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Qisda is a major publicly-listed contract manufacturer in Taiwan, appearing among the top 10 global original design manufacturers (ODMs). It has been relatively quiet on the patent front compared to some of its peers, but a recent spate of infringement cases targeting Chinese and Taiwan smartphone makers suggests that it may now be working with a third party to monetise its modest trove of assets.
An entity called Deshodax LLC filed seven patent infringement complaints in the Eastern District of Texas back in April, according to Lex Machina. All of the suits assert a single patent – US7,307,398 – which was granted to Qisda subsidiary BenQ Corporation in 2007. Deshodax LLC, a Texas entity, was registered in January this year, and obtained the patent from Qisda one month later. The defendants are Huawei, ZTE, Lenovo, TCL, OnePlus, Acer and Nokia – all the complaints name some type of mobile phone.
Like the four large Apple suppliers currently caught in the middle of the smartphone giant’s fight with Qualcomm, Qisda is an OEM/ODM – it makes products including PCs, smartphones, medical devices and automotive electronics. Its subsidiary BenQ sells electronics under its own brand, including monitors, laptops and cameras. BenQ, originally an Acer spin-off, previously had a partnership with Siemens to produce mobile phones; that folded in 2007, around the time the patent-in-suit was granted.
Aside from a dispute with Thomson Licensing which it appears to have settled in 2013, Qisda’s patent activity has been restricted to licences with companies like Microsoft and occasional divestments of assets, none of which have subsequently led to any known litigation. CEO Hui Hsiung suggests the company has devoted greater resources to R&D over the past five years, saying it has accumulated more than 1,500 patents during that time. While that’s modest by the standards of some of its larger competitors, it may be that the company is looking to realise some return from the investment BenQ made in its now abandoned smartphone venture.
Though Foxconn has long been a pioneer in the Asian IP market, other OEMs from Taiwan have been relatively slow to follow. IAM reported last year that Compal and Wistron subsidiaries were investors in Kinglite Holdings, a Seychelles company engaged in multiple US assertion campaigns against Taiwan companies Micro-Star International, Elitegroup and Gigabyte. Those campaigns – which are closely linked to Transpacific IP – were the result of an acquisition of a patent portfolio from a US software company. As this blog wrote then, the two manufacturers working together with an NPE to acquire and assert US patents was a fairly novel approach for that market.
With some Taiwanese ODMs working with NPEs and others embroiled in a billion-dollar licensing dispute, it is no surprise that smaller players in the field like Qisda are not sitting on their hands. But the Kinglite case provides an illustration of the challenges that may await, as it was beset by IPRs. Who Qisdas partner is and whether the company has retained an interest in the litigation is opaque for now. If it is indeed beginning a campaign to monetise its patents through US assertion, it will need all the help it can get.