07.05.19

Only After Millions Were Spent on Lawyers Microsoft’s Patent Troll in Europe Loses European Patent Used to Shake Down Android (Linux) Vendors

Posted in Asia, Europe, GNU/Linux, Patents at 1:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Conversant (formerly MOSAID) loses a tooth, but it doesn’t mean it’s toothless

Missing old tooth

Summary: More cautionary tales about European Patents being wrongly granted, potentially causing billions to be wasted and millions to be spent in legal fees; Microsoft’s attack dogs are still active and their targets demonstrate who the EPO really serves these days

THE patent trolls’ business has seen ‘healthy’ growth in Europe, based on surveys conducted by people who add up the number of court cases and their origin (plaintiff type/s). The Campinos/Battistelli attack on patent quality at the European Patent Office (EPO) is unprecedented. Sure, Brimelow permitted software patents [not] “as such”, but things went totally out of control under Battistelli. Contrariwise, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office saw a decline in the number of patents granted last year (some would attribute this to 35 U.S.C. § 101). Only a lawyer or a liar would assert that this means decrease in American innovation.

“Contrariwise, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office saw a decline in the number of patents granted last year (some would attribute this to 35 U.S.C. § 101).”The pile-up of low-quality patents in Europe will harm the most those least able to afford a court battle. The economics of patent trolling rely on these, e.g. SMEs. The last thing a troll wants or needs is lengthy court battle which may result not only in the loss of patents but also having to compensate the wrongly-accused defendant (this increasingly happens in the US). Thankfully, the UPC is more or less dead already, so at least we can still rely on courts (to some degree, assuming one can afford the battle).

Here’s some news: citing this older post predating the latest twist of events, Sidney Martin (Quebec Daily Examiner) wrote (emphasis ours): “The European Patent Office (EPO) opposition division has narrowed Afilias Technologies Plc’s device detection patent EP2245836B1 in Europe, as a result of an opposition brought by rival firm 51Degrees. The EPO concluded that the patent as initially granted was not valid.

“Thankfully, the UPC is more or less dead already, so at least we can still rely on courts (to some degree, assuming one can afford the battle).”Had it not been for this opposition, it would be granted and quality is only sliding further and further. It’s hard to keep up and file oppositions (the time windows for oppositions were also narrowed in recent years). Kilburn & Strode LLC’s Julia Venner and Kristina Cornish have also just published this article about Actavis v ICOS (covered here), demonstrating the narrowing of patent craze in courts, which unlike offices don’t just rubberstamp everything and more often than not toss out European Patents.

During Independence Day not many people paid attention to English language news (let alone to court battles). Writing about patents-in-standards (so-called ‘SEP’, or “standard-essential patents”, part of the cynical “FRAND” agenda that includes evergreening ploys in 5G), Rose Hughes takes notes about EP1797659, which is now tackled by Huawei, a Chinese giant (hence Huawei v Conversant), affecting also other Chinese giants such as ZTE.

It’s about a patent troll, MOSAID/Conversant, that Microsoft was arming — using Nokia‘s ‘core’ patents — to attack Microsoft’s competition, even in Europe. Guess what… the Supreme Court found that the European Patent is not valid. Quoting Hughes:

The FRAND/SEP saga continues today with a UK High Court decision on the validity of Conversant’s patent for 3G mobile phone technology. Mr Justice Arnold found that Conversant’s patent is essential and infringed by Huawei and ZTE, but invalid for added matter: Conversant v Huawei [2019] EWHC 1687 (Pat).

For a background summary of the dispute see IPKat here. In short, the case relates to standard essential patents (SEP) patents and Fair Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) licences. SEPs are patents protecting a technology which its owner has declared to be essential to the implementation of one or more of the telecommunications standards. To prevent anti-competitive behavior, standard setting organisations require SEP holders to licence the technology on Fair Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms.

In Huawei v Conversant [2019] EWCA Civ 38 (IPKat post here), Conversant sued both Huawei and ZTE in the UK courts for infringement of, what it claimed, were its essential patents. Conversant sought an injunction, damages and a declaration that it had made FRAND offers to the defendants. Huawei and ZTE responded that the English courts did not have the jurisdiction in determining the terms of a global FRAND licence. The Court of Appeal found that the English courts did have jurisdiction to decide on the global licence terms, but could not force Huawei to enter into a global licence (but that they may face and injunction on the basis of the UK designation). The UK courts could, however, decide on the validity of the patent and whether Huawei infringed. Huawei and ZTE have been given permission to appeal this jurisdictional aspect of the dispute to the Supreme Court (the hearing is expected in October this year, see IPKat post here).

In the latest decision Mr Justice Arnold considered whether Conversant’s European Patent (UK) (EP1797659) was essential, valid and infringed by Huawei and ZTE. Conversant argued the UK patent was essential to an aspect of the 3G Universal Mobile Telecommunications Standard (“UMTS”), Uplink DRX. Conversant also argued that Huawei and ZTE marketed mobile phones complying with the UMTS, and were therefore infringing the patent. Mr Justice Arnold accepted Conversant’s arguments. The Judge agreed that Huawei was not infringing under a literal interpretation of the claims. Particularly, the claims did not cover Uplink DRX under a literal interpretation, but could be found to be essential and infringed under the doctrine of equivalents (Actavis) (para. 201).

Here we have a good example of the harms done by European Patents wrongly granted; no doubt a bunch of law firms made lots of money from it, but at whose expense? It’s not too hard to answer that question…

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