EU Update
Subscribe to EU Update's Posts

UK High Court Issues Landmark Global FRAND Rate Decision

The UK High Court of Justice issued its long-anticipated decision establishing a global Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) royalty rate for a patent portfolio essential to 3G, 4G and 5G cellular technologies. InterDigital Tech. Corp. et al. v. Lenovo Group Limited, Case No. HP-2019-000032, [2023] EWHC 529 (Pat) (Mar. 16, 2023) (Mellor, J.)

InterDigital owns a portfolio of standard essential patents (SEPs) that have been declared essential to the European Telecommunications Standard Institute’s (ETSI) 3G, 4G and 5G cellular technology standards. InterDigital sought to license the SEPs to Lenovo, which implements these cellular standards in its mobile phones, tablets and PCs. After the parties could not agree on the terms under which Lenovo should take a license, InterDigital filed a lawsuit. The High Court held several technical trials in which it found that Lenovo infringed certain of the patents.

Based on the result of the technical trials, the High Court determined that InterDigital had established the right to a FRAND determination of its portfolio. The parties presented two issues regarding FRAND. The first issue was whether the InterDigital license offer was FRAND, and if not, what terms would be FRAND for a license to Lenovo of the InterDigital patent portfolio. The second issue was whether InterDigital was entitled to an injunction based on the parties’ negotiation conduct, including whether InterDigital acted as a willing licensor and whether Lenovo acted as a willing licensee.

The High Court concluded that Lenovo should pay InterDigital a FRAND rate of $0.175 per cellular unit for a worldwide license to InterDigital’s portfolio. The $0.175 rate yields a lump sum payment of $138.7 million for sales from 2007 to the end of 2023. The Court’s FRAND rate determination was closer to Lenovo’s offered rate of $0.16/unit than to InterDigital’s demand of $0.498/unit.

In determining the appropriate FRAND rate, the High Court analyzed whether InterDigital’s proposed rate was comparable to the rate in InterDigital’s other license agreements for SEPs. InterDigital argued that its license offer to Lenovo was consistent with “program rates” under which it had already licensed its SEPs to other companies. The Court, however, rejected InterDigital’s program rates as comparable because the other licenses included volume discounts ranging from 60% to 80% of InterDigital’s program rate. InterDigital argued that Lenovo was not entitled to the same type of steep volume discount and, therefore, those licenses with discounts applied were not comparable licenses for Lenovo. The Court disagreed, finding that the volume discounts applied to those licenses “do not have any economic or other justification” and that their primary purpose was to “shore up InterDigital’s chosen program rates.” The Court further observed that the primary effect of the volume discount in the other licenses was to discriminate against smaller licensees, which is exactly what FRAND is supposed to avoid.

InterDigital tried to bolster its argument that its program rate was FRAND by applying a top-down cross-check. The top-down approach starts with the cumulative value of all royalties that should be paid on FRAND [...]

Continue Reading

read more

Are You Ready for the UPC? Act Now to Prepare for its Opening on June 1

On February 17, 2023, Germany ratified the Agreement on the Unified Patent Court (UPC) and triggered the UPC’s entry into force on June 1, 2023. The UPC will revolutionize patent enforcement across Europe and impact companies around the world that hold European patents or conduct business in Europe.

Owners of existing European patents or pending applications can “opt out” of the UPC’s jurisdiction for an initial transitional period of at least seven years. Companies must act now if they want to opt out before the court officially opens.

Understanding the UPC

The UPC will have exclusive jurisdiction over patent infringement and invalidity actions in its member states for patents granted by the European Patent Office (EPO), including existing European patents and new European patents with unitary effect (unitary patents). There are currently 17 EU Member States participating in the UPC (Germany, France, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Sweden and Slovenia). Additional EU Member States may join the UPC in the future.

The UPC will have local and regional divisions in its member states, with a central division in Paris and Munich and a Court of Appeal in Luxembourg.

As a streamlined patent enforcement venue, the UPC will provide several new benefits to patent owners, including faster decisions with limited discovery and lower cost, and the possibility of injunctive relief throughout the member states. At the same time, the UPC will allow revocation of a patent in a single action with effect for all member states, alongside the possibility to oppose a European patent before the EPO.

