Singapore Convention enforcement

In this 9/12 the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation, known as the Singapore Mediation Convention, came into force. This is a remarkable day for the international scenario of dispute resolution.

Article 14 of the Convention provides that it would enter into force six months after three of its signatories had ratified it into their domestic law, what happened in the 12 March this year, when Qatar became the third state to ratify the Convention.

The goal of UNCITRAL Working Group dedicated to the draft of the Convention was to create an international regime for the enforcement of mediation settlements that would contribute to increase the use of mediation as a conflict resolution method in international trade. With the Singapore Convention the role of mediation is strengthened and the reached agreements enforcements will be simplified.

The Singapore Convention applies to commercial cross border mediation. An important issue to pay attention at is the fact that Singapore Convention is not based in reciprocity between member states, as its “sister” New York Convention.

And what does it mean? It means that a member state shall enforce mediated settlement agreements even if it comes from a non member state. For example, if an international mediation was located in Brazil (a non signatories) it might be enforced in Saudi Arabia (a member state).

On the other hand, under the Convention, the states may adopt a reservation provision, which allows them to declare that they will apply it only to the extent that the parties to the relevant settlement agreement have agreed that the Convention will apply.

Thus, international mediation players from all nationalities should from now bear in mind that Singapore Convention matters.

DLA Piper wins landmark broadcasting dispute

DLA Piper has obtained two landmark decisions on central broadcasting law issues for ProSiebenSat.1 TV Deutschland GmbH and Sat.1 SatellitenFernsehen GmbH in a dispute with the state media authorities of Rhineland-Palatinate (LMK) and of Hesse (LPR) at the Federal Administrative Court (BVerwG).

The appeal proceedings concerned the legality of the license for the nationwide television channel SAT.1. This licence has been granted to ProSiebenSat.1 TV Deutschland GmbH by the state media authority of Hamburg/Schleswig-Holstein (MA HSH). It was issued under the condition that the previous licence for SAT.1, which has been granted by the LMK in 2008, is returned by its current holder Sat.1 SatellitenFernsehen GmbH.

After the actions for annulment of the new licence brought by LMK and LPR had already been unsuccessful in the lower courts, the Federal Administrative Court has now also rejected the appeals of the two state media authorities in last instance and confirmed the licence granted to ProSiebenSat.1 TV Deutschland GmbH. In August of last year the Federal Administrative Court had already rejected a motion for interim measures by a third party claiming detriments as a result of the planned change of the licence holder. Unlike the Higher Regional Court the Federal Administrative Court now generally denied the state media authorities’ right to sue. The Higher Regional Court had still assumed such right for the LMK.

The Federal Administrative Court has ruled that actions brought by state media authorities are inadmissible when they are directed against a licence for a nationwide television programme granted by another state media authority. In this respect, according to the court, a state media authority does not have any entitlement. Such entitlement neither arises from the fundamental right of freedom of broadcasting (Article 5 (1) sentence 2 of the German constitution) nor from an “ultimate responsibility for the legality of broadcastings in the respective purview of each state media authority”.

The decisions have fundamental importance. In 1997 the Federal Administrative Court had confirmed such ultimate responsibility of the state media authorities on basis of the Interstate Broadcasting Treaty in force then and in view of constitutional protection duties. Yet, the Federal Administrative Court no longer adheres to this in view of amendments to the Interstate Broadcasting Treaty which came into force mainly in 2008. Rather, in the opinion of the Federal Administrative Court, the current licensing and supervisory precludes ultimate responsibility of the individual state media authorities when it comes to licensing of nationwide broadcasters. With the new regulation the decision on the licensing of nationwide broadcasters had been transferred to joint bodies of the state media authorities, in particular the Commission for Licensing and Supervision (ZAK), which makes binding decisions with the majority of its legal members.

Moreover, the Federal Administrative Court did not follow the constitutional objections raised by the state media authorities against the reorganisation of media supervision introduced in 2008. The fact that the pluralistically composed decision-making bodies of the state media authorities lost a considerable amount of importance is compatible with the requirements of Article 5 (1) sentence 2 of the German constitution as well as with the principles of federalism and democracy.

Hogan Lovells secures major win in patent dispute case

A Hogan Lovells team from New York, Washington DC, and Northern Virginia have secured a major win for BASF in a three-week jury trial in the Eastern District of Virginia.

The case was one of the largest patent disputes in the United States, involving 350 claims from 17 patents and five different patent families. The underlying technology at issue involves the ability to use plants to make health-critical omega-3 fatty acids (now primarily available through fish products). Australian entities CSIRO, Nuseed, and GRDC sought royalties through December 2034.

