Apple Inc. and other US tech giants are finding German and European Union market a hard nut to crack when it comes to intellectual property-related legal issues. On Tuesday, a German court found the firm guilty of violating video streaming patents belonging to Kudelski Group subsidiary OpenTV (Source: “German court rules against Apple in video streaming patent case”, Reuters, March 16, 2016).
Not Clear Whether Apple Will Appeal
OpenTV took Apple to the court in 2014 on allegations that some of its products, such as iPad and iPhone, were violating its patents. The ruling by the Dusseldorf District Court ordered the firm to ensure that any of its products sold in German market shouldn’t use any streaming software that violates OpenTV patents.
The ruling is likely to energize smaller apps developers who feel major technology firms are blatantly infringing on their intellectual property.
It remains unclear whether Apple will appeal, though going by Facebook Inc.’s legal strategy in Germany, it could follow suit by filing an appeal.
Kudelski has slowly snapped various digital TV and movie technology firms over the past decades, with its 2010 purchase of OpenTV making it a market leader in streaming-video industry.
OpenTV has also filed another lawsuit against Apple in its home turf, following its licensing agreement with Cisco in 2014.
In December, Apple agreed to a partnership with Ericsson to research on 5G technology, the newest generation of wireless communication. The decision followed the signing of a global patent deal between the two firms that effectively ended lawsuits filed by Ericsson against Apple in the U.S. and Europe.
Ericsson had alleged that the company was using its 4G/LTE and 2G mobile communication technology without license. It filed lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas and in courts in Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Microsoft Also Sued in Germany
Apple isn’t the only U.S. firm to have lost a patent case in Germany. In 2012, Microsoft Corporation relocated its European distribution center to the Netherlands from Germany after it was sued by Motorola over patents related to the H.264 video standard.
Microsoft decided to do so even before the Mannheim District Court made a ruling in the case. Motorola had also sued Apple over allegations that it failed to obtain a license to use one of its standard wireless intellectual properties, and won the case in March 2012 (Source: “Motorola wins Apple wireless patent fight in Germany”, BBC, March 8, 2012). The firm had employed the technology on its 3G iPads and iPhones.
Apple also sparred against Samsung Corporation in a German court over patent infringements.
However, what raises eyebrows is why the company routinely loses patent-related lawsuits in Germany. The fact that Germany’s economy is advanced means patent-related lawsuits are commonplace.
This means the country has instituted specialized courts that solve such matters fast out of necessity. Such district courts are based in Gottingen, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Munich and Hamburg.
Moreover, Germany doesn’t have a shortage of highly-skilled judges for handling intellectual property cases.
For Apple to avoid losing patent cases, it needs to study such peculiarities and hire lawyers, specifically German-based, to assist it in patent-related legal matters.