Ericsson has filed further legal claims against Apple in a bid to make the iPhone manufacturer pay what the former considers to be a fair rate for its 5G patents.
The two parties are engaged in a legal dispute after negotiations to renew a licensing agreement for Ericsson’s Standards Essential Patents (SEPs) proved contentious.
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.
In effect, this means anyone that uses an SEP in their product pays a royalty to the owner of the patent. Some companies with large portfolios of SEPs often introduce royalty caps in a bid to prevent the likelihood of a legal dispute – which are not uncommon among major vendors.
For example, Huawei has capped its royalties at $2.50 per device and Nokia has imposed a $3.57 limit.
Ericsson and Apple went to the courts in 2015 before reaching the current agreement which expires this year. During that particular episode, Apple had argued its devices did not infringe Ericsson’s patents, that the patents in question weren’t essential, and that Ericsson’s royalty demands were excessive.
Specifically, Apple argued that payments should be calculated according to the value of components that uses the technology – not the overall value of the device.
A renewal has yet to be agreed and Ericsson to file a 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”. This latest action by Ericsson adds another two claims to the dispute.
"We can confirm that Ericsson has filed a number of lawsuits against Apple for patent infringement in multiple jurisdictions," an Ericsson spokesperson told TechRadar Pro. "Since the prior agreement has expired, and we have been unable to reach agreement on the terms and scope of a new license, Apple is now using our technology without a license.
"Ericsson’s annual investments in R&D of [$5 billion] have led to our leading global position in 5G, and a leading 5G patent portfolio. The possibility for fair compensation through patent licensing is important to ensure new investments in innovation that benefit our customers and consumers everywhere."
“Ericsson has refused to negotiate fair terms for renewing our patent licensing agreement, and instead has been suing Apple around the world to extort excessive royalties," added Apple . "We are asking the court to help determine a fair price."
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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.