Europe's highest court to review Huawei-ZTE patent-infringement dispute
Court in Germany refers patent dispute case between two mainland firms to Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg
The patents dispute between Huawei Technologies and ZTE, the mainland's two largest telecommunications equipment manufacturers, is set to be reviewed by Europe's highest court.
The Dusseldorf Regional Court has referred several questions concerning the application of EU competition law related to one of the patent-infringement cases lodged by Huawei against ZTE over 4G technology to the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg.
The referral has put the two companies' intellectual property dispute under the spotlight in Europe, where patent-infringement actions and anti-competition cases involving the likes of Apple, Samsung Electronics and Google's Motorola Mobility are being heard.
Intellectual property analyst Florian Mueller said in his online Foss Patents report: "An opinion issued by Europe's highest court will be binding on the European Commission's Directorate-General for Competition, as well as the courts and competition authorities of the 27 EU member-states."
In April 2011, Huawei, a privately held company, brought a series of lawsuits against ZTE in Germany, France and Hungary covering various 4G mobile technology patents. ZTE, which is listed in Hong Kong, filed its countersuit in mainland China later that month.
Huawei lodged two specific 4G technology patent-infringement cases against ZTE in the Dusseldorf court, while other specific patent cases were filed in the Mannheim Regional Court.
On Thursday the Dusseldorf court first ruled in favour of ZTE in litigation over one "standard essential patent" for 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology in smart devices and base stations.
The court dismissed all of Huawei's claims in this case because no patent violation was established.
Mueller said the court decided to stay the case involving another 4G LTE standard essential patent, and refer it to the Court of Justice of the European Union, after finding that ZTE infringed this patent.
The referral would help answer the court's questions about the availability of remedies to holders of "FRAND-pledged" standard essential patents who prevail in patent-infringement actions, he said.
FRAND, which is typically used to describe patent-licensing arrangements, is a legal term that stands for "Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory". In the telecommunications industry, it is normal for companies to agree on licensing a patent in FRAND terms.
ZTE said it "welcomes the two decisions made by the Dusseldorf district court in Germany" because these would "strengthen its defence against claims made by Huawei".