Thursday, July 6, 2023

EPO Board of Appeal invalidates standard-essential patent asserted by Nokia in four jurisdictions against OPPO and in at least two against Vivo

The disputes between Nokia and OPPO on the one hand and Nokia and Vivo on the other hand have been going on for some time with no resolution in sight. I noticed that an Indian appeals court ordered OPPO to make some interim payments, but that's not going to force anyone into a global license agreement. Never has, never will.

At the same time, Nokia and OPPO are challenging each other's patents, and I have a few updates about that.

  1. Surprisingly, what appeared to be a minor amendment to the claims of one 5G patent that OPPO is asserting against Nokia was deemed a significant narrowing of the claim scope by the Mannheim Regional Court, resulting in a bench ruling of non-infringement that OPPO may appeal now.

    Thus far, Nokia has managed to defuse all of OPPO's countersuits in Germany, getting some stayed (because of preliminary opinions or decisions concerning the validity of the patents-in-suit) or dismissed. But there still are some cases pending, and as far as I can see, there is no OPPO v. Nokia case yet where all appeals have been exhausted.

  2. Today I learned from the Mannheim Regional Court's spokesman that tomorrow's announcement of what could have been final judgments against OPPO and OnePlus has been canceled. The related proceedings involve EP2087626 on "additional modulation information signaling for high speed downlink packet access" and have been reopened in light of the revocation of that patent by the European Patent Office (EPO).

    It's a dramatic turn of events (or at least it would be dramatic if it wasn't just one of numerous lawsuits in the wider context). OPPO has snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. This is the chronology of events:

    Nokia already asserted EP'626 against Daimler. It was the first of Nokia's patents-in-suit against Daimler to be upheld by the EPO's Opposition Division. The NokiaNews website wrote in 2021 that "Nokia won the first battle in the dispute against Daimler" (though Nokia had previously won a couple of injunctions, this was the first validity decision in Nokia's favor).

    Yesterday, one of the EPO's Boards of Appeal heard OPPO's appeal--and at the end of the appellate hearing declared the patent invalid, just two days before the Mannheim court was going to issue an infringement ruling (presumably an injunction). Theoretically, decisions by a Board of Appeal can be appealed further to the Enlarged Board of Appeal, but only under narrow circumstances, and general guidance from the Enlarged Board of Appeal for future cases wouldn't resurrect EP'626.

    Nokia brought infringement actions over EP'626 against OPPO in Germany, the UK, and the Netherlands, and also sued over member of the same patent family in India and Indonesia (in Indonesia, Nokia's cases were dismissed on procedural grounds; Nokia also brought an Indonesian infringement action against Vivo over a member of that patent family). Nokia also sued Vivo over that patent in Germany.

    Therefore, the invalidation of EP'626 affects quite a number of Nokia enforcement actions. The ones in Germany, the UK, and the Netherlands have been resolved (short of another surprise turn of events). In jurisdictions like India, the EPO decision will serve as persuasive authority.

  3. A couple more Nokia patents have been invalidated in China as the following SIPO documents show: