The Chinese technology group BBK, which includes well-known smartphone brands such as OnePlus, Oppo, Realme and Vivo, has been involved in a legal dispute with Nokia for a long time. It’s about using 5G technology without a license. In particular, Nokia charges license fees of up to EUR 2.50 per smartphone sold. However, the BBK does not see this and has so far refused to enter into the relevant transaction.
Such patent litigation by technology producers is nothing new and is common practice, especially in Germany, because we have extremely strict patent law in this country. In the end, however, arguments are often limited to “saber rattling” and there is rarely an actual ban on selling products. However, in the case of BBK, there has been a change that is shocking, at least for fans of the BBK brands.
No sale for Oppo and OnePlus
After Nokia ./. BBK was silent for a moment, yesterday, on Sunday, it learned from the WirtschaftsWoche report that the ban on the sale of Oppo and OnePlus smartphones was obtained after the judgment of the Munich District Court 1. This was also implemented, because everyone who visits the German Oppo website will no longer find there smartphones.
The same goes for OnePlus as well. The manufacturer recently presented OnePlus 10T, which should also appear in Germany. However, nothing will come out of this, because OnePlus has closed its store. The smartphones are still in the list, but it is no longer possible to put them in the cart. So, if you want to buy a smartphone from these brands, you’ll need to either import it first or (if available) buy it from your local retailer. The latter can still sell their remaining stocks or replenish stocks from abroad when necessary, as there is no import ban.
Realme and Vivo to follow?
It is still unclear how the ruling will affect the other BBK brands. We have already asked Realme and Vivo for an official statement, but have not yet received a reply. As soon as a statement is made here, we will make it later. The fact is, however, that these brands are also subject to patent litigation because all devices use the same software base, and often even the same hardware platform.
In fact, today it looks like Realme has stopped selling its smartphones in Germany. If you browse the range in the European Realme store, you will quickly notice that there is not a single smartphone in stock and can be ordered here. Instead, the “Notify Me” button is displayed, where you can be notified when the desired smartphone is available again.
I am not sure about going back
Even though it is still waiting for the official statement of BBK brands, it is currently unlikely that BBK will step down after the sale ban and still have a deal with Nokia. Had there been such an intention, it would certainly not have gone so far as to actually impose a sales ban. This is also because BBK would be required to enter into a worldwide agreement with Nokia. License fees would have to be paid not only for smartphones sold in Germany or Europe, but also worldwide. This would have a huge impact on BBK’s business, especially in low-income countries as they tend to sell cheap devices there. In this regard, it is likely that the affected BBK brands will permanently leave the German market and possibly other countries, unless Nokia itself refers to the BBK group.
Until an import ban is introduced, smartphones can still be sold by retailers or imported directly by end customers. However, if an import ban is later imposed, things could get worse. All BBK brands collectively have a market share of around 20% in Germany.
This would create a big gap in the German smartphone market, which would be felt not only by BBK itself, but also by the end customer. There can be bottlenecks that other brands cannot fully compensate because of overall production bottlenecks. It would also cause a price increase, which could be more noticeable, especially in the case of Xiaomi. Therefore, it is to be hoped that there will be no import ban.
BBK is struggling with further problems in Europe
Incidentally, it’s also exciting to look at other European countries. Nokia’s lawsuits against the BBK Group are also pending in Spain, France, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Finland and Sweden. If the courts there followed the example of Germany and also imposed a sales ban, it would be a serious blow to the BBK brands.
A pan-European bottleneck problem should not arise in the event of a total import ban in these countries, as BBK’s overall market share at European level is not as high as in Germany itself. Samsung, Apple and Xiaomi dominate here, while only one BBK brand (Oppo) is in 5th place with a slightly over 2% market share.
Of course, we will keep you updated on the entire topic and, as I mentioned, we will be making BBK brand statements as soon as they are available.
Update on August 8 at 12:00: OnePlus has now sent us an official company statement. According to OnePlus, they are actively working on a solution that will allow the resumption of direct sales in Germany.
OnePlus scrupulously complies with the laws and regulations in all markets in which we operate. As a leading technology brand, we recognize the importance of intellectual property in driving innovation and value fair access to key patents highly. Nokia’s demand for an unreasonably high fee is disadvantageous in this case.
We actively work with the relevant parties to resolve any pending legal case. While the sale and marketing of the relevant products is on hold, OnePlus remains committed to the German market and will continue its activities. Meanwhile, OnePlus users in Germany can continue to use our products and related services, such as regular software updates and our after-sales service, as before.
OnePlus official statement