Huawei loses landmark patent dispute in the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has recently ruled against Chinese telecommunication companies Huawei and ZTE, in a landmark intellectual property case. This now means that the latter companies, as well as any others, are required to take out a global license for patented technologies, should they be essential to international wireless telecommunication standards. If a company fails to take out such license, it could risk the complete restriction of access to the UK market.

Back in 2014, Huawei were sued for patent infringement by Unwired Planet, whom held patent licenses for 2G,3G and 4G. After years of litigation and dispute, The Supreme Court were Huawei’s only legal avenue, however the Court was unanimous in its dismissal of Huawei’s appeal. The concept of standard-essential patents (SEPs) are a crucial factor when it comes to technology, as they ensure that the innovators, whom hold SEPs are not holding those who use them hostage, by increasing the prices. Inventors can also benefit, as there are measures put into place to ensure the patent holders are rewarded fairly.

Furthermore, the judgement will mean that there can be no negotiation between SEP holders, such as Unwired Planet, and implementors, like Huawei, as to negotiating patent licenses on a country-by-country basis. This is to prevent smaller companies from having to fight legal battles in several jurisdictions. In their decision, the Supreme Court also found that Unwired Planet was not required to match the royalty rates for Huawei that it had offered to Samsung.

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