Friday, October 28, 2022

Huawei enforcing WiFi (partly WiFi 6) patents against Netgear and its German competitor AVM in Dusseldorf and Munich

A few days after a media report revealed patent infringement litigation by Huawei against Amazon (presumptively over Amazon's WiFi devices Kindle and Echo), I haven't been able to find out more about that dispute, but as a side effect of my research efforts, two German courts have officially confirmed the pendency of patent infringement actions brought by Huawei against other parties: WiFi router makers Netgear and AVM. The latter is more of a local player, but according to Wikipedia, AVM's FRITZ!Box has a 68% market share in Germany.

This is the information I've obtained from the courts:

  • Dusseldorf Regional Court:

    There are Huawei v. Netgear cases with case numbers 4c O 8/22 and 4c O 9/22, both of which will go to trial on March 21, 2023 (Presiding Judge: Sabine Klepsch). The patents-in-suit are EP3337077 on a "wireless local area network information transmission method and apparatus" and EP3143741 on a "method and transmitter for orthogonal frequency division multiple access (ofdma) resource allocation." At least one of them appears to read specifically on WiFi 6.

  • Munich I Regional Court:

I'm surprised that companies like Amazon, AVM, and Netgear--all of which have been making WiFi products for a long time--aren't licensed to what according to certain statistics is the largest and most valuable WiFi 6 patent portfolio. Huawei is a large-scale WiFi implementer at the same time, which makes it hard to imagine that its license fees would be excessive.

In the German patent infringement cases, the recent update to WiFi standard-setting organization IEEE's FRAND policy is not going to play a role. The applicable caselaw there is Sisvel v. Haier, which means Netgear and AVM are doomed to lose. Netgear and AVM realistically have no prayer with their FRAND defense and will almost certainly be deemed unwilling licensees. German courts attach no importance to the specific content of a FRAND declaration as it's all about a defendant's entitlement to a compulsory license under antitrust law. In any event, Huawei is one of the numerous major WiFi 6 contributors I listed earlier this year as companies that declined to provide Letters of Assurance under the IEEE's previous, exceedingly implementer-friendly patent policy.