The first U.S. patent trial since the COVID-19 pandemic hit this spring kicked off in a Marshall federal courtroom on Monday with tech giant Apple defending its technology against Optis Wireless Technology which is claiming patent infringement over 4G LTE technology used in iPhones.
U.S. District Chief Judge Rodney Gilstrap for the Eastern District had his courtroom full on Monday as both sides spent the day making their selections for the jury.
Both the plaintiff and defendant were able to squeeze in their opening arguments for the trial just before the end of the day Monday, with the former claiming Apple infringed on five different patents related to the use of LTE cellular technology.
In the case, Optis Wireless Technology LLC, Optis Technology LLC, Unwired Planet LLC, Unwired Planet International Limited and Panoptis Patent Management LLC are listed as plaintiffs against Apple Inc.
According to JD Supra, a daily legal intelligence website, Optis Wireless Technology LLC contends that it complied with its “Fair, Reasonable, and Non-Discriminatory” (FRAND) obligations when it offered a “global license” to Apple Inc. for standard-essential patents, covering Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technology.
“The plaintiffs have repeatedly negotiated with Apple to reach an agreement for a global FRAND license to the plaintiffs’ patent portfolios which Apple is infringing,” the lawsuit states. “The negotiations have been unsuccessful because Apple refuses to pay a FRAND royalty for a license to the plaintiffs’ patents.”
Apple’s attorney Joseph Mueller of Wlmer Hale Law Firm asserted in his opening argument on Monday that Apple will prove during the trial, through the use of technological experts and computer engineers, that Apple never infringed on the technology in the patents to access LTE networks.
“There are standards for cellular communication devices and one of those standards is LTE, almost all cellular devices are able to work on LTE networks,” Mueller told the jurors. “Of course Apple products work on LTE networks and that’s not in dispute, what is in dispute is how and are those five patents used in Apple products. How do we figure that out? We look at those five patents carefully and methodically and compare them to Apple products — if they match, then there’s infringement, but the evidence will show you important differences between these five patents and Apple. We will look at the guts of the iPhone.”
The patents-in-suit cover inventions titled: “Method and Apparatus for Transmitting and Receiving Shared Control Channel Message in a Wireless Communication System Using Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access; “Method for Transmitting and Receiving Control Information through PDCCH”; Control Channel Signaling Using a Common Signaling Field for Transport Format and Redundancy Version; “Mobile Station Apparatus and Random Access Method”; “System and Method for Channel Estimation in a Delay Diversity Wireless Communication System”; Method for Transmitting Uplink Signals”; and “Mode switching between SU-MIMO and MU-MIMO.”
“The plaintiffs exclusively own all rights, title, and interest in the patents-in-suit necessary to bring this action, including the right to recover past and future damages,” the lawsuit states.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs, in conformance with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute’s (ETSI) IPR Policy, have informed Apple that they are prepared to grant Apple an irrevocable license to their standard essential patents, including the Patents-in-Suit, on terms that are “Fair, Reasonable, and Non-Discriminatory” (FRAND).
ETSI is an independent, nonprofit standard setting organization that produces globally-accepted standards.
“Apple requires a license to one or more essential patents owned by Optis Cellular, Optis Wireless, Unwired Planet International, and Unwired Planet, the lawsuit states. “Apple is not currently licensed to practice the patents-in-suit,” the lawsuit alleges.
The plaintiffs allege that the accused infringing Apple products include all LTE capable models in Apple’s iPhone, iPad and Watch lines of products.
The lawsuit states that given Apple’s unwillingness to license the plaintiffs’ essential patents, or to cease its alleged infringement, the plaintiffs have filed this lawsuit for the purpose of protecting their patent rights in the United States.
“The parties’ licensing negotiations have been unsuccessful for the simple reason that Apple refuses to pay FRAND royalties for the Plaintiffs’ valuable patent portfolios,” the lawsuit contends. “Apple is failing to honor that FRAND licensing is a two-way street, requiring not only that the licensor is fair and reasonable in providing licensing terms, but also that the licensee is fair and reasonable in accepting them when they are offered.”
Mueller contested the “essential” claim to the plaintiffs’ patents, saying on Monday during his opening argument that for a company to claim their patent is “essential” is merely a declaration which means nothing if the company cannot prove that their patent is truly “essential.”
“The plaintiffs declared these five patents as essential but that doesn’t mean it’s essential and it certainly doesn’t mean it’s in the Apple iPhone,” he said. “The only way to prove it is to ‘pop the hood’ and check the guts of the phone. We, Apple, are going to present you facts, piece by piece, because we trust your judgement. The component in the phone that we will be looking at in this case is the baseband chip — which is a computer chip that is used for cellular communications. Not every baseband chip is the same because hundreds of teams of engineers are continuously creating and working on them. You are going to hear from an engineer who works on these chips to show you how they’re made. We are bringing fact witnesses to you because we believe the facts are on our side. For each of these patents, at least one requirement is not met in each patent compared to the Apple products.”
Mueller said just because Apple phones work on the LTE network, doesn’t mean the patents were infringed in any way to get their products to work on the network.
“The plaintiff says, ‘Apple products are working on LTE networks so they must be using our essential patents,’” Mueller said. “The plaintiff claims they own a road somewhere and we have traveled on it to get to LTE. We will prove we haven’t done anything like that. Just because two cars are both traveling 65 mph on a highway doesn’t mean they both have the same engine. We have to go inside the devices to see how they work and that’s why we’re bringing engineers and technological experts to show we don’t use these five patents and never did.”
The case resumes today with witness testimony from the plaintiffs.