Apple and Google have achieved a first-instance win in a case brought by inventor Ferid Allani, who claims the two companies infringed his patent through their iOS and Android operating systems. Now the Judicial Court of Paris has ruled that Apple and Google do not have to pay a combined €60 million in damages, although Allani could appeal the decision.
1 February 2023 by Amy Sandys
The Judicial Court of Paris has declared a patent filed by the individual inventor Ferid Allani as invalid for lack of novelty (case ID: N° RG 20/01312). As such, the court concluded that four Apple companies, including Apple France, Apple Retail France, Apple Distribution International and Apple Inc., as well as co-defendants Google France and Google LLC., did not infringe FR 2 803 929.
Previously, the European Patent Office refused to grant the patent, which had already expired in December 2019. However, in September 2012, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) granted a patent for the invention under US 82 71 877.
The dispute began in France in December 2019, when Ferid Allani brought an infringement dispute to the court in France. He claimed that Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android systems, which are present in millions of products including Apple’s iPhones and iWatches, and the latter in Google’s mobile phones, infringe claims one to eight of his patent. This covers “Method and device for accessing information sources and services on the web.”
In October 2022, presiding judge Nathalie Sabotier heard the case in Paris, handing down a finding of invalidity and non-infringement on 19 January 2023.
However, in her decision, Sabotier found the patent invalid. She also dismissed Allani’s attempt to claim provisional damages of up to €30 million each from the two parties. According to JUVE Patent sources, it is relatively unusual for French proceedings to cancel a patent based on a lack of novelty over the prior art, especially when the court bases the decision on third-party documents. The French courts tend to base a finding of invalidity on lack of inventive step, especially in cases concerning electronics and digital technology.
While Ferid Allani had sought provisional damages, Apple and Google counterclaimed for patent invalidity due to a lack of novelty and a lack of inventive step over the prior art.
However, the latest decision is potentially just the first step in what could become a drawn-out battle between the entities. Following the first-instance decision, Ferid Allani could seek permission to appeal to the Paris Court of Appeal.
Furthermore, Allani has also brought a case against Microsoft, which is still pending before the courts. In this instance Bird & Bird, with a team led by Anne-Charlotte le Bihan, is heading up the French case for the US company. The Judicial Court of Paris will hear this part of the case on 9 February 2023.
In the case, both Apple and Google turned to international teams. Mixed firm Dentons led the case for Apple; it is known in the market that the firm often litigates for the US tech company in France, although this is one of the few visible litigation proceedings.
In France, however, young partner Loïc Lemercier, who joined the firm from Clifford Chance in 2021, is leading the case for Dentons. Patent attorney firm Netter supported Dentons in the invalidity proceedings.
Usually Apple uses different firms in Europe – for example, US law firm WilmerHale often litigates for the company in London, such as in its ongoing case against Optis. In Germany, the patent lawyers from Hogan Lovells represented the US tech giant in now-settled litigation against Ericsson.
Google has turned to Allen & Overy in France to lead the case, with tech-specialist partner David Por in the driving seat. The firm’s French office has often worked for Google in the past, for example in a case against Sonos over smart speakers. Allen & Overy does not rely on external patent attorneys, with the team in Paris working on all aspects of the case, including invalidity.
Paris-based IP boutique De Marcellus & Disser Avocats acted for Ferid Allani, with name partner Emmanuel De Marcellus leading the case for the inventor. SMEs, French branches of international companies and start-ups frequently turn to the boutique, which often litigates for smaller, specialised companies against major corporations.
Dentons (Paris): Loïc Lemercier (partner); associate: Tom Blanchet (public information)
Netter (Paris): Jérémie Palacci (patent attorney) (public information)
Allen & Overy (Paris): David Por (partner); associate: Cyril Riffaud
For Ferid Allani
De Marcellus & Disser Avocats (Paris): Emmanuel de Marcellus (partner); associate: Camille Boillet
Judicial Court of Paris, France
Nathalie Sabotier (first assistant, vice president), Jean-Christophe Gayet (first assistant, vice president), Malik Chapius (judge), Caroline Reboul (registrar)