European Freedom to Operate

Because of the UPC’s structure and incentives, patent litigation will likely increase in Europe, which will heighten the intellectual property (IP) infringement risk for companies doing business in Europe. If a company has not already done so, it should promptly review its competitors’ European patent estates to assess the potential risks and develop a defense strategy to avoid a surprise attack from a competitor after June 1, 2023.

European Enforcement Actions

Although the UPC is new and untried, it has the incentive to provide strong relief for those who trust it. If a company needs to bring a patent infringement action against a competitor and would like to do so in a fast, cost-effective manner, with the possibility of significant remedies, the UPC should be considered as a potential venue. The company should review its portfolio and infringement evidence to assess its opportunities.

Deciding Whether to Opt Out

The right to opt out European patent filings from the UPC’s jurisdiction will be available for an initial transitional period of seven years, which may extend to 14 years. It will be possible to reverse an opt-out, but not if the patent has been enforced or attacked in national court.

McDermott’s UPC Resource Center explores the various advantages and disadvantages of both staying in and opting out of the UPC.

read more

2023 IP Outlook: What to Watch in Patent, Trademark and Copyright Law

Coming out of 2022, developments around the globe are shaping the intellectual property (IP) landscape in the new year. We are seeing cases at the intersection of IP law and NFTs, the opening of the Unified Patent Court in Europe, and decisions from the Supreme Court of the United States and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affecting innovators and brand owners.

McDermott’s 2023 IP Outlook examines the top trends and decisions in IP law from the past year and shares what you and your business should look out for in the year ahead.

The Latest in SEP Licensing

Amol Parikh

The uncertainty surrounding standard essential patent (SEP) licensing persisted in 2022 and shows little sign of clearing in 2023. SEPs must be licensed to technology implementers on fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory (FRAND) terms. Because there is no formal definition of FRAND terms, however, legal decisions involving FRAND have historically been determined by courts and non-governmental standard-setting organizations (SSOs). Disputes are frequent—especially between patent owners and technology implementers—and are becoming even more so as advanced wireless technologies such as 5G and WiFi 6 proliferate. Read more.


Improper Inventorship in US Patent Litigations

Mandy H. Kim | Cecilia Choy, Ph.D.

Inventorship issues can have serious implications in patent litigation, leading to invalidation or unenforceability of the patent at issue, as seen in several notable 2022 cases. In the coming year, patent owners should take steps to minimize risks related to improper inventorship challenges. Read more.


Patent Decisions Affecting Pharma and Biotech Companies

Douglas H. Carsten | Anisa Noorassa

The past year brought many developments in the life sciences patent legal space. Three decisions in particular hold potential ramifications for drug makers and patent holders in 2023. This year, the Supreme Court of the United States is also expected to consider standards patents claiming a genus must meet to withstand a validity challenge under Section 112—a ruling that could have a significant impact on patent holders in the biotech industry. Read more. 


Trends in the Western District of Texas

Syed K. Fareed | Alexander Piala, Ph.D. | Christian Tatum

Over the past year, two developments infiltrated the Western District of Texas (WDTX) which may decrease the success of venue transfers and keep case volume steady in 2023. These developments could also give plaintiffs more control over where litigation takes place, including more control over having a case tried before Judge Alan Albright in the Waco Division of the WDTX.
Continue Reading

read more

EU Unified Patent Court Announces Intent to Launch on April 1, 2023

The EU Unified Patent Court (UPC) announced a launch date of April 1, 2023, however, the announced date should be regarded as a statement of intent for it could change. The launch timing has been the subject of various delays and setbacks, several due to unresolved legal issues. The UPC has also published an almost final list of judges. German Federal Court of Justice Judge Klaus Grabinski, who played a key role in drafting the UPC Rules of Procedure, will head the UPC. The majority of UPC judges will only be engaged with their UPC activities part-time (about 50% or 20% of their total work commitment).

The UPC judges are set to receive special training starting in March 2023, only one month prior to the announced launch date of the UPC, leading many to doubt that the April 1 date will be met. Once the new court is operational, owners of European patents will be able to litigate patent disputes across most EU Member States in a single proceeding, eliminating the need to proceed on a country-by-country basis.

Assuming the announced launch date is maintained, the “sunrise period” before the UPC becomes fully operational will commence on January 1, 2023. This sunrise period will last for three months, during which patent owners that do not wish for their existing European patents to be subject to UPC jurisdiction may opt out of such jurisdiction by filing a formal notification to that effect. The European Patent Office has also announced that during the sunrise period, European patent applicants whose applications are ready for grant will, if they wish, be able to delay the formal grant of the application until the UPC becomes operational so that unitary patent protection can be obtained.

