High Court rules in Nokia OnePlus SEP dispute

January 27, 2023

The High Court has issued its ruling in the case of Nokia Technologies OY & Anor v OnePlus Limited Technology (Shenzhen) Co., Ltd & Ord=s [2023] EWHC 23 (Pat).

The claimants (Nokia) alleged that the defendants (together, Oppo) had infringed European Patent (UK) No. 2 981 103 B1 by selling certain mobile phones with 4G/LTE and 5G functionality.

In a related trial the court had already held that a Nokia implementation patent was valid and infringed by Oppo. By contrast, this trial concerned a standards essential patent (SEP).

Oppo argued that the patent was invalid on multiple grounds.

The court considered the scope of the common general knowledge (CGK). There were three specific areas of disagreement going to individual items of technical understanding, but also a dispute of wider impact about how to assess CGK in the unusual circumstances of the case. That dispute went to whether Oppo could legitimately mosaic two prior art citations together.

The key argument by Oppo was that the patent was anticipated by a European patent application called Woo. The judge made the point that the parties’ arguments were very long and detailed and went well beyond the analysis that the ordinary skilled person would undertake. The judge also though that both sides, but especially Oppo, picked the meaning that would suit their case in this litigation and then went looking for ways to shape Woo’s disclosure toward it. The judge rejected Oppo’s argument that the Woo anticipated the patent.

The judge also considered and rejected Oppo’s arguments about obviousness.

The judge also considered Oppo’s arguments about added matter. The law on this was not in dispute and the court rejected Oppo’s arguments about this.

Oppo had also contended that all the claims of the patent were invalid ont he ground of excluded subject matter under s. 1(2)(c) of the Patents Act 1977, The court considered the complicated case law in this area and followed the following test:

  • properly construe the claim;
  • identify the actual contribution;
  • ask whether it falls solely within the excluded subject matter;
  • check whether the actual or alleged contribution is actually technical in nature.

Having considered these matters, the judge ultimately rejected Oppo’s attack on the patent.

The judge therefore concluded that the patent was valid and that it was admitted to be essential and so claim 1 of the patent was infringed by 4G and 5G functionality in the Oppo phones.