Thursday, August 4, 2022

OPPO, HMD win Federal Patent Court ruling against VoiceAge EVS: all challenged claims declared invalid, final decision to be made by Federal Court of Justice

After an impressive and unprecedented series of six favorable decisions against HMD--a company that makes Android smartphones under the (licensed) Nokia brand and whose shareholders include Qualcomm, Google, and Nokia--patent licensing firm VoiceAge EVS now faces a first unfavorable court ruling:

The Bundespatentgericht (Federal Patent Court of Germany) has just informed me that at the end of a hearing in case no. 4 Ni 11/21 (EP) on Tuesday (August 2), the court's Fourth Nullity Senate announced a decision in plaintiffs OPPO and HMD's favor concerning VoiceAge EVS's EP3132443 on "methods, encoder and decoder for linear predictive encoding and decoding of sound signals upon transition between frames having different sampling rates". The written ruling will issue at a later stage. The net effect is that

  • claims 1-4 and 10-17 have been declared invalid, and

  • claims 7-9 have been declared invalid to the extent they reference claims 1-4.

VoiceAge EVS had won--and had since been enforcing--a Munich injunction against HMD about a year ago. A ruling in a case over the same patent against OPPO is scheduled for August 18. Until the nullity decision on Tuesday, it actually looked like VoiceAge EVS was going to win that case, especially since the Federal Patent Court's preliminary opinion had been that the patent is valid, which suggests to me that this is a close call and the nullity appeal can go either way.

Not all claims were challenged by OPPO and HMD. What I don't know is whether VoiceAge EVS could build a meritorious infringement case on any of the claims that weren't challenged, and how swiftly those other claims--if pursued--would be adjudicated.

For now, OPPO doesn't have to fear an injunction over EP'443. A different VoiceAge EVS v. OPPO decision has been scheduled for September 29, an several other cases will go to trial in early 2023. All in all, VoiceAge EVS is asserting a handful of patents against OPPO.

Xiaomi was being sued over the same patent (and others), and apparently took a license.

For OPPO, this outcome is a boost and much-welcome good news after Nokia won two Mannheim injunctions against the smartphone maker. It shows that OPPO can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court confirmed to me that OPPO has brought a motion to stay enforcement in at least one of the two cases, which motion hasn't been definitively resolved yet. I'm sure that a motion has been--or will be--brought in the other case (a SEP case) as well. For now it looks like Nokia is not yet enforcing those injunctions, and let's see whether it will be able to do so later this summer. OPPO isn't easily beaten--this much is certain.

I've found out who represented the successful nullity plaintiffs: