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Patent war heats up as Samsung sued in Europe

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty


Samsung is being sued in Europe for infringement of the HEVC patents for video compression in smartphones and 4K TVs in a move that marks an escalation of the disputes over patent pools.

The case is being brought by patent pool administrator MPEG LA in Landgericht Düsseldorf, Germany, against Samsung Electronics GmbH.

The patents involved are essential to the HEVC (also known as H.265 and MPEG-H Part 2) digital video coding standard. A similar fight is brewing over the patents for the next codec, VVC (also called H.266), which is now being adopted by the DVB standards group for use in European broadcast systems.

According to the court papers in Germany, Samsung Electronics GmbH’s parent Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. was both Licensor and Licensee to MPEG LA’s HEVC Patent Portfolio License from 2014 until terminating in March 2020. Since then it says Samsung has continued to offer products including smartphones, tablets and televisions in Germany that use patent protected HEVC methods without license since the termination. 

However Samsung joined a separate patent pool administrator, HEVC Advanced (now called Access Advanced), in 2017 as a licensor and licensee of the essential patents.

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As a Licensor, Samsung made its essential patents available through the HEVC Advance patent pool.

“We are very excited that Samsung has chosen to take the lead in bringing 4K UHD technology to the marketplace as well as supporting our efforts at HEVC Advance to facilitate the efficient licensing of the HEVC/H.265 IP that makes 4K UHD technology possible,” said Peter Moller, CEO of Access Advance. “Having the support of the largest consumer electronics company in the world, and a leader in innovation with one of largest and most important HEVC/H.265 patent portfolios, will help eliminate HEVC/H.265 IP barriers and further accelerate 4K UHD adoption – a big win for consumers and all market participants.”

In December the Düsseldorf District Court found that Vestel Germany GmbH, another HEVC Advance member, was liable for damages arising from its infringement of certain HEVC standard essential patents.

Access Advance has a Duplicate Royalty Policy to address the substantial number of overlapping patents in the HEVC Advance Patent Pool and MPEG LA’s HEVC patent pool, but the German court found this was not FRAND (fair and reasonable). Two weeks ago, Access Advance announced it had updated its policy to provide more flexibility in avoiding duplicate payments of royalties.

The enforcement action by MPEG LA against Samsung seeks injunctions to stop products shipping in Germany, monetary damages and expenses.

www.mpegla.org; www.accessadvance.com

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