent post).

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