Thursday, June 2, 2022

Mannheim court throws out Deutsche Telekom 'antitrust' action against IPCom, schedules Nokia v. OPPO decision for June 21

After a Dusseldorf complaint against Samsung over Android's prediction of remaining battery runtime and a couple of Munich standard-essential patent (SEP) complaints against car makers Nissan and Fiat Chrysler, there's also news--even two distinct items--from the Mannheim Regional Court:

  • As expected, Deutsche Telekom's so-called antitrust complaint against IPCom was thrown out on Tuesday. I attended the trial last year and there were any number of reasons to reach that conclusion as a matter of law, and the factual allegations--some of which seemed implausible--weren't even reached.

    IPCom congratulated its outside legal team. The lead trial counsel was Quinn Emanuel's Jérôme Kommer, and one of the attorneys who represented IPCom in its infringement actions, Hengeler Mueller's Dr. Wolfgang Kellenter, also contributed to the effort.

    Given that the parties had settled a U.S. patent infringement case (in which the defendant was Deutsche Telekom subsidiary Sprint) but not this case, it's a given that Deutsche Telekom will appeal. It's what a deep-pocketed large corporation can afford, even if only to delay the inevitable, which is the definitive disposition of the case. This is a dead lawsuit walking, but until it's res iudicata, IPCom will have to live with the totally theoretical risk it poses.

    Presumably the appeal will be heard by the Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court's Sixth Civil Senate under Presiding Judge Andreas Voss ("Voß" in German). I remember him and his sense of humor from his days on the Mannheim court, and the case is laughable. The appellate hearing should have great entertainment value.

  • Also on Tuesday, the same division of the court--the Second Civil Chamber und Presiding Judge Dr. Holger Kircher--heard a Nokia v. OPPO non-SEP case. The patent-in-suit's "teaching" boils down to this: if there's a WiFi network that broadcasts messages so you know it's available, don't broadcast your own message to ask whether it is around. Nokia undoubtedly makes legitimate inventions all the time, but this isn't one of them. It's a typical "German gamble" hoping that an injunction will issue and become enforceable during the injunction gap, i.e., before the patent gets invalidated.

    I don't know what happened at the trial, but it's interesting that the subsequent decision will be announced on June 21. Three weeks from trial to ruling is unusually short for German patent infringement cases; the median is probably somewhere between six and eight weeks. But the patent is extremely simple (which is also reflected--though not conclusively evidenced--by the fact that it's only a nine-page document). So whichever way the court may want to decide the case, it won't be a lot of work compared to the average patent infringement ruling.

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