Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Longhorn IP suing Fiat Chrysler (Stellantis) and Nissan in Munich over standard-essential patents: Longhorn was one of seven Avanci licensors suing Ford

The ink is barely dry on the license agreement between the Avanci patent pool and Ford Motor Company, and I've just discovered what could be the beginning of two other waves of standard-essential patent (SEP) enforcement against unwilling licensees in the automotive industry:

L2 Mobile Technologies, a Longhorn IP subsidiary that was the first or one of the first two Avanci licensors to assert cellular SEPs against Ford Motor Company, recently announced

When L2 Mobile Technologies took action against Ford, it was the first or one of the first Avanci licensors to do so. But over time it was joined by six others. If Longhorn IP has determined that Stellantis (which owns about a dozen automotive brands) and Nissan are unwilling licensees, chances are that many others of Avanci's 49 licensors have reached the same conclusion, so we may see more enforcement activity against the same automakers.

Longhorn brought its case against Ford in Delaware, and it would have taken almost three years from filing to trial. It's telling that Longhorn, too, is now betting on Munich, the world's undisputed #1 SEP injunction venue. Presiding Judge Dr. Matthias Zigann of the court's Seventh Civil Chamber expects implementers of standards to "promptly" seek a license upon receipt of an infringement notice, and it's doubtful that Nissan and Fiat Chrysler can defend their failure to do so. Nissan's German advertising slogan is "Er kann. Sie kann. Nissan." ("He can. She can. Nissan.") In light of these Munich lawsuits, they might as well update it to "Er kann. Sie kann. Zigann."

Stellantis's most famous brands are Fiat, Chrysler, Peugeot, Citro├źn, Opel (once a General Motors subsidiary), Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Jeep, RAM, and Vauxhall. All Stellantis brands combined make approximately 6 million cars per year (at a level with GM). The group also operates the Free2move Global Mobility Hub as well as Leasys, which has a car-sharing fleet of 400,000 vehicles and offers "integrated mobility solutions" to corporate and private customers.

Nissan's annual output is approximately 5 million cars, though the entire Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance sells approximately 10 million cars a year.

Just yesterday, IAM's Joff Wild wrote on LinkedIn that car makers can't deny the pivotal role that connectivity plays, just looking at how much the automotive industry emphasizes mobile connectivity services. He has a point. Car makers predict huge levels of future revenues from premium services--and expect further cost savings (such as by making maintenance more efficient).

For Daimler, Tesla, and Ford, it didn't turn out profitable to defend themselves against cellular SEP assertions for an extended period of time. Stellantis and Nissan (or even the entire Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance) may draw their own conclusions from what happened there. They can seek bilateral licenses, or they can take an Avanci pool license (as other major automakers have), but with German patent injunctions on the horizon, continued infringement is not going to be an option, at least not for the long haul.

It's actually surprising that there are still so many cars driving around without a 4G SEP license. Daimler caved to Nokia a year ago. Meanwhile, the industry is already transitioning to 5G. I struggle to understand why Nissan and Stellantis still aren't licensed.

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