Hogan Lovells defeated claims involving 13 patents through successful pre-trial claim construction, and by succeeding at trial in demonstrating to the jury the invalidity of certain patents, and co-ownership of others stemming from a previous collaboration. For the four remaining patents with terms expiring in 2025, the team persuaded the court not to issue an injunction and define a royalty rate a fraction of that sought.

“We are pleased to have obtained such a strong result for BASF,” said Hogan Lovells partner Arlene Chow. “One of the interesting aspects of this case is the team that went to trial was a strongly diverse team at both the partner and associate level. In a day and age when clients say they are looking for diverse legal representation, we are pleased that BASF supports diversity in high stakes matters.”

The Hogan Lovells team included partners Arlene Chow and Ernest Yakob in New York, Anna Kurian Shaw in Washington DC, and Tom Connally in Northern Virginia. The team also included senior associates Nitya Anand and Jared Schubert, and associates Takashi Okuda and Una Fan, in New York, and associate Tom Hunt in Northern Virginia.

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Apple and Qualcomm end their “Legal Beef” and drop lawsuits

The convoluted legal battle between Apple and chipmaker Qualcomm may be coming to an end. The companies said Tuesday that they’re dismissing all litigation against each other. Apple will pay Qualcomm an undisclosed sum as part of the settlement, which includes a six-year licensing agreement between the two.

The settlement also covers suits brought by Apple’s manufacturing partners, which wanted Qualcomm to repay $9 billion—a number that reportedly could have been tripled under antitrust law—that they say the chipmaker overcharged them for patent royalties.

The announcement came while Qualcomm’s lawyer was delivering his opening remarks in a trial of numerous claims and counterclaims that started Tuesday morning in San Diego, according to CNET. Qualcomm told investors last year that Apple would stop using its wireless chips, switching instead to chips made by competitors like Intel.

One potential catalyst for the settlement emerged a few hours later: Intel said it won’t make wireless modems capable of connecting to the coming generation of 5G networks. Earlier this year, Intel had said it would have sample 5G modems ready in 2019, and officially launch the products next year. With Intel no longer an option, that would explain why Apple needed to work out a new deal with Qualcomm. There are few 5G-capable networks operating yet, but Huawei, Samsung, and other smartphone makers have announced 5G-capable phones based on Qualcomm’s wireless chips.

The dispute between Apple and Qualcomm involved the unusual way Qualcomm licenses its technology to other companies. Qualcomm generally charges handset makers like Apple and Huawei around 5 percent of the total price of a phone for the right to use its technology, up to about $20 per device, according to a legal brief filed by Qualcomm. In other words, if you pay $300 for a phone that uses Qualcomm technology, $15 of that might go to the company, even if there are no chips made by Qualcomm in the device. If you paid $1,000, Qualcomm would get $20. Those licensing fees come on top of what a manufacturer would pay for Qualcomm’s chips. Apple referred to this as double-dipping and argued that Qualcomm only got away with it because it effectively holds a monopoly on high-end wireless chip technologies.

Though terms of the agreement were not disclosed, investors viewed it as good news for Qualcomm. Its shares rose 23 percent. Apple shares were little changed.

It’s not necessarily the end of the legal woes that have pitted Qualcomm against regulators around the world in recent years. The company is still awaiting a decision in an antitrust suit brought by the Federal Trade Commission alleging the company uses its dominant position in the wireless chip market to overcharge customers to use its technology.

During the FTC trial, Qualcomm said it doesn’t factor the value of its intellectual property into its chip prices. In other words, Qualcomm claims that it essentially sells the chips at a discount and then makes up for it with the patent licensing fee. It’s an odd arrangement, but it’s one that Qualcomm has had in place for decades, long before it became a major player in the semiconductor industry.

The history of Apple and Qualcomm’s legal beef sounds a bit like a Game of Thrones recap. Apple sued Qualcomm in January 2017, alleging that Qualcomm had withheld $1 billion in royalty rebates in retaliation over Apple’s cooperation with antitrust regulators in South Korea, where Qualcomm was hit with a $854 million fine in 2016.

Qualcomm countersued Apple that spring, claiming that Apple deliberately slowed Qualcomm modems used in some iPhones to cover up slower performance of Intel-made modems used in other iPhones. Apple retaliated by withholding payments for the patent licensing fees its manufacturing partners were supposed to pay to Qualcomm, and by expanding its lawsuit to include the double-dipping allegations. Qualcomm responded by suing Apple’s manufacturers over the unpaid licensing fees and by suing Apple itself for patent infringement.