In a landmark ruling of the UK Supreme Court, patent owners Unwired Planet and Conversant Wireless were successful in their infringement cases against global tech giants Huawei and ZTE. The ruling is significant in relation to licensing intellectual property in the telecoms sector.
Unwired Planet and Conversant Wireless each own standard essential patents (SEPs). Such patents are crucial in implementing telecoms standards (such as 3G, 4G, etc) that allow communication between equipment produced by different manufacturers. In the unanimous decision, it has been ruled that the UK Courts have jurisdiction to determine reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms for global licences of SEPs.
The decision may be regarded by some as a “David against Goliath” win. In most situations, as in the present case, the innovators and SEP holders are smaller companies and the implementers are global tech giants. Granting licenses on a country-by-country basis (as opposed to global licenses, as ruled) would be impractical or impossible for the smaller companies.
This decision significantly strengthens the position of patent owners in the telecoms sector and is likely to establish the UK as the jurisdiction of choice for SEP holders protecting their rights through litigation.
Dr Cristina Penine, Senior Patent Attorney for ip21 Ltd