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Patent Infringement Causing German Ban Of Select Lenovo & Motorola Products

Amid an ongoing legal dispute between Lenovo and InterDigital, a US-based technology research and development company, over a patent infringement regarding WWAN modules, Lenovo and its subsidiary Motorola are facing a sales ban in Germany.

WWAN modules allow for wireless mobile connection in smartphones and other portable devices. A court decided Lenovo uses technology that InterDigital has a patent over, and hasn’t met their demands for fair, reasonable licensing fees.

According to a court ruling, select Lenovo and Motorola products are now banned in Germany.

More specifically, the sale of several Lenovo and Motorola devices utilising WWAN modules have been banned.

All devices supporting GSM, UMTS, LTE and 5G connectivity are now not allowed in the German market, including some Lenovo mobile devices and Motorola smartphones.

The restriction also applies to any Lenovo or Motorola device that connects to a mobile network via an eSIM or SIM card.

Motorola’s most recent Edge 50 lineup of smartphones, the Motorola Edge 50 Ultra, the Motorola Edge 50 Pro, and the Motorola Edge 50 Fusion, are included in the ban.

Due to this ban, new Lenovo products including the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga, the Tab K11 Plus tablet, and the latest ThinkPad P series (which includes the ThinkPad P1 Gen 7, P16v i Gen 2, P16s i Gen 3, and P14s i Gen 5), won’t be sold in Germany until the ban has been lifted.

In late 2014, Lenovo purchased Motorola. Since, Motorola handles smartphones while Lenovo handles tablets and computers.

Currently, Motorola’s German website doesn’t list any smartphones or tablets for sale, only a few accessories that don’t use the disputed technology.

Lenovo believes InterDigital’s terms aren’t fair and are expected to appeal the court’s decision.

For now, only third-party retailers are selling Lenovo and Motorola devices, but only while stocks last. Usually, the companies would reach a settlement outside of court, but at the moment, it appears this won’t be happening, and it’s unclear how long the ban will last.

The dispute has roots in the world of standard-essential patents (SEPs) and fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licensing terms.

SEPs are critical for key technological functionalities in mobile communications, with companies such as InterDigital holding many of these patents.

Disagreements often hinge on the interpretation of what constitutes fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory licensing terms, due to a lack of specific provisions.

Germany’s courts have issued several injunctions against companies like Lenovo and Motorola, stopping them from selling devices that allegedly infringe on SEPs.

The dispute between Lenovo and InterDigital is not the first. Last year a similar dispute took place, with the British High Court ruling that InterDigital’s patent license fee shouldn’t be higher than $0.175 per device.

The ruling was part of a larger battle over FRAND, and Lenovo and Motorola don’t agree and are still able to revoke the injunction via an appeal.

Lenovo has initiated a second FRAND trial, asking the UK High Court to set a global licence rate for InterDigital’s whole portfolio, including implementation patents and SEPs. The court will have to calculate the FRAND rate from 2024 and later.

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