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Ericsson and Apple renew patent hostilities

Legal gavel and smartphone

Negotiations over patent fees have once more broken down between Apple and Ericsson so they thought it would be fun to sue each other instead.

We are almost totally reliant on the FOSS Patents blog for the gory details of this latest legal spat, especially since neither company seems to have made any public comment. The author has been covering tech patent disputes for as long as we can remember and probably offers the best analysis you can get of such things for free.

The blog concedes that the first outlet to report on this piece of corporate lawfare was IAM, which reported ‘Ericsson sues Apple for patent infringement as cross-licence deal expires’. It seems to be a case of Groundhog Day, with the two companies having spent a year in court bickering about the patent fees Apple had to pay Ericsson back in 2015, before reaching a conclusion that seemed to please Ericsson more than it did Apple.

That corporate butt-hurt clearly resurfaced upon the imminent renegotiation of that seven-year settlement, with Apple once more leaving Ericsson with no choice but to resort to the courts. We’ll refer you to FOSS Patents for the minutiae, but the top line is that Ericsson filed suit for patent infringement against Apple earlier this week. It also did the usual thing of calling on the International Trade Commission to ban the import of any devices using the offending patents.

Apple (apparently inevitably) countersued, claiming Ericsson infringes some of its own patents in its base stations and seeking to ban their import too. As ever this amounts to a legal pissing competition that would presumably be unnecessary but of the egos of everyone involved. Apple wants the courts to set the royalty rates and, presumably, Ericsson doesn’t.

You have to wonder if Apple is relying on the same legal team that failed so spectacularly against Qualcomm. Apple seems to deeply resent every cent it pays is suppliers despite the obscene profits it routinely banks. This is probably a product of its CEO being a supply chain obsessive who treats every bit of overhead as if it’s his own money.

If the patents in question are the same ones the two companies squabbled over seven years ago then what has changed since then? You’d think the precedent has been set for a renewal on the same terms, so maybe one of the companies has decided to renegotiate. Our money would be on Apple, which seems to have a relish for fighting other technology companies that can’t be explained solely by business pragmatism.


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