Mobile communication

Federal Court of Justice destroys Philips patent in nullity suit

Another strand in the patent dispute between Philips and multiple mobile phone companies is over. The Federal Court of Justice in Germany has declared a Philips patent invalid. It is another in a series of setbacks for the Dutch electronics corporation.

27 May 2020 by Amy Sandys

Philips patent, Wiko The Federal Court of Justice in Germany has confirmed a first instance decision of nullity for the Philips patent ©bunditinay/ADOBE STOCK

In January 2018, the Federal Patent Court in Munich declared Philips patent EP 15 71 988 null and void. The German Federal Court of Justice upheld the decision on 14 May 2020, in confirming the patent as nullified. The patent concerns activity monitoring in communication systems. The Philips patent is non-essential, otherwise known as an implementation patent.

Wiko, ASUS, Archos and HTC were the nullity plaintiffs in the dispute. This is another victory for them in a Europe-wide dispute with Philips. According to sources, a European Patent Office examiner cited a prior art document in the granting of the original EP 988 patent. However, sources say the same prior art document is behind the Federal Court of Justice’s revocation decision.

Philips’ patent play

In January, the Federal Court of Justice also declared European patent EP 08 88 687 owned by Philips invalid. It concerns rotating displays for smartphone screens. This patent is also non-essential.

Litigation regarding EP 687 is now over in Germany and all infringement proceedings have been dropped against co-defendants Wiko, HTC, Archos, Asus and Axdia. In this instance, Google intervened to lead the case on this side.

Cross-court clarity

The case has several facets, which have been drawn out over several years. In October 2016, the Mannheim Regional Court stayed the infringement case from Philips against Archos (case ID: 2 O 227/15) concerning EP 15 71 988. This is unusual in German patent courts. However, the court found that a revocation of the patent by the Federal Patent Court seemed sufficiently likely.

In this instance, the court was right as, in January 2018, the Federal Patent Court nullified the patent in May 2020.

Philips appealed the judgment. As a result, the Federal Court of Justice upheld the nullity decision. Now the patent is lost, infringement proceedings at the Mannheim Regional Court are no longer pending. In Germany, HTC has settled proceedings against Philips with regard to the same patent.

In Germany, around 14 patents are in dispute before the Mannheim and Düsseldorf patent courts. Four of the patents are SEPs. All others are implementation patents. The pan-European litigation contains a mixture of SEPs and implementation patents.

Lawyers for the long-term

The proceedings on 14 May took place via video conference. Philips has relied on its regular law firm Eisenführ Speiser, with attorneys Henke and Ehlers regularly working for the group. Hoyng ROKH Monegier represents the electronics group in France and the Netherlands.

Philips patent, Wiko

Christoph Hewel

Wiko has also relied on Düsseldorf-based Vossius partner Andreas Kramer for some time. Kramer brought the case from his previous position at Arnold Ruess in 2018. However, Vossius worked alongside patent attorney Christoph Hewel from Munich firm Betten & Resch in the nullity aspects of the case.

Until recently, Hewel was a patent attorney at Paris-based firm Cabinet Beau de Loménie. Here, the relationship with Vossius began.

In parallel proceedings, Wiko relies on Armengaud Guerlain in France and Brinkhof in the Netherlands. Archos is represented by Allen & Overy in Germany, France and the Netherlands. Throughout Europe, Asus is represented by Taylor Wessing. Patent attorneys at Kreisler Selting support the firm for Asus.

According to external sources, HTC and Philips has settled the case. The claim is withdrawn. Hogan Lovells acts for HTC, as well as patent attorney Gunnar Baumgärtel of Maikowski Ninnemann.

For Philips
Eisenführ Speiser (Hamburg): Jochen Ehlers (lead); Désirée Heintz, Tilman Müller (patent attorneys)

Allen & Overy (Munich): Jan Ebersohl

For Asus
Taylor Wessing (Düsseldorf): Roland Küppers, Alexander Rubusch
Dompatent von Kreisler Selting Werner (Cologne): Andreas Gagidis (patent attorney)

For Wiko
Vossius & Partner (Düsseldorf): Andreas Kramer, Hannes Obex, Leonie Dißmann-Fuchs
Betten & Resch (Munich): Christoph Hewel (patent attorney)

Federal Court of Justice, Karlsruhe
Klaus Bacher (presiding judge), Klaus Grabinski, Fabian Hoffmann, Patricia Rombach, Hartmut Rensen