Lenovo sues Asus for patent infringement, seeks US ZenBook ban

Why can't we be FRANDS?

Updated Chinese computer manufacturer Lenovo announced on Tuesday it had filed suit against Taiwanese manufacturer Asus for patent infringement related to software, hardware and connectivity in multiple products.

In a press release, Lenovo detailed that the action was in response to August 2023 filings from Asus in the Regional Court of Munich related to cellular technologies. The Chinese giant indicated it had offered a cross-licensing deal to Asus as a solution.

The Regional Court of Munich is Germany's busiest patent tribunal and often hears mobile communication related patent cases, and even published [PDF] guidelines on FRAND – the Fair, Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory licensing framework often applied to standards-essential patents (SEPs).

Lenovo's release declared it is a "strong proponent" of licensing agreements and FRAND terms, but in the next paragraph, Chief IP officer, John Mulgrew offered a caveat:

Increasingly, we're seeing some licensors bypass FRAND discussions and rely instead on threats to extract inflated, supra-FRAND royalties from licensees.

Mulgrew called litigation a "last resort" – a resort at which Lenovo has obviously booked a room, spread out its towel on a comfy-looking banana chair, and told staff to keep bringing fruity drinks with a little umbrella on top for the foreseeable future.

In a statement filed with the US International Trade Commission (ITC), Lenovo stated it seeks a limited exclusion order barring US entry to accused products. Those products are named as laptops, notebooks, 2-in-1 tablet computers tablets, desktop PCs, tower PCs, workstations, routers and components that infringe on four different patents.

The offending items include products like the Asus Zenbook Pro and Flip 14 with its 360° ErgoLift hinge.

Lenovo claimed in its lawsuit that it "has suffered, and continues to suffer, immediate and irreparable harm as a result of Defendants' past and continuing infringement" and therefore called for Asus to "cease and desist from marketing, advertising, distributing, offering for sale, selling, or otherwise transferring, including the movement or shipment of inventory" the infringing products.

In its letter to the ITC, Lenovo argued no harm will befall US consumers if ASUS products are banned, given the Taiwanese company’s small share of the US PC market (2.9 percent in Q2 2023) means consumers will not be starved for alternatives. Maybe even from Lenovo.

Among the four disputed patents is one concerning improvements that reduces the number of steps – and thereby overall delay – when transmitting an uplink package; a Wireless Wake-On-LAN Power Management technique; an invention that allows a user to initiate a diagonal scroll at any location by using two fingers; and a hinge block that enables a laptop to convert to a tablet.

Lenovo’s suit was filed on November 15 in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.

In its California lawsuit, the ThinkPad-maker claimed it is entitled to damages, including lost profits, caused by the alleged patent infringement. ®

Updated to add:

Asus has been in touch to refer to its statement on the Taiwan Stock Exchange, saying that "with respect to the ongoing litigation, ASUS will diligently safeguard its rights in accordance with the law. However, we are not able to make any specific comments about this case."

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