After a series of successes in the German courts, Seoul Semiconductor has now suffered a defeat in the dispute over LED technology. The Federal Patent Court has declared a patent null and void. The Korean company is a licensee of the patent. The dispute is over a technology which is used, for example, for flashes in cameras and mobile phones.
The Federal Patent Court cited the lack of inventive step as the reason for its decision (2 Ni 22/20 (EP)). The patent EP 1 697 983 protects a technology that increases the efficiency of LED light-emitting diodes. Although the patent expires in 2022, it is likely the patent holders will appeal against the decision.
LED chip maker Epileds Technologies, a supplier of Seoul Semiconductors competitor Everlight, filed a nullity suit against the patent in March 2018. German electronics retailer Conrads, and Austrian mobile phone manufacturer Emporia Telecom, have also joined the nullity suit.
The plaintiffs filed the suit in response to infringement actions brought by Seoul Semiconductor. Seoul Semiconductor had filed suits in Düsseldorf and Mannheim based on EP 983 as a licensee of the patent owners, the Japan Science Technology Agency (JSTA) and the Regents of the University of California.
The Düsseldorf proceedings were directed against Everlight’s German distributor Mouser and are still pending (case ID: I-15 U 4/19). The lawsuit against electronics retailer Conrads is still pending at the Mannheim Regional Court (7 O 90/19).
For years, the parties have argued over various patents and utility models in Germany and other countries. The disputes focus on technology to increase the efficiency of LEDs. For example, the technology is used for flashes in cameras and flashlights in mobile phones. Currently, parallel proceedings are ongoing in Italy. A court in China also upheld the patent in a parallel nullity suit.
Seoul Semiconductor regularly relies on Linklaters in patent disputes. In the infringement proceedings, Frankfurt-based partner Julia Schönbohm has cooperated from the outset with patent attorney Olaf Isfort. The latter took over the lead in the nullity proceedings.
For firm Frohwitter, this case was its first time working for Epileds. Contact was established through its long-standing client Everlight. The two patent attorneys, Edward Tomlinson and Mathias Himmelsbach, advise the Taiwanese LED manufacturer in various proceedings concerning LED technology.
Currently, the two patent attorneys are also active for Mouser in the parallel infringement proceedings in Düsseldorf concerning EP 983, alongside Bird & Bird.
Mouser distributes Everlight products and regularly instructs Bird & Bird for patent cases. Litigator Oliver Jüngst also advised on the proceedings at the Federal Patent Court. Eva Schröder assissted Jüngst, as she took over from Florian Schmidt-Bogatzky following his move to the Düsseldorf branch of UK patent law firm EIP.
For years, Conrad has relied on Nuremberg patent attorney firm Stippl in patent disputes. The firm regularly cooperates with Krieger Mes partner, Dirk Jestaedt.
Emporia Telekom also has a long-standing client relationship with IP boutique HGF. The latter firm has a Salzburg office and regularly files patents for the company at the European Patent Office. HGF regularly represents Emporia Telekom in patent and trademark disputes.
For years, HGF patent attorney Bernhard Ganahl has cooperated with the Düsseldorf law firm Kather Augenstein. He advised alongside litigator Alexander Härtel, who recently joined Bardehle Pagenberg.
For Seoul Semiconductor
Schneiders & Behrendt (Bochum): Olaf Isfort (patent attorney)
Linklaters (Frankfurt): Julia Schönbohm (partner); associate: Bolko Ehlgen
Frohwitter (Munich): Edward Tomlinson, Mathias Himmelsbach (both patent attorneys)
Bird & Bird (Düsseldorf): Oliver Jüngst (partner); associate: Eva Schröder
For Conrad Electronic
Stippl Patentanwälte (Nuremberg): Hubert Stippl (patent attorney)
Krieger Mes & Graf v. der Groeben (Düsseldorf): Dirk Jestaedt (partner)
For Emporia Telecom
HGF (Munich): Bernhard Ganahl (partner, patent attorney)
Bardehle Pagenberg (Düsseldorf): Alexander Härtel (partner)
Federal Patent Court, 2nd Senate
Kathrin Grote-Bittner (presiding judge), Monika Hartlieb, Tobias Friedrich, Peter Zebisch, Hergen Kapels
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