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Ericsson says Apple suit only covers part of license portfolio

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In an exclusive interview with Telecoms.com Gustav Brismark, Ericsson VP of Patent Strategy revealed that the lawsuit recently filed by Apple contesting payment of royalties on patents owned by Ericsson only covers a fraction of the patent portfolio in question.

In response to Apple’s suit, first reported by Reuters, Ericsson has inevitably initiated legal action of its own in a Texas court asking it to establish whether its royalty claims are reasonable and, if not, what would be.

“One of the large differences between the two complaints is that the Apple complaint only contains a small subset of the patent portfolios that are at issue,” said Brismark. “Meanwhile the lawsuit that Ericsson has initiated primarily asks the court do the assessment and come to the conclusion that Ericsson’s offer is indeed in line with our FRAND commitment.

“FRAND is a contract between any contributor to standardisation and those third parties that benefit from it. It stands for ‘fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory’, and in this case Ericsson has turned to the court to ask for help to determine what is FRAND and to look upon the offers Ericsson had extended for global access to our portfolio of essential patent for Apple.”

Apple is actually contesting the renewal of an existing licensing agreement that lapsed recently, covering the 2G, 3G and 4G standards. The two companies had been negotiating the renewal for some time but had clearly been unable to come to an agreement. “Ericsson has had an agreement with Apple on FRAND terms for a period of time and this agreement has now expired,” said Brismark.

It’s not uncommon for large companies to resort to the courts over such things, with the smartphone era proving especially litigious. Apple itself has famously accused Samsung of infringing in its iPhone designs, while Android vendors all have to pay Microsoft a royalty every time they sell and Android phone.

“We’ve always been willing to pay a fair price to secure the rights to standards essential patents covering technology in our products,” Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet told Reuters. “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.”

So both companies have effectively asked for arbitration on this. Apple doesn’t seem to be disputing many of the patents up for renewal so, assuming they remain essential, it will have to pay something to Ericsson. The dispute, therefore, seems merely to concern the amount Apple pays and it has presumably concluded the potential rewards justify the cost of mobilising its army of patent lawyers who, as ever, will be the real beneficiaries of this action.

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