Apple fires back in Ericsson 5G legal battle

iPhone 13
(Image credit: TechRadar)

Apple has countersued Ericsson and is seeking an important ban on the import of the Swedish telecoms equipment manufacturer’s base stations into the US as part of a long-running legal dispute over the use of 5G patents.

The two companies previously signed a seven-year licensing agreement for the use of Ericsson’s Standards Essential Patents (SEPs) in Apple’s products such as the iPhone but have been in the courts ever since negotiations about an extension broke down.

SEPs are innovations that have been contributed to industry standards, such as 5G, and can be used by anyone else provided they pay a fair price for the privilege. These rates are known as fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.

Ericsson patents

In effect, this means anyone that uses an SEP in their product pays a royalty to the owner of the patent – typically a few dollars per device.

Ericsson wants Apple to pay what it believes to be a fair rate for its SEPs, while Apple considers these demands to be excessive and believes payment should be calculated according to the value of components that uses the technology – not the overall value of the device.

Given Apple typically sells its handsets a premium, this could save it a significant amount of money.

Ericsson filed lawsuit back in October, accusing Apple of attempting to avoid paying reasonable fees. Apple filed a countersuit in December accusing the Swedish telecoms equipment manufacturer of “strong-arm tactics”.

Last week Ericsson added another two claims to the dispute and called for an import ban on Apple devices that allegedly infringed its intellectual property. This action has presumably sparked the Cupertino-based company’s latest move.

In a lawsuit filed with a court in Texas, Apple says Ericsson has infringed three millimetre Wave (mmWave) in its networking products. These patents have not been asserted in any previous litigation, leading experts to believe that they are being used as a bargaining chip to encourage Ericsson to withdraw its latest claim.

Both Apple and Ericsson have been contacted for comment by TechRadar Pro.

Such legal disputes are not uncommon and many companies with large portfolios of SEPs often introduce royalty caps in order to avoid a visit to the courts. For example, Huawei has capped its royalties at $2.50 per device and Nokia has imposed a $3.57 limit.

Via FOSS Patents

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.