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The patent battle between Ericsson and Apple is further escalating. Ericsson is trying to ban resales of Apple products in Brazil, while Apple is trying to have no fewer than ten Ericsson patents declared invalid.
Ericsson is using one of Apple’s own legal tactics against the Cupertino company…
We previously explained the background to this dispute.
Manufacturing any mobile device requires the use of patented technology. If you literally cannot make a device without licensing a patent, this is known as a Standards-Essential Patent (SEP). There is a global agreement that licenses for these patents must be available on FRAND terms: fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory. In other words, the price asked must be appropriate, and you’re not allowed to charge one company more than another one.
Ericsson owns a number of SEPs, which Apple was licensing, alongside other patents that don’t qualify as standards-essential. However, Apple did not renew its licenses when they expired, likely hoping to negotiate a smaller fee, and we learned yesterday that Ericsson was therefore suing Apple for patent infringement.
Apple also owns some SEPs, and is now countersuing Ericsson for infringing these patents. Apple cited three patents relating to wireless charging and antennas, alleging that Ericsson mobile base stations infringe these patents.
Foss Patents noted that Apple made an “astounding” U-turn by trying to have everything resolved in the Eastern District of Texas – a jurisdiction that the company had previously gone to huge lengths to avoid because it is known to favor patent owners. It’s likely Apple sees the district as a lesser threat than overseas courts, hence seeking to reach a global deal before that could happen.
Ericsson is now seeking injunctions in multiple countries.
In addition to trying to ban the direct sale of Apple products by the iPhone maker, Foss Patents reports that Ericsson is now trying to do the same for sales via the company’s Brazilian wholesaler. This would cut off the supply of Apple products to third-party resellers.
Ericsson keeps up the pressure on Apple. A filing made by Apple in the Eastern District of Texas on Monday (January 31) mentions that “[i]n Brazil […], in addition to targeting Apple in a previous injunction request, Ericsson […] filed for a second preliminary injunction on January 17 against Allied Tecnologia S.A., based on Ericsson’s claimed 4G cellular SEPs and merely because Allied resells Apple cellular products.” Apple is now intervening to protect its wholesaler.
The site notes that it would be hard for Apple to object to the tactic of going after resellers, as the iPhone maker did exactly the same thing itself back in 2012 as part of its own patent infringement claims against Samsung.
Apple is also escalating matters by attempting to have no fewer than ten Ericsson patents declared invalid.
By now I’ve found ten petitions by Apple to invalidate U.S. patents held by Ericsson […]
On Wednesday I listed Apple’s first seven petitions with the Patent Trial and Appeal Board for inter partes review of patents granted to Ericsson by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and [have now added] the remaining three.
What’s interesting about these three additional patents is that Ericsson hasn’t ever used them to make a claim against Apple, so this appears to be a pre-emptive strike by the iPhone maker to reduce Ericsson’s ability to further escalate the scope of its claims.