Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Smartphone maker vivo exits German market after Nokia starts enforcement of standard-essential patent injunction

Six weeks ago, I reported on an official announcement made by Chinese smartphone maker Vivo concerning a patent ruling in Nokia's favor. Vivo said they had started preparations to suspend their sales and marketing activities in Germany in the event Nokia would enforce a standard-essential patent (SEP) injunction granted by the Manheim Regional Court.

Vivo's German website now indicates that they have indeed left the market (click on the image to enlarge):

The announcement reads as follows:

"At this point, vivo products are unfortunately unavailable in Germany.

"Accordingly, no product information is availableon our German website.

"Should you be using a vivo product, you can continue to rely on our customer service.

"You will also continue to receive software updates."

This is an unhelpful development. I doubt that Vivo will take a global license on Nokia's preferred terms only because of this enforcement activity: Vivo generates only a tiny portion of its worldwide sales in Germany. OPPO already left the German market last summer, also because of Nokia enforcing a Mannheim injunction and with a view to its competitiveness in price-sensitive markets in other world regions. Now that the legislative institutions of the European Union are about to begin their work on the proposed EU SEP Regulation (which has several major and numerous smaller shortcomings), some parties with a vested interest in the devaluation of SEPs will predictably seek to leverage the removal of multiple smartphone brands (OPPO, One Plus, vivo etc.) from the German market as they claim that the current SEP enforcement framework in Europe--particularly in Germany--warrants legislative intervention.

The proposed EU SEP Regulation would not help, at least not in its current form. It's an attempt to set global royalty rates through an EUIPO-led process, but a company like Vivo generates the bulk of its sales outside of Europe. China is in a better position to make FRAND determinations in those cases.