Documents filed with the Delhi High Court show that Dolby Laboratories called off a dispute with Oppo last December after more than a year of litigation. For the US-based licensor of audio standards technology, the Oppo deal followed on two settlements with Indian defendants during the course of 2017.
Dolby made its first patent assertions in India in 2016, with Oppo and Vivo as its initial targets. In October that year, Delhi High Court Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw laid out an interim royalty payment regime requiring both defendants to deposit 34 rupees ($0.52 at today’s rates) with the court per device sold. According to SpicyIP, the court subsequently required the two Chinese brands to “furnish bank guarantees for the entire amount of the royalty payments due to the plaintiffs”.
The lead defendants in the Oppo and Vivo cases were local companies GDN Enterprises and DAS Telecom, respectively. On January 18th, the suit against GDN Enterprises was dismissed; lawyers for Dolby told the court it had entered into a ‘strategic cooperation agreement’ dated 30th December 2017 with both defendants.
There are no further details, but it sounds like the two sides may potentially have a global licence in place. Oppo will have been keen to shore up its freedom to operate in India, one of its most crucial markets, and potentially elsewhere as well. In the meantime, it continues to bolster its own portfolio through third-party acquisitions.
Meanwhile, the case targeting Vivo with lead defendant DAS Telecom appears to be rumbling on, according to court filings. While both Oppo and Vivo fall under parent organisation BBK Electronics, they rely on separate IP teams – so the deal with the former is no guarantee of an impending settlement with the latter.
Dolby has also asserted SEPs against three local defendants in separate cases originating in 2016. In March 2017, it announced a “global patent licence agreement” with Mitashi Edutainment, a Mumbai-based firm that sells LED TVs, speakers systems and home theaters among other products. Two months later, Dolby dropped a case against Mirc Electronics. Again, the company had secured a patent licence with the Mumbai-headquartered electronics company, which sells televisions under the Onida brand in India.
One more Dolby case remains active in India and that is against its biggest target. The suit is against Universal Digital Connect, which court records indicate is the mobile handset division of Videocon, an Indian conglomerate with $5 billion in annual revenue. Though the case is still pending, a recent filing states that “settlement talks are going on between the parties and there is possibility of amicable settlement”.
Dolby looks like it is on the road to fairly swift resolutions to its key cases in India. Incidentally, the man who has led the company’s licensing and litigation efforts in India, Nishant Sharma, will be speaking at tomorrow’s IPBC India conference. Dolby’s latest cases demonstrate why FRAND and SEP issues will be high on the agenda here in Mumbai.