A serious problem looms over OPPO in Europe after a ruling by the German court in Munich: the brand is prohibited from selling its mobile phones, including those of OnePlus, in that country, Germany. All due to one lawsuit filed by Nokia on the illicit use of its 4G and 5G patents. Although the ban strictly concerns Germany, it could be extended to other countries within the European framework.
That a brand has to abandon the sale of a large part of its products due to a court order is a huge setback for the company, especially when it has a position of growing dominance in the country. And it is just what has happened to OPPO (along with OnePlus): the brand had to withdraw its mobile phones from distribution following a German court decision. According to estimated figures from StatCounter, OPPO and OnePlus have approximately 1% share in the country.
Nokia accuses OPPO of patent infringement
OPPO Find N
With patents innovation and ingenuity are preserved, they also serve to force negotiations between companies for the use of said patents. When it comes to mobile technology, there are countless usage rights that carry even the smallest of functions. A specific interface, a way to offer information on the screen or the huge number of patents related to wireless transmissions that require technologies such as 4G or 5G.
Nokia is one of the companies that has bet the most on mobile networks, especially 5G. Theirs are a good part of the teams that have been deployed by European infrastructures (along with Ericsson). And, since it has an important catalog of patents, Nokia negotiates with mobile manufacturers to allow them to make use of these technologies. OPPO and Nokia reached a patent agreement in 2018.
After the termination of the agreement established between the two companies, Nokia would have sued OPPO in court for allegedly continue to use patents in distributed smartphones. The lawsuit, filed in the courts of Mannheim, Germany, prospered; which ended up leading to the ban on the sale of phones. This happened in May 2022: Nokia won the second patent lawsuit. Both related to 4G and 5G.
OPPO and OnePlus are prohibited from selling mobile phones in Germany, but not other devices. Phone support will also not be affected
The courts of Mannheim declared the prohibition of sale to OPPO and the Regional Court 1 of Munich ratified the previous sentences dictating the entry into force of the veto. The result is what can be seen both in the German OPPO store and in the OnePlus store: there are no phones for sale. Of course, the prohibition does not concern the rest of the devices; such as headphones, cables or chargers. Nor is support for customers with an OPPO and OnePlus mobile at risk of disappearing.
According to OPPO, Nokia took advantage of its patents
Nokia 5G antennas
Nokia sued OPPO before the German courts and they have ended up agreeing with it. With the ban, the Chinese multinational is banned from selling smartphones on German soil; with the risk of this veto being extended to other European countries: According to the German newspaper Wirtschaftswoche, the medium that uncovered the news, Nokia would have filed lawsuits for the illicit use of its patents in the courts of Spain, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden; which could lead to a European ban if justice ends up failing as in the German case.
After the implementation of the German ban, OPPO sent us its official position regarding the setback suffered in Germany. As is clear from his words, Nokia took advantage of its dominant position due to patent ownership to negotiate an upward renewal. We do not know how the negotiations took place, but we do know where they ended: in the courts.
This is OPPO’s statement regarding what happened in Germany:
OPPO, as the owner of many 5G patents, highly values the role of intellectual property in innovation. We have a history of cross-licensing with many leading companies in the industry and are also strongly committed to fostering a strong, long-term IP ecosystem. A day after the termination of the 4G contract between OPPO and Nokia, the latter immediately went to court after asking for an excessively high renewal fee.
Our long-term commitment to the German market remains the same and we are working proactively with stakeholders to resolve this matter. Apart from the temporary interruption of sales and marketing of the affected products through OPPO-owned channels, OPPO will continue to operate in Germany. Users can continue to use OPPO products, access after-sales services, receive future OS updates, etc.
We don’t know how long OPPO’s sales ban will last in Germany and if the ban will end up spreading to other countries in Europe. From OPPO they reiterated that it would only be limited to German territory. We have contacted Nokia and will update this article as we learn their official position.
Via | Wirtschaftswoche, WinFuture