Ericsson Sues Apple Over Patent Licensing, Seeks To Block iPhone And iPad Sales

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Ericsson, the pioneering wireless technology company that holds many patents related to cellular network connectivity, has filed suit against Apple both with the International Trade Commission (ITC) and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, claiming violation of 41 patents that apply to both the iPhone and iPad. These include essential patents related to 2G and LTE tech, as well as non-standard patents dealing with software and component hardware design.

With the ITC filing, Ericsson is seeking exclusion orders, or junctions, meaning it would want to have the sale of Apple device’s barred pending resolution of their patent complaint. The U.S. District Court case is mainly about Ericsson attempting to recoup damages from Apple.

The main issue here appears to center on licensing arrangements – Ericsson’s standards essential patents fall under FRAND terms, which means Ericsson must offer them to other companies under fair and reasonable non-discriminatory licensing terms. Apple and Ericsson had a global licensing agreement that expired last month. A renewed offer based on what Ericsson believes were FRAND terms was rejected, and the wireless pioneer also says an attempt to have the dispute resolved by a U.S. federal court’s decision on what would constitute fair terms was also declined by Apple, leading to this legal action.

Ericsson holds a portfolio of over 35,000 patents, and remains the largest individual holder of standards essential patents in the wireless industry. It’s difficult to find a contemporary company in the wireless industry that doesn’t have licensing agreements in place with Ericsson, but it looks like Apple probably felt they could get better terms than what were being offered in this case.

Apple provided the following comment regarding the renewed court action, reiterating its statement from when Ericsson first filed suit in January:

With tens of thousands of innovative employees, Apple has deep respect for intellectual property. We’ve always been willing to pay a fair price to secure the rights to standards essential patents covering technology in our products. Unfortunately, we have not been able to agree with Ericsson on a fair rate for their patents so, as a last resort, we are asking the courts for help.