Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Neo Wireless expanding patent enforcement campaign to automotive: actions filed against Ford, Honda, VW, Nissan, GM, Tesla, Toyota with five U.S. district courts

This is the third standard-essential patent (SEP) post in a row. The previous ones discussed patent assertions by some unnamed MPEG LA licensors against their former partner Samsung and some rather interesting developments surrounding Nokia v. OPPO/OPPO v. Nokia.

Non-practicing entity Neo Wireless LLC put itself on the map of U.S. patent litigation through its mid-January filings against Apple, LG, and Dell. As Apple Insider reported, the infringement allegations in the complaint against Apple alleged that Neo Wireless held patents essential to the 4G/LTE and NR/5G cellular telecommunications standards.

Neo has now filed a slew of lawsuits against car makers:

  • Eastern District of Texas

    • General Motors Company

    • Tesla

    • Toyota

  • Eastern District of Tennessee: Volkswagen Group

  • Middle District of Tennessee: Nissan

  • Southern District of Ohio: Honda

  • Western District of Missouri: Ford Motor Company

The Eastern District of Texas has tremendous expertise in adjudicating patent disputes; the other districts--with the greatest respect--don't. It will be interesting to see whether any venue transfer motions will succeed and/or whether any of those cases will get consolidated.

Neo is not an Avanci licensor, and will likely seek damages that on a per-patent basis dwarf the cost of Avanci license. Some automakers already have that problem with Intellectual Ventures, which is asserting a mix of standard-essential and non-standard-essential patents (1, 2).

Only one of the defendants is a publicly-known Avanci licensee: Volkswagen. Tesla has been rumored to be one ever since multiple enforcement actions by Avanci licensors were withdrawn near-simultaneously in different jurisdictions. The other defendants are presumably among the companies Member of the European Parliament Alfred Sant had in mind when he asked the European Commission three questions concerning the distortion of competition because of some car makers having taken an Avanci license while their competitors from outside of Europe largely haven't.

The asserted patents largely overlap between the different cases, but are not always the same. For example, four of the six patents-in-suit against Toyota are also among the five patents asserted against Apple, but two are not.

The claimed inventions were apparently made by Chinese individuals, but Neo Wireless is a U.S. entity. There was or is another company named Neocific that temporarily owned some or all of those patents.

Finally, here are two sample complaints: the E.D. Tex. one against Toyota and the W.D. Mo. lawsuit against Ford.

22-03-29 Neo Wireless LLC v... by Florian Mueller

22-03-29 Neo Wireless LLC v... by Florian Mueller

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