On 1 June 2021, Nokia and Daimler announced via a joint press release that they have settled their global patent dispute with a patent licensing agreement. Under the agreement, Nokia will license mobile telecommunications technology to Daimler, that will remunerate Nokia for the use of its technology. All pending litigation between the two parties, including the antitrust complaint by Daimler against Nokia filed with the European Commission, has also been settled. This includes the patent infringement case brought by Nokia against Daimler before the Düsseldorf Regional Court which gave rise to the request for a preliminary ruling request to CJEU.
The dispute in a (tiny) nutshell
At its simplest, the dispute between Nokia and Daimler concerned the level at which standard essential patent (“SEP”) licences should be available. Daimler took the position that the presence of SEPs and Nokia’s undertaking to the European Standard Organization ETSI meant that Nokia was under a duty to licence to allcomers (on FRAND terms) and a refusal to do so, constituted an abuse of dominance.
Questions referred by the Düsseldorf Regional Court
The Düsseldorf Regional Court had taken advantage of the litigation between Nokia and Daimler to request clarifications on the questions left open by the CJEU Huawei/ZTE judgment delivered on 16 July 2015. The Huawei/ZTE doctrine determined the conditions under which a SEP holder, that had given an irrevocable commitment to grant a licence on FRAND terms, would not abuse its dominant position by bringing a patent injunction against an SEP user/implementer.
The questions referred to the CJEU for preliminary ruling covered mainly whether a SEP holder could abuse its dominant position if it refused to grant a license to suppliers. The Regional Court also requested several clarifications on the Huawei/ZTE framework for negotiations between patent users and SEP users.
Downside of the settlement for third parties
Since the originating case has now been withdrawn from the Düsseldorf Regional Court, the CJEU will not have the opportunity to give an answer to the questions asked. You can follow this link for the official translation of the referral.