The UPC has issued an implementation roadmap for events leading up to the entry into force of the UPC Agreement, with the court opening its doors and starting to receive cases as of April 1, 2023.

read more

European Commission Seeks Comments on Revised Horizontal Guidelines Draft

On 1 March 2022, the European Commission launched a public consultation inviting stakeholders to comment on a revised Horizontal Block Exemption Regulations on Research & Development and Specialisation (HBERs) draft, as well as on a revised draft of the guidelines on the applicability of Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) to horizontal co-operation agreements (Horizontal Guidelines). Comments are due no later than 26 April 2022.

This more general antitrust public consultation aims at drafting revised versions of existing normative texts and should not be confused with the European Commission’s more targeted “Call for Evidence” regarding a new framework for standard-essential patents (SEPs). Comments in response to the Call for Evidence must be submitted by 9 May 2022, and the new framework “may combine legislative and non-legislative action.” (For more information on the European Commission’s Call for Evidence, click here.) While these two EU public consultations are separate, they and their corresponding EU policies overlap on the question of SEPs.

Chapter 7 of the revised Horizontal Guidelines draft concerns SEP antitrust issues, such as the question of standardisation agreements and their compliance with EU antitrust law. The public consultation provides stakeholders in the SEP licensing and standardisation fields an opportunity to ensure that their interests will be considered during the drafting process of the revised Horizontal Guidelines.

The overall objective of the Horizontal Guidelines is to provide guidance on the European Commission’s application of the general norms prohibiting anticompetitive market behaviour set out in Art. 101 (1) and 101 (3) of the TFEU. The Horizontal Guidelines are de facto binding as EU courts and businesses use them to comply with Art. 101 (1) and (3) of the TFEU and to anticipate the European Commission’s enforcement of these norms.

The revised draft of the Horizontal Guidelines takes into consideration the evaluation process following a public consultation in 2019 that gave stakeholders the opportunity to review the 2011 version of the Horizontal Guidelines, which is currently in force. In the revised draft, Chapter 7 focuses on standardisation agreements as follows:


  • The new draft proposes to introduce more flexibility in the effects analysis by allowing (under specific circumstances) more limited participation in the development of a standard.
    • A standardisation agreement should not be considered to lead to
      restrictive effects on competition under Article 101 (1) of the TFEU if
      the restriction on the participants is limited in time
      with a view
      to progressing quickly and if, at major milestones, all competitors have an
      opportunity to be involved in terms of continuing the development of the
      standard (marginal no. 496).
    • A standardisation agreement should be considered as removing potential
      negative effects resulting from limited participation stakeholders as long as
      stakeholders are kept informed and consulted on the work in progress. The
      objective is to promote procedures that recognize the collective representation

      Continue Reading

read more

2022 IP Outlook Report: The Developments Shaping European IP Law

Key Takeaways and Outlook for 2022

While European intellectual property (IP) regimes have slowly digested the Brexit shock, brand owners are vacillating between optimism and apprehension in 2022 as they navigate continuous developments in IP law. At the forefront is the prospect of greater patent law harmonization with the entry into force of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) and the European patent with unitary effect. En route to this unification, however, are some anticipated challenges.

The actions initiated in 2021 that will continue to spark conversation (and controversy) in 2022 include:

  1. After a Multiyear Saga, UPC Nears Fruition
  2. SEPs and FRAND Laws Take Unexpected Turns Throughout Germany, Europe
  3. Luxe Cosmetic Brand Successfully Obtains Trademark Protection for 3D Lipstick Shape
  4. No Similarity Between Water and Alcoholic Beverages in the European Union
  5. German Patent Act Reform Poses Substantive Changes but Not a “Game Changer”

Read the full report.

Dominik Rissman, a trainee in the Dusseldorf office, also contributed to this report.

read more

SEP Regulation: European Union Calls for Stakeholders’ Views

Following public consultation rounds on the regulation of standard-essential patents (SEPs) in the United States and the United Kingdom, the European Union followed suit and published a “Call for Evidence” concerning an impact assessment on the European Union’s new framework for SEPs on 14 February 2022.

