High Point SARL v. Sprint Nextel Corp., No. 15-1298 (Fed. Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
In the 1990s, AT&T obtained patents covering the transfer of packetized voice traffic between cellular base stations and switching centers. In 1996, AT&T assigned the patents to Lucent, which later assigned them to Avaya. In 2008, Avaya sold the patents for $2 million to High Point, reserving an interest in any proceeds obtained through litigation. High Point is based in Luxembourg and does not practice the patents. Within three days, High Point began sending demand letters asserting infringement, including to Sprint. Beginning in 1995, Sprint had built a network based on Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), which allows multiple cellphone users to share the same radio frequency. CDMA is now standard. AT&T (later Lucent) supplied equipment for the CDMA network. As that network grew, Sprint used unlicensed equipment from several vendors. In 2004, Sprint began upgrading the Lucent equipment with Motorola equipment. Motorola was not a party to the Lucent-Sprint licensing agreement. In 2006, Alcatel purchased Lucent. High Point claims that act terminated any license for Sprint’s use of Lucent equipment. Nortel began selling equipment to Sprint. Nortel was no longer a licensee to the patents. No infringement concerns were raised until 2008, when High Point sued, asserting violation of the licensing agreements and that the Sprint network operated through the combination of licensed and unlicensed equipment to facilitate the transmission of voice call traffic in an infringing manner. The Federal CIrcuit affirmed summary judgment, based on equitable estoppel.