InterDigital v. Nokia: Intervention Improper if Filed After Settlement

Ericsson v. InterDigital v. Nokia (Fed. Cir. 2005).

Ericsson sued InterDigital for a declaratory judgment that InterDigital’s group of digital wireless telephone patents are invalid and/or unenforceable. After a decade of litigation, the parties settled in 2003 and agreed to maintain the litigation record under seal. In the meantime, Nokia entered into a license agreement with InterDigital as a "most favored licensee."  Thus, Nokia’s payments are based on settlement amounts from the Ericsson case.

To protect its interests, but only after the Ericsson settlement, Nokia moved to intervene in the Ericsson case.  The district court granted Nokia’s motion — holding that "the Court’s rulings potentially affects Nokia’s obligations under its agreement with InterDigital." InterDigital appealed.

Finding that intervention is not a matter unique to patent law, the CAFC applied Fifth Circuit law to determine whether the intervention was proper. Under Fifth Circuit precedent, the appellate panel found that since Nokia filed its motion after the case was already dismissed, "Nokia’s motion to intervene failed to satisfy the Fifth Circuit requirement that there be an existing suit in which to intervene."

Reversed —