HomeEntertainmentDolby sues Turkish TV maker in UPC alleging audio SEP infringement 

Dolby sues Turkish TV maker in UPC alleging audio SEP infringement 

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A Dolby Laboratories subsidiary has sued a Turkish home appliance maker in the Unified Patent Court, alleging it has infringed a standard essential patent covering the Opus audio codec. The suit marks Dolby International’s third UPC case involving patent pool membership and forms part of a growing trend of SEP holders experimenting with the new European venue.

The lawsuit names defendant Arçelik AŞ, the company that manufactures Beko and Grundig and 20 more brands of household appliances. According to the company’s website, it employs 55,000 people in 57 countries and operates 45 production factories in 13 countries. Its consolidated turnover was €8 billion ($8.53 billion) in 2023.

Filed in the UPC’s Dusseldorf, Germany Local Division, Dolby has asserted EP 3 605 543, which covers audio coding technology essential for the Opus audio codec as incorporated by Android OS. Arçelik’s accused products are all televisions and electronic devices running on Android TV version 5.0 or later.

Dolby is one of two patent licensors in the Vectis IP Opus patent pool, which licenses 300 patents from 17 families by Dolby and Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. The latter is not involved in the UPC enforcement action.

Opus audio codec technology is central to remote conferencing on computers, phones, and devices. The Internet Engineering Task Force developed the standard, which uses two audio codecs and switching software which combines the codecs to optimise the use and flow of data in audio communications. Vectis is licensing the pool assets to hardware device manufacturers for €15c per unit starting from launch and up to a €15 million cap per annum.

“After multiple attempts over the past year to discuss an Opus patent pool licence were met with silence, Vectis was left with no choice but to advise the pool’s licensors to consider enforcement measures,” states Vectis CEO Giustino de Sanctis via email. “As pool administrators, we have a duty to protect willing licensees by all possible means, including recommending enforcement action against companies that disregard patents and refuse to even discuss why a licence is needed. The licensors in the Opus patent pool are aligned on the importance of putting the welfare of licensees and the innovation ecosystem first and taking the necessary steps to ensure a level playing field for all.”

The Opus patent pool, launched in January 2023, has not published the names of its licensees, but IAM understands it has signed up nearly 20 companies from the US, Europe, and China. The licensees produce products like televisions, smartphones, cameras, and more. 

Despite success negotiating with some companies, the pool has run into the same problem as any other patent licensor when trying to converse with other potential licensees who fail to engage in a dialogue. When a pool licensor files litigation it indicates the licensing programme has entered a new phase. This case may not be the last if other potential licensees have not responded to licensing demands.

The UPC has seen a growing number of litigations involving SEPs – and this includes three cases by Dolby itself. Nokia is another frequent user with three UPC proceedings. 

Key filings include:

  • June 2023: Huawei sues Netgear over a wireless network patent in one of the UPC’s first crop of cases and the first asserting a SEP.
  • June 2023: Philips sues Belkin, asserting three patents relevant to the Qi standard for wireless charging.
  • August 2023: Panasonic files 12 UPC complaints against Oppo and Xiaomi asserting wireless assets.
  • October 2023: Nokia files its first and second UPC cases against Amazon.com Inc and HP Inc over AVC and HEVC video codec assets.
  • January 2024: Dolby accuses Hewlett-Packard and Asustek of infringing HEVC patent assets. Dolby is a member of the Access Advance HEVC pool and its UPC cases were the first by one of that pool’s licensors.
  • February 2024: Lenovo sues Ericsson in the UPC, asserting two 5G patents. It was the first net licensee and SEP implementer to use the court.
  • March 2024: Nokia files its third UPC case against Verifone, a payment systems company, over cellular and Wi-Fi assets.
  • April 2024: Dolby’s current action against Arçelik over Opus technology in Android TVs and devices.

The multi-regional approach to enforcement employed in both campaigns is typical of SEP litigation. The use of the UPC, which allows patent holders to seek infringement remedies across up to 17 countries, is unsurprising given the cost and effort required for nation-by-nation European enforcement and the lack of harmonisation in European countries’ approaches to SEP/FRAND questions.

The litigations by Dolby over its participation in both Vectis IP’s Opus pool and Access Advance’s HEVC pool also show that the SEP holders who lean on pool licensing arrangements will also make use of the Unified Patent Court when enforcement becomes necessary.

A spokeswoman for Dolby did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did Arçelik’s investor relations department.

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