Apple and Ericsson are in the midst of escalating tensions over a patent dispute. A litigation that threatens, among other things, to stop iPhone sales in certain countries and which is unfolding in several jurisdictions as lawsuits and counterclaims are filed in the competent courts. Let’s put some order in all these events.
The legal battle between Apple and Ericsson comes a long way. A scenario very similar to the current one has already been experienced in 2015, when the two companies clashed in court over a patent problem that extended to Europe. On this occasion, Ericsson already wanted Apple to stop selling the iPhone in the United States, which, as we will see now, is repeated again.
Ericsson sues Apple for patent infringement
In this case, it all started when, just over a week ago, Ericsson filed two lawsuits against Apple for patent infringement. The previous patent exchange agreement between the two companies, signed in 2015 to resolve the disputes we have just mentioned, would have come to an end and, according to the Swedish company, a renewal agreement had not been reached. This situation gave rise to Ericsson’s lawsuit, as reported in Foss Patents.
“Ericsson’s patent cross-licensing agreement with Apple has expired and no renewals have been agreed upon, so infringement litigation has become inevitable.” “IAM was the first to spot two filings by Ericsson against Apple in the Western District of Texas involving four patents in one case and eight in the other. Unsurprisingly, Apple will retaliate, but Apple’s exposure to claims of Ericsson eclipse patents”. “When there was no announcement of a renewed license agreement or new litigation after the start of the year, I thought the middle of the month was going to be when we would hear more. ”
Apparently, Apple is trying to negotiate less demanding patent terms. At one point, sources say, Apple refused to pay Ericsson’s proposed licensing fee of $5 per device. Already at the time of this lawsuit, the fact that Apple owns patents that Ericsson uses, opened the door to a counterclaim, just what ended up happening.
Apple sues Ericsson, also for patent infringement
The day after Ericsson sued, Apple did what we all expected, it filed a counterclaim. As collected in Foss Patents, the Cupertino company cited three patents related to wireless charging and antennas. Certain patents that Ericsson allegedly violates in its mobile stations. According to the publication, Apple had not previously mentioned these patents in any litigation.
“Apple has yet to mention these patents in litigation. Ever since the days of Android’s ‘thermonuclear war’, Apple has been purely on the defensive. Presumably, Apple will also file or has already filed an additional lawsuit against Ericsson before a federal court, but I haven’t found any in PACER yet. Also, I expect Apple to file a countersuit in some of the foreign jurisdictions (especially in Europe) where Ericsson has already filed infringement actions.
From the same text, they reflect on the strange situation experienced, since Apple prefers to reach an agreement in these disputes, which goes in the opposite direction to the counterclaims filed. Similarly, Apple wants to resolve the lawsuit in the District of Texas, a jurisdiction known to favor patentees.
So much has been done to avoid this region that in the past Apple closed two Apple Stores located there to prevent legal action from going through the jurisdiction. We can only infer, if we allow ourselves this luxury, that Apple is trying to create a precedent in the most complicated jurisdiction to put an end to the situation definitively.
The possibility of veto is more than present
After the first trials in Germany, Ericsson took legal action in the Netherlands and Brazil. At the same time, the company requested precautionary measures that would prevent Apple from importing the manufactured iPhone.
According to Foss Patents, the Swedish company would apply for these measures in Brazil, the Netherlands and Belgium. This is until, it seems, a request for measures can also be made in the UK.
So the situation repeats itself. The same impasse experienced in 2015, before Apple and Ericsson signed a licensing agreement, returns again in the form of a request for interim measures. Practically the same measures as those requested by the Swedish company on this occasion.
A confrontation with almost more questions than answers
In its financial results, Ericsson appears to have disclosed the estimated amount Apple is paying the Swedish company. An amount, given the size of Apple, almost circumstantial.
“Ericsson’s DPI licensing revenue continues to be impacted by the expiration of several patent license agreements pending renewal and 5G licensing negotiations. This will lead to estimated DPI licensing revenue of $110-150 million in the first quarter, unless renewals are signed in the first quarter.
To put us in context: Apple makes that $150 million in just about 15 hours of activity. It is true that with the request of $5 per iPhone plus the corresponding payment for the 5G patents, the figure would increase considerably, but it still seems low given the risk of maintaining a confrontation in court.
For now, we will have to wait for the future actions of both companies. Moves that clear up, or worsen, a delicate situation in which, given what has been seen, both companies have a lot to lose. We will wait for the next events.