Friday, December 23, 2022

Huawei-Nokia patent cross-license agreement extended--no details known

Just yesterday I was saying--in a post on a court order to stay a Nokia v. OPPO patent lawsuit--that "[m]aybe some other implementers [than OPPO] will still seize the opportunity to make Nokia a "Christmas present". I was thinking of, for an example, an extension of the Nokia-Samsung patent license agreement. Well, the following announcement involving a major implementer and patent holder just came in by email:

Press Release

Nokia and Huawei extend patent license agreement

23 December 2022

Espoo, Finland – Nokia and Huawei today announced the extension of their patent license agreement. The terms of the agreement remain confidential between the parties.


That's interesting. But it's also terse. Huawei's press release is consistent with Nokia's.

Five years ago, the parties announced the previous agreement, and while most of the terms remained confidential, they said a little bit more than today.

What has changed since 2017 is geopolitics. Huawei remains a major implementer, but its ability to do business in the Western hemisphere has been impacted by trade restrictions. Patent royalties in Huawei's major markets at this point are presumably lower. I wouldn't describe it as a Christmas gift, but it definitely is good news for both parties that they've been able to avoid litigation.

At the time of the last Nokia-Huawei deal, Huawei was enforcing patents against Samsung. Now, there are various cases against (according to the patent holder) unwilling licensees pending, such as against Amazon in Germany and China.

Two weeks ago, Huawei announced a patent cross-license agreement with OPPO. While Nokia and OPPO haven't settled an earth-spanning dispute that started a year and half ago, Huawei has cross-license agreements in place with both Nokia and OPPO--which shows that Huawei is very successful at the negotiating table and has to resort to patent enforcement only under certain circumstances beyond its control.

Nokia, too, signs license agreements all the time, most of which are not announced.

This month has seen two interesting renewals: Nokia-Huawei as well as Ericsson-Apple. But some other renewals are outstanding, such as a renewal of InterDigital's 2014 license agreement with Samsung and potentially also Nokia's deal with the Korean consumer electronics giant.

Unless parties engage in a "race to the courthouse" with FRAND actions (including, but not limited to, anti-antisuit injunctions) prior to expiration of a license agreement, failures to renew typically become known only when they file infringement lawsuits. With many license agreements having terms based on calendar years (sometimes with minor variations, such as the last Ericsson-Apple deal expiring two weeks after New Year's Day), January is the busiest month of the year in that regard.