Bonum Certa Men Certa

Qualcomm's Escalating Patent Wars Have Already Caused Massive Buybacks (Loss of Reserves) and Loss of Massive Clients

Yesterday: Qualcomm's Patent Aggression Threatens Rationality of Patent Scope in Europe and Elsewhere

Qualcomm loses Apple’s business and drops NXP deal. What’s next?
Reference: Qualcomm loses Apple’s business and drops NXP deal. What’s next?



Summary: Qualcomm's multi-continental patent battles are an effort to 'shock and awe' everyone into its protection racket; but the unintended effect seems to be a move further and further away from 'Qualcomm territories'

ARMED with patents, including software patents from the EPO and USPTO, Qualcomm embarked on a misguided crusade which was bound to drive away clients and reduce interest in its patent pool. A few hours ago it was noted that "Apple Moves Away From Qualcomm" (even further than before) and according to Florian Müller, who followed the respective cases closely, there's a new lawsuit in Germany, based on a European Patent:



With a view to a Qualcomm v. Apple patent infringement trial in Munich on Thursday I contacted the Munich I Regional Court to check on the time. As for the biggest issue in that case, may I refer you to my recent post on how thin air can "practice" claim limitations unless the name of the game is the claim.

On the same occasion, I inquired about any Qualcomm v. Apple first hearings that might come up in the near term. Unlike other German courts, the Munich court holds a first hearing, not as formally focused on claim construction as a U.S. Markman hearing, prior to patent trials. A spokeswoman for the court kindly informed me that a first hearing in two parallel cases, targeting different Apple entities, has been scheduled for March 28, 2019.

The patent-in-suit in both cases is EP1988602 on a "mobile terminal with a monopole[-]like antenna."

Knowing the usual Munich timelines, it appears that the new complaints have only been filed recently. I guess just before the main summer vacation season here, or at least not long before.


"These sorts of multi-continental patent battles aren't particularly new, but they serve to highlight the sort of thing that the EPO in Germany probably looks to facilitate, even if that would mean a lot more patent trolls, attacks on generics and so on."In a later post Müller wrote that ITC "staff raises public-interest concerns over ban of Intel-powered iPhones sought by Qualcomm" and "staff says none of the 3 remaining patents-in-suit (from Qualcomm's 2nd ITC complaint against Apple) is infringed. Apple [is] on [a] winning track."

"CCIA raised these concerns in our public interest filings," Josh from the CCIA said, so "I’m glad the ITC staff sees the same issues with exclusion in this case. (Not to mention infringement.)"

Quoting Müller, who was busy writing more than usual yesterday:

This morning, opening statements were delivered at the start of the evidentiary hearing in the investigation of Qualcomm's second ITC complaint (request for U.S. import ban). The complaint was filed last December. An earlier complaint by Qualcomm against Apple is at a more advanced procedural stage: a final initial determination (a preliminary ruling by an Administrative Law Judge, which is however subject to Commission review) was originally due last Friday, but after the ALJ originally in charge retired, Chief ALJ Bullock took over and extended the deadline by two weeks. In that earlier case, the Office of Unfair Import Investigations (OUII, commonly referred to as "the ITC staff") recommended an infringement finding with respect to one patent. Staff recommendations are not binding on ALJs, and even ALJs don't make the final decision: the Commission itself does. But what the staff says is often adopted.


We have been critical of ALJs who ignored rulings from the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). The Federal Circuit later dealt with the inter partes review (IPR) in question. The matter of fact is, Qualcomm is trying to increase pressure and improve its chances of "winning" by filing actions in several courts and in several continents -- not so unusual a trick. Apple did that the Samsung and Huawei too is trying it against Samsung right now. But as Müller pointed out, the judge in the US is well aware that Chinese patent law is different and in some sense harsher than American law. Müller compares this to the case of Microsoft v Motorola -- one which we covered at the time. To quote:

With respect to China, let's face one thing: every U.S. judge knows that the rule of law, just like democracy, works differently in China. Huawei's lawyers portray the Chinese proceedings at 100% fair and comprehensive. Samsung's counsel obviously didn't suggest that the proceedings were unfair, nor did Judge Orrick say so in his order. The Federal Circuit will be diplomatic, too. But that doesn't mean that the appellate judges won't have their private and unspoken opinion anyway.

The strategic issue here is the one I mentioned in the headline: coerced FRAND rate-setting arbitration. In order to distinguish Huawei v. Samsung from Microsoft v. Motorola (with Samsung being the new Microsoft and Huawei being the new Motorola), Huawei points out that Microsoft said it would accept a court-determined FRAND rate without insisting on adjucation of all the defenses that Samsung is pursuing (though Judge Robart actually did hold some Motorola patents invalid anyway). But beyond differences between Huawei and Microsoft regarding the preconditions for rate-settings (which I simply attribute to the fact that the standards at issue in Microsoft v. Motorola were not nearly as critical to Microsoft's business as the ones in Huawei v. Samsung are to Samsung's core business, thus Microsoft was prepared to pay for invalid and non-infringed patents and exclusively concerned about injunctive relief), Huawei must deny that it is an unwilling licensor (not in the sense of unwillingness to extend a license, but to do so on FRAND terms) engaging in hold-up and instead argue that Samsung is an unwilling licensee engaging in hold-out.


These sorts of multi-continental (or cross-continental) patent battles aren't particularly new, but they serve to highlight the sort of thing that the EPO in Germany probably looks to facilitate, even if that would mean a lot more patent trolls, attacks on generics and so on.

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