Ericsson to sue ZTE over alleged patent infringements

Ericsson is to sue Chinese rival ZTE, claiming that the latter has infringed on patents for its 2-and-3G technologies. Saying that the action represented a “last resort” following “several years” of attempted resolutions, Ericsson filed suits in the UK, Italy and Germany on Friday. ZTE has responded by saying its considering taking similar action against Ericsson.

The patents in question are said to cover technology such as WCDMA, which ZTE uses in its handsets and network infrastructure in the three countries in question. ZTE has so far declined to reveal which of its patents are being infringed on by Ericsson. ZTE intellectual property director Wang Haibo told Dow Jones Newswires that the company had received notice of the suit against its UK subsidiary, to which it would respond “proactively” but had yet to receive notification of the other suits.

The disagreement takes place against a backdrop of increased overseas expansion for Chinese vendors and OEMs, driving them into direct competition with well-established European manufacturers such as Ericsson. According to ZTE, it had been discussing a patent cross-licensing deal with Ericsson and that it was still open to forming such an alliance. Wang said that the company had been “sincere in seeking agreement with Ericsson over intellectual property rights and patent licensing.” Last week, Ericsson’s Kasim Alfalahi told the Financial Times that ZTE had “refused to sign” any licensing agreement, giving the company no option but to “ask the courts to enforce our rights.”

A statement on ZTE’s website lays the blame squarely on Ericsson’s shoulders, accusing the Swedish manufacturer of “unilaterally breaking down the ongoing negotiations between the two parties,” adding that it will “initiate patent invalidation procedures against Ericsson before the patent re-examination board of SIPO.” SIPO is China’s State Intellectual Property Organisation.

According to the FT, the Swedish giant will, in addition to seeking damages, ask that the courts in the UK, Italy and Germany halt sales of ZTE handsets featuring Ericsson’s technology. Sales of certain components of ZTE’s network infrastructure in Germany are also said to be under threat from the challenge.

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