Sunday, December 6, 2020

Nokia's pre-trial forum-shopping extends to its dispute with Lenovo as well (not just Daimler)

Just a quick follow-up to yesterday's post, Desperate-defiant Nokia withdraws two Dusseldorf patent cases against Daimler, trollishly refiles in Munich--where it's losing ground as well. The extent of the problem is even greater. Over the weekend I've learned that there's another recent case in which Nokia engaged in the same appalling practice--I said "appalling" because it's utterly disrespectful of a court and of the other parties to withdraw cases shortly before trial only to bring them in a venue presumed to be more sympathetic to plaintiffs.

Nokia's dispute with Lenovo involves some of the same issues as its spat with Daimler. In Munich, that includes the determination of collateral (bond or deposit to be provided if an injunction is enforced during an appeal) and the application of the Court of Justice of the EU's Huawei v. ZTE framework for deciding whether a SEP holder is entitled to injunctive relief against a particular defendant. Nokia had won an injunction against Lenovo in Munich, but the computer maker--represented by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer's Prince Wolrad of Waldeck and Dr. Nina Bayerl--successfully moved the appeals court for an enforcement stay.

Irrespectively of that defeat, Nokia still rests its hopes on the court below, the Munich I Regional Court. And the failed Finnish handset maker dreads Dusseldorf after last month's referral to the CJEU of various component-level licensing and other SEP enforcement questions.

The same division of the Dusseldorf Regional Court that sent those legal questions to Luxembourg--under Presiding Judge Sabine Klepsch--had originally scheduled a Nokia v. Lenovo trial over EP1440515 on an "implementation of a transform and of a subsequent quantization" for last Thursday, December 3. Nokia first requested a postponement, and then, on Friday (December 4), withdrew its Dusseldorf complaint and refiled it in Munich.

Nokia asserts that EP'515 is essential to H.264 decoders, and non-essential to encoders. As for the decoder side, Nvidia intervened, so if Nokia prevailed on essentiality and validity, the question of component-level licensing would have resurfaced.

Forum-shopping is a reality, and some courts (particularly in the Western and Eastern District of Texas as well as some German cities) engage in forum-selling. That's bad enough. But by withdrawing cases almost on the eve of a trial, Nokia is taking forum-shopping to an extreme. The question is now whether it's already doing more outrageous things than Fortress Investment's Uniloc, or just closing the gap.

Such conduct gives patent enforcement a bad name.

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