Ericsson has filed another set of patent infringement lawsuits against Apple, suggesting that the phone maker is continuing to use their intellectual property (IP) without authorisation
Back in 2015, Apple signed a seven-year patent-licencing agreement with Ericsson, authorising the iPhone maker to use various technology patents covering 2G, 3G, and 4G.
Now, with that agreement likely expired, the time has come for Apple to renew the patents, as well as signing new ones for Ericsson’s latest 5G technologies. However, the relationship between the two companies has grown shaky, with the two companies beginning to clash during licencing discussions last year.
The dispute broke out in earnest back in October, when Ericsson issued a lawsuit accusing Apple of attempting to lower the royalty rates it paid the vendor for the use of its 5G IP.
Ericsson had announced in 2017 that their 5G royalty rate would be $2.50 to $5 per phone, figures that the company appears to have stuck to, according to a December filing by Apple. However, Apple argues that the market dynamics have changed since 2015, with their own share of mobile standard essential patents increasing by around 500%.
“Given these facts, under any cross license between Ericsson and Apple, Apple’s net payments to Ericsson should decrease as compared to under the 2015 license,” the company argued.
By December, Apple was firing back with a lawsuit of its own, saying that Ericsson was attempting to “strong-arm” Apple throughout the renewal process. It claimed that Ericsson had breached FRAND (fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory) obligations, as well as suggesting that some of Ericsson’s 5G patents were not essential.
“Ericsson has refused to negotiate fair terms for renewing our patent licensing agreement, and instead has been suing Apple around the world to extort excessive royalties … we are asking the court to help determine a fair price,” said Apple earlier this week.
Now, the bell is ringing for round three, with Ericsson once again beginning legal proceedings against Apple, this time claiming that phone maker is still using their patents, despite not having renewed the licence.
“Since the prior agreement has expired, and we have been unable to reach agreement on the terms and scope of a new license, Apple is now using our technology without a license,” said Ericsson in a statement.
Naturally, we will not know the outcome of this legal battle for many weeks, if not months, but it would appear that Ericsson has something of an advantage, having settled a similar lawsuit with Samsung last year. While Samsung presumably pays a royalty rate lower than that being asked of Apple, Ericsson will likely argue that $5 per device for the more expensive iPhones is consistent with their overall licencing strategy.
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