UK Court Denies SanDisk MP3 Patent Case Hearing
SanDisk tried to take its case against several MP3-related patent holders to court in England, but was denied a hearing by The High Court who stated all of SanDisk’s claims fell outside the court’s jurisdiction of the UK.
SanDisk claimed that the Institut FÃ¼r Rundfunktechnik Philips, France Telecom and TDF, all of which own European patents relating to MP3 sound encoding technology, were using the courts to intimidate the concern and were abusing their dominant position in the licensing terms they offered for their patents.
Justice Pumfrey said the High Court did not have jurisdiction on any of the issues involved, and that action needed to be taken where the harm was actually done, which was in a number of other European countries. SanDisk makes a number of MP3 players outside Europe which are sold in the European Economic Area, where it has a number of subsidiary companies, two of which are based in the UK. In February 2006 it refused to buy a licence offered to it by Sisvel, a fifth defendant which is an Italian licensing company representing the other four’s patent interests.
The dispute between the companies came to an ugly head at a German trade show where the Berlin Public Prosecutor raided SanDisk’s exhibition stand and seized 37 MP3 players. Sisvel has also obtained seizures in Italy and Border Detention Orders across Europe, which stop the transfer of the machines for sale at the border into the EU.
SanDisk took a case in the UK in which it argued the patent owners had:
1) refused to deal individually with it
2) tied the licensing of essential MP3 patents to deals for non-essential patents
3) demanded excessive royalties
4) abused the patents system to acquire a collective dominant market position
5) “brought sham, vexatious legal and administrative actions” in order to harass SanDisk into buying licences to patents it did not need
6) sought to prolong the life of their patents.
The High Court ruled that the court had no jurisdiction for each of SanDisk’s claims because any damage suffered was said to have been suffered elsewhere.