The Call for Evidence is part of the European Commission’s proposal for new EU legislation and non-legislative actions, which is expected to be adopted in the fourth quarter of 2022. While the European Union remains open on how exactly a system for licensing SEPs can be made more balanced, fair, transparent, predictable and efficient, there are already signs of a stricter approach in European competition policy towards dominant positions, including SEP holders, in high-tech markets. The European Commission stresses that the expected entry into force of the European unitary patent system requires an initiative at EU level, as initiatives at national level will not apply to unitary patents. Key elements of discussion include:

  • Enhancing transparency of SEPs by: (1) requiring the disclosure and update of certain information to improve publicly available information and (2) introducing a system for independent third-party assessments of essentiality under the management and control of an independent body
  • Providing clarity on various aspects of obligating SEP holders to offer licenses on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms (F/RAND terms) by developing guiding principles and/or processes for clarifying the concept of F/RAND, negotiating F/RAND terms and conditions and determining appropriate level(s) of licensing in a value chain
  • Improving the effectiveness and efficiency of enforcement by incentivizing mediation, conciliation and/or arbitration.

The European Commission is accepting feedback in all 24 EU languages until 9 May 2022 (midnight Brussels time), and is particularly interested to hear opinions of SEP holders, SEP implementers, patent lawyers, legal practitioners, academics, patent-pool administrators, industry associations, start-ups, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), standard development organizations (SDOs), consultants, policy makers and any other stakeholders that have experience with SEPs. All feedback will be published online.

Practice Note: Stakeholders should consider participating in the consultation, irrespective of whether they are more in the SEP holders’ or implementers’ camp, and even if their EU business may be limited. In times of global licensing campaigns, dialogues between the European Union and the United States on competition policy in the technology sector, and EU courts assuming jurisdiction in global SEP disputes, a future EU SEP policy will have an impact also elsewhere around the globe.

read more

The Net Is Tightening on European SEP Regulation

The regulation of standard-essential patents (SEPs) has increasingly attracted the attention of policymakers in recent years. This includes the European Commission, which institutes multiple projects to profoundly review the European Union’s SEP and competition law framework. Some of these EU projects are still in the making, with the next public consultations coming up in early 2022.

EU review has been undertaken mainly for two reasons. The first is that the European Commission is responsible for the enforcement of European competition law. It is this set of rules that prohibits the abuse of a dominant market position in the European Union and, at least from an EU perspective, also obligates SEP holders to offer licenses on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms (F/RAND terms). The second reason is the European Union’s goal to act as an international norm-setter in intellectual property (IP) protection.

In November 2017, the European Commission published an EU approach to standard-essential patents as part of its “IP Package.” The aim was to provide a clearer framework to incentivize and facilitate access to the key technologies enabling interconnection and connectivity.

These relatively narrow targets were made more concrete in November 2020 with the release of the “Intellectual Property Action Plan.” This plan sought to support the European creative and innovative industry sector in remaining a global leader. In the area of SEPs, the European Commission’s objective was to reduce friction and litigation between SEP holders and users by relying on potential regulatory reforms—in addition to industry-led initiatives—to clarify and improve the framework for SEP enrollment, licensing and enforcement. By providing incentives for good faith negotiations, the European Commission tried to reconcile the interests of SEP holders, standard development organizations (SDOs) and users of SEP-protected technologies.

In January 2021, the European Commission’s Group of Experts on Licensing and Valuation of SEPs published its contributions to the debate. This group, which consists of scholars, judges and stakeholders, proposed, inter alia, a number of principles for licensing SEPs, namely licensing at a single level of the value chain, a single F/RAND royalty, passing on F/RAND royalties downstream and establishing licensee negotiation groups. The European Commission’s next step in terms of a new framework for standard-essential patents is a public online consultation to be held in the first quarter of 2022.

Ahead of that event, on 2 February 2022, the European Commission presented its new Standardization Strategy, as well as a draft law amending EU Regulation No 1025/2012, with the aim of ensuring a balanced stakeholder representation within European SDOs and addressing the issue of agility and governance in the European standardization system. This strategy and the draft law highlight the European Union’s priority to defend its key position as a global standardization policymaker.

The EU Regulation of SEPs is also affected by the review of the EU Horizontal Block Exemption Regulation, which defines certain research and development (R&D) and specialization agreements that can be [...]

