Chinese smartphone manufacturer OnePlus was stopped from shipping or selling its smartphones in India, following an interim injunction by the Delhi High Court. This was after the domestic handset maker Micromax complained that its exclusive rights had been infringed by OnePlus launching OnePlus One in the country, running a custom version of Cyanogenmod. Micromax had an exclusive license for India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan and Myanmar regions from the same company, while OnePlus has a global non-exclusive license for Cyanogen.
Details in ruling by the Delhi High Court indicate that Cyanogen changed its stand repeatedly. A timeline of what transpired:
January 2014: OnePlus signs non-exclusive global licensing deal with Cyanogen
OnePlus announces its partnership with Cyanogen, as part of which Cyanogen developed a custom version of its Android deployment Cyanogenmod called Cyanogenmod 11S for the first OnePlus phone called OnePlus One, which was also the first commercial Cyanogen product. The order says OnePlus was granted a two-year limited non-exclusive license to use Cyanogen’s trademarks and software across the entire world, except for Mainland China, valid until January 31, 2016. The agreement was limited to online distribution.
Mid-2014: Micromax signs 3-year exclusive licensing deal with Cyanogen
Micromax signs a three year agreement to integrate and distribute Cyanogen’s core operating systems, as well as its ambient services (like remote wiping, privacy guard, and phone locating among others), and applications (Apollo music player, Clock widget and Sound recorder among others). This agreement became effective from September 26, 2014, and gave Micromax exclusive licenses for India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan and Myanmar regions.
While the ambient services are exclusive to Micromax, the Core OS is exclusive in a limited manner such that Cyanogen will not collaborate directly or indirectly with another OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) to integrate its Core OS to devices distributed in India.
August 2014: Cyanogen tells Micromax it’ll have exclusive rights after September 26th 2014
Micromax finds out about OnePlus’s plans to enter the Indian market with Cyanogen’s operating system and requests Cyanogen via email to take preventive measures. In response, Cyanogen confirms that exclusive rights will be transferred to Micromax post the agreement’s effective date (September 26th).
November 18th, 2014*: Cyanogen tells OnePlus it wants to terminate the partnership
As indicated by the emails in the publicly available court judgement (pdf), Cyanogen requested OnePlus to stop using the Cyanogen brand in PR.
November 24th*: Cyanogen seeks compromise, asks Oneplus to ship stock android in India
Also, OnePlus stops using Cyanogen branding.
November 26, 2014: OnePlus mails Micromax for talks; Micromax sends legal notice to Cyanogen
– Micromax says it received an email from OnePlus on November 26, 2014, stating that it was aware of the company’s agreement with Cyanogen and wants to discuss some sort of arrangement wherein OnePlus can use Cyanogen’s products in the Indian market. Note that Micromax claims that OnePlus has been aware of its exclusive deal with Cyanogen all along. OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei however claims that they came to know about the agreement on November 26, 2014.
– On the same day, Micromax sends a cease and desist notice to Cyanogen, asking it to not take any steps to infringe on the exclusive rights granted to Micromax, and to not allow any third party to infringe on these rights.
November 27th, 2014: Cyanogen’s software updates flip-flop
The court observes that “After several requests, Cyanogen apparently agreed to provide OTA support to OnePlus users in India only for December 2014. However, on the same day i.e. 27th November, 2014, Cyanogen issued a press release stating that their operating system will exclusively support Micromax’s mobile devices in India and will not support any other devices shipped in India with future updates.” Read a report following the Press Release here.
However, later that same day, it said it wouldn’t support any devices shipped in India with future updates, apart from those from Micromax. Following this, OnePlus told its Indian users that they will not be able to roll out Cyanogen-based software updates for its phones.
December 1, 2014: OnePlus files a lawsuit agains Micromax
Just a day prior to OnePlus’s India launch, OnePlus filed a lawsuit for injunction against Micromax co-founder Vikas Jain and others, in anticipation of Micromax or Cyanogen filing a lawsuit against OnePlus. It requests that defendants should not be allowed to institute proceedings against OnePlus in India, as it has spent a “tremendous amount of resources” for this launch and would suffer “hardship if defendants are not restrained”.
It also notes that since it has a valid license granted by Cyanogen for the use of CyanogenMod 11S and the trademark CyanogenMod, any attempt to terminate its agreement without any cause, reason and justification would be illegal and OnePlus will face “great hardship incapable of being compensated in monetary terms.”
Micromax later said that this lawsuit was filed to sabotage the launch of its first Cyanogen-based phone on December 20, 2014, since OnePlus allegedly had full knowledge about it. It also notes OnePlus hadn’t asked for any relief since it knew that the company didn’t have any legal right on this in India. The company adds that its agreement with Cyanogen supersedes any prior or existing agreement subject, due to which OnePlus is infringing Micromax’s rights as per the agreement.
December 4, 2014: Cyanogen says it will support OTA updates for all global devices, including India
Again changing its stand, on December 4, Cyanogen said it would support OTA updates for all global devices, including those in India. To quote,
To clarify misinformation out there, the OnePlus One will get OTA firmware updates for all global devices, including global devices for our users in India. Rather than have misinformation continue to circulate out there, we felt it important to bring this matter to rest.
As we look to the future, we want to continue to push the envelope and take the Cyanogen OS to new heights. Our strategic partnership with Micromax and the new YU brand of devices will enable us to bring high quality, amazing experiences to our users in India. Our commitment is and always remains to be a user-centric company, and we will support our users wherever our OS is distributed.
December 7, 2014**: Cyanogen clarifies that ‘global devices’ doesn’t include OnePlus One devices sold in India (source)
As we had pledged to our users, OnePlus One global devices will receive our OTA firmware updates. If a user in India purchased a OnePlus One global device in channels outside of India, they will receive our OTA firmware updates. However, this excludes OnePlus One regional devices sold directly in India. We are committed to our exclusive partnership in India with Micromax, which will be launching its first Cyanogen OS device under their new YU brand.
On these two instances, the court observes: “Similarly, Cyanogen on 4th December, 2014 in its blog again took a U-turn. However, later on, Cyanogen has cleared its stand in a subsequent blog”
OnePlus’s plea is not enforceable in Indian courts
The court notes that OnePlus’s plea to restrain Micromax from exercising its right as a exclusive licensee, is neither available to the company under the Cyanogen agreement since it is a limited non-exclusive licensee of Cyanogen nor can this be enforced in Indian courts. It says the only complaint that OnePlus can have is that Cyanogen breached its agreement by signing Micromax as a licensee in India, which can be decided only in Californian courts.
*-Email screenshots have been merged from the court document to make them easier to read (we’ve removed page-breaks).
**- Court documents mention this date as December 8th