19 August 2020

Success for Nokia in SEP dispute against Daimler over use of 4G connected car technology

In a ruling that took place yesterday (18 August 2020) at the Mannheim Regional Court in Germany, Nokia secured a win against Mercedes-Benz carmaker Daimler following a long-running IP dispute over use of Nokia’s patented 4G technologies in its cars. Of the 10 infringement cases filed by Nokia against Daimler, this SEP case (2 O 34/19) relates to connected car technology (European patent EP2981103B1).

Representatives for Daimler disputed the requirement to obtain a licence themselves, as they considered that the suppliers (i.e. Continental) of the connectivity modules, that made use of the relevant patented technology, should obtain the licence, rather than the car maker itself.

The Mannheim court decision states that, aside from providing information and paying damages, Daimler now must stop using and selling the connectivity modules which utilise Nokia’s technology. The cost for Nokia to obtain an injunction against Daimler is a staggering €7 billion – one of the highest of its kind set by a German patent court. Nokia has not yet confirmed whether it will pay this security deposit, but if it does, the win to would help to strengthen its negotiating position with Daimler (and that of the wider Avanci patent pool members).

Looking at the current situation relating to SEPs in Germany, the Nokia patent (as part of the Avanci licence pool) in the present case between Nokia and Daimler strengthens the position of Avanci against carmakers as well as their suppliers in Germany.

However, carmakers are applying pressure on the German government to restrict the possibility of injunctions in Germany. At present it seems that the German government is willing to amend patent law in the direction the carmakers want, but it is unclear as to which extent. The present ruling, and in particular its effect on Daimler, will be closely monitored by the parties to argue what kind of restriction of injunctions in German patent law are necessary if at all. Daimler has already announced that it does not accept the ruling and will file an appeal, but it is not possible to predict long it will take before a final decision can be made.