Continue Reading

read more

European UPC All Set for Set Up as Protocol Enters into Force

On January 18, 2022, after recently joining the protocol on a European Unified Patent Court (UPC) on provisional application (PPA) as the decisive 13th EU Member State, Austria deposited its instrument of accession to the PPA. Thus, the countdown to the grand opening of the UPC has now started. (The actual opening may take place in late 2022 or—more likely—in early 2023.)

Austria’s deposition marked the beginning of the Provisional Application Phase as of January 19, 2022, which will last at least eight months and includes preparatory work, particularly recruiting 90 legal and technical judges and administrative staff, testing the file management system, setting up the IT system, hosting inaugural meetings of the governing bodies and confirming the UPC’s budget. As Alexander Ramsay, chairman of the UPC Preparatory Committee, said in a press release issued January 19, 2022, the Provisional Application Phase will start with the inaugural meetings of the Administrative Committee, Advisory Committee and Budget Committee. In addition, following the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the project, the Preparatory Committee must decide where to locate the UPC’s central division for pharmaceutical and chemical cases as the seat of this division was initially set to be in London.

As soon as the UPC member states are confident that preparations have progressed to the point where the UPC is functional, Germany will deposit its ratification of the UPC Agreement. Germany’s deposition will set the date for the start of the UPC’s operations and trigger the countdown to the UPC Agreement’s entry into force, which will be on the first day of the fourth month after the deposit. At that point, unitary patents (or European patents with unitary effect) will be available at the European Patent Office (EPO).

Once the Provisional Application Phase ends, a transitional period of seven years is triggered for European patent (EP) applicants and holders to decide whether they want to opt out of UPC jurisdiction and continue to pursue national patent litigation. Within this transitional period, EP applicants can opt in if their application is granted or even after the EP is granted—if no legal action has commenced before a national court.

The UPC will thus have competence for already existing EPs (if not opted out) and for the newly introduced unitary patents granted by the EPO. Both invalidity and infringement proceedings will be conducted before the UPC, which will consist of regional, national and central divisions as well as an Appeals Court and a Mediation Centre.

In a statement shared January 19, 2022, the EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton welcomed the start of the Provisional Application Phase, stressing the cost benefits of unitary patents: “For instance, a Unitary Patent covering a territory of potentially up to 25 Member States will cost less than €5,000 in renewal fees over 10 years, instead of the current level of around €29,000. The Unitary Patent will also reduce the gap between the cost of patent protection in Europe compared with the [...]

Continue Reading

read more

European UPC Almost Ready to Launch as Austrian Parliament Approves Ratification

Austria became the 13th country to join the protocol on a European Unified Patent Court (UPC) on provisional application (PPA) when the second chamber of the Austrian parliament (Bundesrat) approved the PPA unanimously on December 2, 2021. The Austrian government is expected to formally deposit its ratification shortly.

As expected, Austria followed Slovenia as the last of the 13 EU Member States that were required to ratify in order for the PPA to take effect. This group mandatorily included Germany, Italy and France (i.e., the three Member States in which the most European patents were in effect in 2012).

With the upcoming Austrian ratification, the UPC Preparatory Committee (Committee) will be able to formally start its work. Although there is no timeline set for the initial provisional application stage, the Committee expects that stage to take approximately six to 10 months. As stated in a note published by the Presidency of the Council of the European Union on September 24, 2021, this stage includes the adoption of the secondary legislation of the UPC, including procedures, establishment of a budget, recruitment of judges and administrative staff, election of a president, final configuration and testing of the file management system and ensuring that all IT infrastructure is properly set up and secured. In addition, a working agreement with the European Patent Office (EPO) on patent application and validation remains to be completed. Many observers regard the timeline to complete preparations as challenging, noting that several of these steps will likely require significant discussion.

As noted in the Presidency of the Council’s statement, the UPC will be in force when these preparations are completed, which could be as early as the second half of 2022. The exact start date of the UPC and the Unitary Patent System depends on how long the initial provisional application stage takes. It also depends on when Germany formally deposits its UPC Agreement ratification, which has been withheld so far in order to give the committee time to complete its work. Once the UPC member states agree that the initial provisional application stage is almost complete (likely during the next two to six months), Germany will deposit its UPC Agreement ratification, which will trigger another four-month period before the UPC may officially take its first cases. The UPC will finally open its doors four months after that last instrument deposit. At that point, European patents with unitary effect could be available at the EPO.

Practice Note: Entities doing business in the European Union should check whether their intellectual property strategy is fit for the UPC entering into force and European patents with unitary effect becoming available.

read more