Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Another patent lawsuit against Ford discovered -- and a great automotive IP conference taking place in Frankfurt next week

There has been steady progress concerning automotive patent licenses, but there's still some debate--and enforcement litigation. Further below I'll tell you about an upcoming automotive IP conference, which will take place in Frankfurt, Germany, next week. You can click here to go straight to the part about that conference, but first some news from the patent litigation front (below the conference banner).

MiiCS v. Ford: fifth Avanci licensor to sue Ford

By now there are at least five Avanci licensors (out of 49) asserting 4G standard-essential patents against Ford Motor Company. In addition to actions brought by Sisvel (Delaware and Munich), IP Bridge (Munich), Longhorn IP subsidiary L2 (Delaware), and Sol IP (E.D. Texas), I've found out from the Munich I Regional Court today that a patent licensing firm named MiiCS is suing Ford there (case no. 7 O 14689/21; Presiding Judge: Dr. Matthias Zigann). A MiiCS v. Ford trial will finally take place on February 2, 2023. It may play a role that the patent-in-suit (EP2667676 on a "base station device, mobile station device, and uplink synchronization requesting method") has come under significant invalidation pressure as a result of OPPO's defense against Sharp, which previously owned the patent and obtained and enforced an injunction against Daimler over it. OPPO and Sharp have since settled, but other defendants may still benefit from the headway OPPO made.

I must say that I'm increasingly skeptical of how Ford seeks to defend itself against those patent infringement lawsuits. Not only does its Qualcomm-related patent exhaustion defense fail a plausibility test, but I've also learned from a couple of SEP holders that Ford has tried to pressure certain automotive suppliers among Avanci's licensors to use their influence to get the aforementioned five (if not more) complainants to withdraw their lawsuits. Bullying of that kind is not the behavior of a willing licensee--and appears unlikely to solve the problem.

Auto IP Conference in Frankfurt (April 26 and 27, 2022)

For many years, Frankfurt used to be the venue of automotive trade show IAA. Now the city in the heart of Germany has an automotive IP conference that already drew an interesting audience (car makers, automotive suppliers, and patent holders) last year. This year's AUTO IP & LEGAL World Summit on April 26 and 27 (Tuesday and Wednesday of next week) is sponsored by OpSec Security, Avanci, patsnap, Questel, Meissner Bolte, Nokia, and IPlytics. You can download the brochure from this webpage, but let me say which sessions I believe are going to be of particular interest to this blog's audience:

  • Uwe Wiesner, the chief patent counsel of Volkswagen (which recently upgraded its Avanci license to 4G for the entire group), will give the opening keynote on automotive patent licensing and make "proposals for a balanced licensing process."

  • Shortly thereafter, Mr. Wiesner will join Nokia's litigation VP Dr. Clemens Heusch and Continental patent counsel Dr. Roderick McConnell as well as IPlytics CEO Tim Pohlmann and Meissner Bolte partner Philipp Rastemborski for what could be a lively panel debate on FRAND litigation and licensing negotiations.

  • Conti's Head of IP/SEP Dr. Michael Schloegl ("Schlögl" in German) will deliver a presentation on "best practices, negotiations, and the changing SEP ecosystem," followed by an update on "progress in the implementation of the EU's IP Action Plan" by DG GROW official Elena Kostadinova.

I've secured a discount promo code for my readers, so if you plan to register, please use this link and you'll get a better rate. There could hardly be a more interesting juncture in the automotive patent licensing and litigation context for a conference to be held. While many 4G licensing issues have yet to be sorted out, car makers are increasingly implementing 5G.

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