Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Ericsson strikes down patent underlying KPN's $32 million jury verdict from August 2022: PTAB invalidates all challenged claims

The patent infringement dispute between Dutch telecommunications carrier KPN and Swedish telecommunications equipment maker Ericsson is unusual because infrastructure makers typically sell products to telcos rather than getting sued by them over patents. What is not that unusual, though, is the fact that Ericsson is on the receiving end of that case. Ericsson and Nokia, while being net licensors, typically have multiple disputes pending at any given time in which someone else wants to collect patent royalties somewhere, most frequently in the United States. That's why those two companies don't take extreme positions when they are on the enforcing side: they know what it's like when the shoe is on the other food, and they know that whatever they say as a defendant may be held against them as a plaintiff (though inconsistencies could only undermine their credibility but in the end all that should matter is the law).

Last August, a jury in the Eastern District of Texas handed down a verdict in KPN's favor and relating to a package of three patents. The verdict form did not distinguish by patent or claim, but merely indicated whether "any" of the claims had been infringed and whether any of the patents were invalid (juries rarely ever invalidated patents, and here they also thought all patents-in-suit were valid):

Koninklijke KPN N.V. v. Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson & Ericsson Inc. (case no. 2:21-cv-113-JRG, E.D. Tex.): Jury Verdict of August 26, 2022

KPN is apparently never going to get the $32 million payout.

One of the three patents-in-suit, U.S. Patent No. RE48,089 on a "method and system for automatic coverage assessment for cooperating wireless access networks", has now been invalidated by the PTAB. Ericsson--represented by the Baker Botts firm--challenged most claims, also including the ones asserted in the Texas infringement action, and prevailed across the board. The PTAB judgment came down yesterday:

Ericsson Inc. v. Koninklijke KPN N.V. (PTAB IPR2022-00079, Patent RE48,089): Judgment (of May 23, 2023) Determining All Challenged Claims Unpatentable

Maybe this decision will pave the way for a settlement between the parties. They should be commercial partners, not adversaries in patent litigation.

Earlier today I commented on USPTO Director Kathi Vidal's proposed PTAB IPR rulemaking reform. Then I saw this interesting PTAB decision.