Multicasting and Software: Too soft to be described?

Case No. S2018_001 | Decision of 23 May 2018 | ‘Vorsorgliche Massnahmen / Beschreibung’

Note that Hepp Wenger Ryffel is involved in this matter on behalf of the plaintiff.

The plaintiff Two-Way Media requested that, in accordance with Art. 77(1) lit. b PatA, a precise description be made of certain infrastructure and processes relating to Swisscom’s internet-based televion (IPTV) products Swisscom TV 1.0, Swisscom TV 2.0 and TV Air. Swisscom was one of the first providers worldwide of IPTV, with about 1m customers already in 2013; see here.

Screenshot www.swisscom.ch
Screenshot www.swisscom.ch; see live here
  1. What the patents are all about

The two patents in suit are EP 2 323 333 B1 (see the EPO Register and Swissreg for further information) and EP 2 278 775 B1 (see the EPO Register and Swissreg for further information). Both patents have already lapsed in May 2017.

The patents generally relate to the communication of audio or video content over a network, such as the Internet. More specifically, certain processes and products for the provision of real-time audio and/or video communication services to a wide range of users are concerned.

The patents propose a multi-casting system with a scalable distribution architecture and a scalable control architecture that provides for superior management and administration of users who are to receive the information. In addition to the provision of real-time audio and/or video communication services to a large number of users, the operator can also provide related follow-on offerings based on the behaviour of a user who has registered and authenticated himself in advance.

  1. Parallel proceedings elsewhere

The defendant inter alia argued that validity of the patents was doubtful, with reference to a decision of the CAFC in the U.S. and the fact, that infringement proceedings based on validations of both European Patents in Germany are stayed while nullity proceedings are pending.

However, the reasoning from the U.S. could not be applied to the present matter, and the defendant did not provide any material arguments for invalidty. The decision thus holds that invalidity has not been sufficiently substantiated.

Eine materiell-inhaltlich begründete Auseinandersetzung zur Nichtigkeit der hier massgeblichen Streitpatente wird von den Beklagten nicht vorgetragen und eine solche ist daher nicht glaubhaft gemacht.

  1. Legitimate interest

The decision holds that the requests at least partially pertain to facts which are accessible to the plaintiff even without judicial intervention, and that it therefore is questionable whether there is a legitimate interest to that extent; Art. 59(2) lit. a CPC.

Further, the decision holds that it was not clear to what extent the current state of affairs could allow conclusions to be drawn for a possible patent infringement before May 2017. The plaintiff could and should have argued that the current system of the defendant corresponds to the system in place at the time before the expiry of the patents, or to what extent which current facts allow conclusions to be drawn about the system in place at that time.

  1. Financial claims

As mentioned above, the patents in suit have already lapsed. Thus, only infringment in the past is at stake — incl. compensation for damages, and the right to information.

The decision holds that a description according to Art. 77(1) PatA indeed is possible even after a patent has lapsed.

Wenn eine Beschreibung auch dazu dienen kann, um Beweismittel zu beschaffen bzw. um die Prozessaussichten für Verletzungshandlungen während der Wirksamkeit bzw. der Gültigkeitsdauer eines Patents abzuklären […], dann muss sie grundsätzlich auch nach Erlöschen des Patents möglich sein. […] Es genügt, wenn ein der Klägerin zustehender Anspruch verletzt ist. Demnach schliesst Art. 77 PatG die Anrufung eines bloss finanziellen Anspruchs nicht aus.

However, the decision further holds that the plaintiff has to substantiate his financial claims with the request for description, but did not do so.

Allerdings ist […] der der Klägerin zustehende finanzielle Anspruch, resultierend aus einer in der Vergangenheit erfolgten Patentverletzung, zu substantiieren und glaubhaft zu machen. Zu Schaden, Widerrechtlichkeit und Kausalität eines konkreten Schadens äussert sich die Klägerin jedoch nicht; ein ihr zustehender Anspruch wurde damit nicht einmal substantiiert behauptet.

On a personal note: Isn’t that at odds with the hn and reasons of O2013_008?

  1. How to describe software-implemented processes

The defendant argued that software-implemented processes were not accessible to sensual perception and could therefore not be the subject of a precise description within the meaning of Art. 77(1) lit. b PatA.

The FPC did not agree. Rather, everything that can be described technically in the context of an inspection is accessible to a precise description. But when the target of the description cannot be directly assessed, then it is the plaintiff’s task to to give precise instructions how to obtain specific findings so that the software-implemented processes can be concluded from such findings.

Die Klägerin hätte, um ihrer Substantiierungspflicht nachzukommen, mit ihrem Gesuch konkret angeben müssen, wie was wo genau beschrieben werden kann und soll bzw. welche angeblich gespeicherten Informationen wie angezeigt und betrachtet werden können.

Welcome to the jungle

The decision gives some examples of how software-implemented processes could be indirectly described, e.g. by measuring temperatures in a software-controlled manufacturing process. But how would you do that when only data is concerned, and you cannot know how the data is actually handled by the defendant? Is a description then really available? Reading between the lines of the decision, I have my doubts. The decision suggests that there may well be situations where a plaintiff just cannot meet his burden of substantiation.

Kann oder will der Antragsteller seiner diesbezüglichen Substantiierungslast nicht nachkommen, kann ihm das Gericht dies nicht abnehmen ohne die Dispositionsmaxime zu verletzen (Art. 55 Abs. 1 ZPO).

The FPC thus dismissed the request for a precise description.

Reported by Martin WILMING

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Case No. S2018_001 | Decision of 23 May 2018 | ‘Vorsorgliche Massnahmen / Beschreibung’

Two-Way Media Ltd.

./.

  1. Swisscom (Schweiz) AG
  2. Swisscom AG

Panel of Judges:

  • Dr. Rudolf RENTSCH
  • Peter RIGLING
  • Frank SCHNYDER

Judge-rapporteur:

  • Peter RIGLING

Court Clerk:

  • Susanne ANDERHALDEN

Representative(s) of Plaintiff:

Representative(s) of Defendant:

DECISION IN FULL

Fullscreen view (new tab)

EP 2 323 333 B1

Fullscreen view (new tab)

EP 2 278 775 B1

Fullscreen view (new tab)

BE ON THE KNOW

Enter your name and email address below to subscribe to this Blog and to receive new posts by email.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email