Ericsson intensifies its legal battles with Apple with a number of new lawsuits thrown the iPhone maker's way. Indeed, the Sweden-based telecommunications equipment manufacturer has filed lawsuits against Apple in the United Kingdom, in Germany, and in the Netherlands. All of these lawsuits alleged that Apple was in violation of patents that Ericsson holds involving wireless communications technology. According to the Swedish communications company, these lawsuits were filed following a move by the telecoms firm to enter into arbitration with Apple in order to come at a decision regarding patent royalties.
Legal tussles between the two companies are nothing new. Earlier this year in February, Ericcson revealed that it had filed legal action against Apple in the United States for allegedly violating the same patents involving 2G and 4G LTE standards, semiconductor parts, user interface software, and other mobile-related tech.
At the heart of these legal battles is a global licensing agreement between Ericsson and Apple. The former currently holds more than 37,000 patents, and it has signed over 100 patent licensing agreements with various parties. One of them is Apple, whose agreement with Ericsson included standard essential technologies, or intellectual property that is generally needed for the continuing operation of a business in its respective market. Patents that are categorized as standard essential are those that must be offered on fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory (FRAND) terms and conditions to ensure that that there is no unfair, fraudulent competition in the market.
The patents included in Ericsson's lawsuits against Apple belong to the standard essential category. As Ericsson put it, the terms of the patent licensing deal were offered on a FRAND basis. But Apple has elected not to renew its license to these patents back in January of this year because it views the terms as incongruous with FRAND terms. Negotiations between the two companies ensued, with Ericsson offering arbitration as a solution, but Apple essentially said no thanks to the offer.
Interestingly, Apple's decision not to negotiate came after the company had filed its own lawsuit against Ericsson in a US District Court last January. Apple had acknowledged that in its iPhones, it was making use of technologies that are part of Ericsson's extensive portfolio of patents. But Apple further claimed that Ericsson was asking too high an amount for royalties. Apple maintains that it would be willing to pay a price that it deems fair for Ericsson's standard essential patents, and nothing more. What Apple considers fair pricing is when patent royalties are charged based on the costs of components -- not as a percentage of the entire cost of the iPhone, which is what Ericsson is demanding to be paid.
As of this writing, no court has ruled on the status of the patents involved, and on how royalties should be charged.
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