Apple Ericsson patent battle heats up with a legal first for the Cupertino company

Apple Ericsson’s patent battle reached a new level yesterday when Colombia’s first iPhone sales ban went into effect. Apple now seems determined to obtain an injunction against the importation and sale of Ericsson products.

The details of the move are a legal first for the company, made possible by its $1 billion acquisition of Intel’s modem business in 2019….

Background

Ericsson accuses Apple of infringing its patents on the 5G chips used in current iPhones. Indeed, Apple used to pay royalties for the use of patented technology, but then did not renew licenses when they expired. It is believed that Apple was hoping to broker a better deal for 5G licensing, having struck a deal on patented 2G, 3G and 4G technology.

Things escalated when Apple sued Ericsson in December last year, claiming the Swedish company had breached FRAND terms. It is international law that imposes essential patent standards (SEP: technology without which it is impossible to manufacture a smartphone) under fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory conditions. In other words, Apple claimed that Ericsson overcharged patent license fees.

Ericsson in turn accused Apple of wasting court resources by forcing unnecessary litigation on two fronts. Apple retaliated by filing an unrelated patent infringement lawsuit against Ericsson.

Apple was pressuring Ericsson by withholding payments, and Ericsson was returning the favor by seeking to ban the import and sale of iPhones in several countries. We reported yesterday that the Swedish company had secured its first such ban in Colombia.

Latest Apple Ericsson: iPhone maker in first-ever MS claim

Apple has already filed several patent infringement countersuits against Ericsson, but has never filed a patent infringement suit for a Standard Essential Patent (SEP)probably because his R&D work wouldn’t tend to generate them.

But its 2019 purchase of Intel’s modem business gave Apple ownership of a number of SEPs, and Foss Patents reports that the company is filing a patent infringement lawsuit for a SEP for the first time.

There are more and more firsts in the Ericsson patent litigation against Apple 5G. Colombia’s first-ever Standard Essential Patent (SEP) judgment (Ericsson is now enforcing a 5G injunction, which Apple has desperately sought to prevent); the first-ever “emergency motion” for an order of damages against the lawsuits [explained yesterday] and now the first-ever SEP lawsuit brought by Apple – which has been the recipient of SEP claims for over a decade, but is only hitting back with a SEP for the first time in its history.

The patent in question relates to 4G/LTE technology.

The site’s Florian Mueller says that while it’s not yet clear whether Apple is seeking to ban the import and sale of Ericsson’s 4G/LTE products, the court chosen by Apple gives a huge clue.

The venue is – of course – Munich, the world’s #1 MS injunction hotspot (although I haven’t found out yet if Apple is seeking an injunction, I’m sure it does now or will do so later).

Netcost-security.fr’s point of view on Apple Ericsson’s latest development

I said yesterday that because Apple does not deny infringing Ericsson’s patents by not renewing its licenses, and because Ericsson is seeking bans on the import and sale of iPhones in several countries, the company of Cupertino was playing high-stakes poker without a good hand.

Apple’s rollout of SEP infringement lawsuits certainly strengthens its hand. While the company has already secured Intel’s modem business at a bargain price – giving its own 5G chip efforts a huge boost – the ability to deploy Intel’s patents as a weapon in the patent infringement claims now proves a very handy bonus.

The bottom line here is that both societies are vulnerable. Ericsson, because simultaneously cutting off its revenue streams from product sales and patent royalties puts it in a financially precarious position. Apple, because the financial consequences of iPhone sales bans in major markets are putting huge amounts of money at risk. You’d think the two companies would recognize the meaning of settling the dispute in a boardroom, rather than a series of courtrooms around the world, but so far there’s been no sign of compromise. from both.


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