Imation v. Koninklijke Philips Electronics (Fed. Cir. 2009)
At its heart, this case is simply one of contract interpretation.
Philips and Imation (via 3M) had originally cross-licensed a set of patents relating to CD and DVD technology. The agreement expired in 2000, although the licenses themselves were irrevocable and continued. After 2000 several subsidiaries were formed (GDM and Memorex), and Philips argued that those companies activities were not licensed because the companies were formed after expiration of the agreement.
On appeal, the Federal Circuit held that the later-formed subsidiaries were included within the original grant of rights just like future inventions are included within properly drafted assignment agreements. In the license states that Philips “agrees to grant and does hereby grant to [Imation] and its Subsidiaries a personal, non-exclusive, indivisible, nontransferable, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free license.” According to the court, that grant is a ” singular, present grant to a class composed of Imation and its Subsidiaries of rights to existing and future patents that fall within the definition of ‘Licensed Patents.’” Philips (losing) argument was that the grant language formed “multiple licenses over time.” Under that theory, no license would be granted to subsidiaries formed after 2000.
Reversed and Remanded