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Apple hits back in Ericsson patent spat

As expected, Apple has made the next move in a legal battle with Sweden-based vendor Ericsson – although the iPhone maker has chosen to file suit with the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) and seek an import ban.

Ericsson has already filed a handful of patent-infringement lawsuits against Apple this week following months of legal squabbles between the two companies. Those new filings are part of the vendor's broader efforts to get Apple to license Ericsson's 5G patents.

Specifically, Ericsson wants $5 for every iPhone that Apple sells. For its part, Apple wants to reduce the amount of money it pays in 5G patent-licensing fees (though it now commands a $3 trillion market cap).

Tit for tat: The iPhone maker has filed a suit with the US ITC and is seeking a US import ban of Ericsson mobile infrastructure products. (Source: Apple)
Tit for tat: The iPhone maker has filed a suit with the US ITC and is seeking a US import ban of Ericsson mobile infrastructure products.
(Source: Apple)

The complex situation is being followed closely by Florian Mueller, an intellectual property expert who maintains the Foss Patents website.

He said it was expected that Apple would counter sue after Ericsson's salvo this week, but noted that the "wide discrepancy in the parties' exposure to patent assertions" suggested that Apple would take a different approach.

"And indeed, Apple has now also brought a request for a US import ban against Ericsson's mobile infrastructure products, asserting three mmWave-related patents" in its ITC complaint, Mueller wrote.

Join the queue

The current spat between Apple and Ericsson stretches back to 2015, when the companies inked a patent-license agreement covering 2G, 3G and 4G technologies.

But that seven-year agreement has expired. Despite negotiations between Ericsson and Apple that started more than a year ago, the companies haven't managed to reach a new patent-licensing agreement that also covers 5G.


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In its ITC filing, Apple said it is willing to withdraw the suit if Ericsson does the same.

Meanwhile, Mueller said he now counts seven Ericsson v. Apple cases pending in the United States, including two fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) actions (one by Ericsson in October 2021 and another by Apple in December 2021); two actions on the licensing of standard essential patents (SEPs); and three non-SEP enforcement actions.

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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