License Agreement
Subscribe to License Agreement's Posts

Federal Circuit Sends iPhone Patent Dispute Back for Third Damages Trial

Considering numerous claim construction, infringement and damages issues related to patents allegedly covering Apple’s iPhones 5 and 6 series technology, a panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit determined that the district court should have held a third trial on damages because the plaintiff’s expert improperly treated the asserted patents as key during his analysis of purportedly comparable license agreements. Apple Inc. v. Wi-Lan Inc., Case No. 20-2011 (Fed. Cir.) (Moore, C.J.; Bryson, Prost, JJ.)

This appeal is the latest iteration of a patent dispute between Apple and Wi-Lan that has lasted eight years and included two trials. The two patents at issue are directed to bandwidth technology that allows a “subscriber unit” rather than the “base station” to allocate bandwidth. At issue in the appeal were numerous challenges from both Apple and Wi-Lan.

The Federal Circuit rejected Apple’s challenge to the district court’s construction of “subscriber unit,” which Apple claimed was limited to “customer premises equipment [CPE]” (e.g., home routers). Although Apple pointed to parts of the specification that suggested that a CPE was a subscriber unit, the Court found that no language met the heavy burden of a clear and unmistakable redefinition of “subscriber unit.” That the sole disclosed embodiment was a CPE did not move the needle, as nothing indicated that the embodiment was limiting.

Next, the Federal Circuit affirmed the jury verdict on liability, finding that substantial evidence supported the jury’s determination that the accused iPhones contained a subscriber unit. The Court found that a jury could conclude from expert testimony that an iPhone allocates bandwidth between two separate connections—voice-over-LTE and data.

Because of the appeal, Apple may now be on the hook for additional infringement liability. The district court had granted Apple summary judgment of noninfringement based on a license agreement between Intel (the maker of Apple’s processor chips in the accused products) and Wi-Lan. According to Apple, this agreement gave Intel a license through patent expiry rather than for the license term. The Federal Circuit rejected that reading of the license between Intel and Wi-Lan, instead finding that the license extended only to pre-termination sales, not in perpetuity as Apple claimed.

Finally, the Federal Circuit found that the district court correctly ordered a new trial on damages after the first trial in the case but erred by not ordering the new trial on damages based on expert testimony admitted at the second damages trial. Regarding the first damages trial, the Court rejected Wi-Lan’s challenge to the district court’s determination that Wi-Lan’s damages expert did not appropriately tie his damages opinion to the benefits of the patented technology. With respect to the second damages trial, the Court found that Wi-Lan’s damages expert gave improper testimony because, without tying his opinion to the facts of the case, he stated that the asserted patents were the “key” drivers of the royalty rates in other license agreements he relied upon—licenses that were to a much larger patent portfolio. Without a sound basis in evidence, [...]

Continue Reading




2G or Not 2G: Patent License Applies to Future Generation Wireless Networks

In interpreting a patent license agreement originally drafted in the era of third generation (3G) cellular networks, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit found that the license agreement covered subsequent wireless network generations, affirming a district court decision that infringement claims were barred by the license agreement and the doctrine of patent exhaustion. Evolved Wireless, LLC v. HTC Corp., Case Nos. 20-1335, -1337, -1339, -1340, -1363 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 26, 2021) (Dyk, J.) However, the Court vacated-in-part the district court’s decision and remanded for findings based on supplemental evidence of the license’s termination.

In order for cellular wireless networks to work properly, each component within the network must operate according to a shared set of standards. Early generation wireless networks were specific to a particular geographic location. Subsequent “generations” became harmonized according to global standards set by international organizations. Despite some harmonization, two separate 3G standards existed, known as WCDMA and CDMA2000. The fourth generation (4G) addressed this dichotomy by harmonizing newer technologies into a single standard known as Long Term Evolution (LTE). Nonetheless, devices exist that may be compatible with one or more 3G or 4G standards. These are referred to as “single-mode” or “multi-mode” devices depending on their compatibility characteristic. Patents that cover one or more technologies necessary for standards harmonization are referred to as standard-essential patents (SEPs) and must be licensed on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.

LG Electronics developed a patent that describes a method for handing over a mobile device from one cell tower to another under the LTE standard. LG subsequently declared the patent to be essential to the LTE standard and granted a license to Qualcomm, a developer and supplier of wireless components. LG then sold the patent to TQ Lambda, which sold it to Evolved Wireless. Evolved filed infringement lawsuits against various mobile device manufacturers, all of which incorporated Qualcomm components in their accused products. Because the patent remained subject to the LG-Qualcomm license, the central question was whether the accused products fell within the scope of the license agreement.

The license agreement did not identify specific patents, but granted Qualcomm and its customers the right to use LG’s patents that are “technically or commercially necessary to make, sell, or use a ‘subscriber unit,'” defined in the license as “a Complete CDMA Telephone or a CDMA Modem Card, and any subsequent generation products.” The district court found that the accused products were covered by the license agreement and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants under the theory that the license agreement authorized Qualcomm’s use of the patent and that the doctrine of patent exhaustion precluded an infringement action against Qualcomm’s customers (i.e., the defendants). Evolved appealed.

On appeal, Evolved argued that the accused products did not meet the definition of “subscriber units” and that it had submitted supplemental evidence that the license had been terminated that the district court had ignored. Evolved argued that that term “subsequent generation products” in the license did not include products that [...]

Continue Reading




BLOG EDITORS

STAY CONNECTED

TOPICS

ARCHIVES