Lenovo seeks halt of Asus laptop sales over alleged patent infringement


A marketing image for Asus' Zenbook Pro 14 OLED, which Lenovo is accusing of patent infringement.
Enlarge / A marketing image for Asus’ Zenbook Pro 14 OLED, which Lenovo is accusing of patent infringement.

Lenovo filed a lawsuit against AsusTek Computer Inc. and Asus Computer International, claiming that Asus’ laptops infringe on four of Lenovo’s patents. Lenovo is seeking damages and for Asus to stop selling Zenbook laptops and other allegedly infringing products in the US.

The lawsuit [PDF] filed November 15 in the US District Court for the Northern District of California says Lenovo’s looking for a jury trial and “damages, including lost profits, caused by the alleged patent infringement.” On Tuesday, Lenovo announced that it filed a patent infringement action against Asus with the US International Trade Commission (ITC).

Four patents

The lawsuit centers on four patents. The first, entitled “Methods and apparatus for transmitting in resource blocks” was issued in 2021 and relates to minimizing the delay experienced during an uplink package transmission by reducing the number of steps for a wireless device to upload data.

Lenovo’s lawsuit, which uses Asus’ Zenbook Pro 14 OLED (UX6404) as an example of an allegedly infringing product, also claims Asus is selling laptops that violate the wireless wake-on-LAN power management patent issued to Lenovo in 2010.

“For example, prior to the ʼ066 Patent, there existed a need for techniques to supply main power to devices included in a wireless LAN without intervention of an operator. … The invention includes a wireless receiver that receives a wireless signal,” the lawsuit says. It continues, explaining: “The receiver is connected to a main system whose power is not on,” and that “after receiving a signal, it is determined whether a magic packet is contained.” If the magic packet is present, “a signal is sent to turn on the main power supply to the main system.” The lawsuit notes that the tech doesn’t need a handshake with the wireless access point.

Another patent Lenovo is suing over was issued in 2010 and entitled “Touchpad diagonal scrolling.” It allows users to “initiate a diagonal scroll at any location on a touchpad by using two fingers,” the lawsuit says.

“For example, the Accused Products support applications, such as Google Chrome and Adobe Acrobat, and incorporate hardware and firmware in their touchpads, which are specially made or adapted to practice the invention claimed in … the ’189 Patent,” Lenovo’s claim reads.

Finally, Lenovo is upset about Asus’ purported infringing of its “Dual shaft hinge with angle timing shaft mechanism” patent rewarded in 2014. Lenovo describes it as a hinge block enabling 2-in-1 laptops to go from clamshell mode to tablet mode. For this accused patent infringement, Lenovo’s lawsuit points to  Asus’ Zenbook Flip 14 UX461, which Asus advertises as having a 360-degree “ErgoLift” hinge that “lifts and tilts the keyboard into the perfect typing position when the display is rotated into laptop mode.”

A screenshot from Asus' ZenBook Flip 14 product page that advertises the hinge in question.
Enlarge / A screenshot from Asus’ ZenBook Flip 14 product page that advertises the hinge in question.

Lenovo claims lawsuit was “last resort”

In its Tuesday press release, Lenovo said it decided to make its complaint to the ITC in response to the August 2023 filings Asus made with The Regional Court of Munich patent tribunal. Lenovo claimed that Asus’ filings were related to cellular tech for which Lenovo had offered Asus “a cross-licensing deal as a solution.”

In a statement accompanying Tuesday’s release, Lenovo deputy general counsel and chief intellectual property officer John Mulgrew argued for a need for Lenovo to “assert [its] patent portfolio more actively” in consideration of its roles as a licensee and licensor. Lenovo has over 28,000 patents, with 14,000 pending, it said.

Mulgrew’s statement highlighted interest from Lenovo in fair, reasonable, and nondiscrimantory (FRAND) licensing terms.

Increasingly, we’re seeing some licensors bypass FRAND discussions and rely instead on threats to extract inflated, supra-FRAND royalties from licensees. We think the better approach entails mutual respect, openness, and fairness, and outside assistance with FRAND if negotiations are at an impasse.

As noted by The Register today, in a letter to the ITC dated November 15 [PDF], Lenovo said it wants Asus to “cease and desist from marketing, advertising, distributing, offering for sale, selling, or otherwise transferring, including the movement or shipment of inventory” products that infringe upon the four patents in question.

In a further dig, Lenovo added that a limited exclusion order wouldn’t harm US consumers or competition, due to Asus’ smaller market share. According to the IDC, Asus represented about 7.1 percent of the PC market (which includes laptops and desktops) in Q3 2023. Lenovo led at 23.5 percent.

Ars Technica reached out to Lenovo and Asus for comment but didn’t receive responses before publication.

In Tuesday’s statement, Mulgrew added that “litigation is always Lenovo’s last resort.” We have seen Lenovo get litigious about laptop design in another matter recently. In August 2022, it sent a cease-and-desist letter to Framework over an O-shaped power button in a Framework motherboard case that Lenovo said looks like its Legion gaming brand logo. Lenovo has also been on the receiving end of recent IP-related lawsuits, including a pricing dispute with InterDigital, (which Lenovo essentially won), and an ongoing dispute with Ericsson about 5G.


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