In a series of lawsuits before German courts in Dusseldorf, Munich and Mannheim, Nokia and other UMTS/LTE SEP holders sue Stuttgart based car manufacturer Daimler for patent infringement. Daimler obtains the attacked embodiments (various connectivity modules) from its suppliers in a multi-level supply chain, who, according to customary practice, obtain relevant licenses and provide freedom to operate for OEMs. While other patentees offer licenses to suppliers, Nokia refuses to do so and, instead, offers licenses only to car manufacturers. This raises the question whether Nokia complies with its FRAND obligations or whether Nokia’s refusal to grant a license to Daimler alone justifies Daimler’s FRAND defence.
Although the German Federal Cartel Office had already suggested a referral to the CJEU by German infringement courts in accordance with Art. 267 TFEU, the District Courts in Munich and Mannheim have granted injunctions against Daimler under similar circumstances without such a referral. However, on 26 November 2020, the District Court of Dusseldorf stayed the case in parallel proceedings (case reference: 4c O 17/19) and requested the CJEU to give a ruling on the question.
In its order, the Dusseldorf court requests a ruling on the following questions: