Ericsson drags Apple back to court, attempts to stop iPhone imports

Ericsson has filed nine separate lawsuits against Apple, claiming the company is continuing to use its patents after agreements were not renewed in January.

REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/Files
Apple Inc is expected to reveal the iPhone 5 during a media event on September 12, 2012 in San Francisco, California.

With Apple's recently legal woes, one can only imagine the lawyer fees the company is racking up this year.

After being ordered to pay half a billion dollars and then being sued again by the same victorious company, Apple continued its patent lawsuit saga by rounding out the week with Ericsson dragging the tech giant to court again. This time though, Apple has more at stake than paying a hefty fine.

Ericsson is suing over Apple's continued use of 41 patents, after the two companies could not agree on new licensing terms, which expired in mid-January.

The Swedish telecommunications company filed nine lawsuits against Apple, seven with the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas and two with the US International Trade Commission. Ericsson is asking the Trade Commission to halt sales of Apple products in the US until the dispute is resolved. Many of the patents Apple is allegedly infringing upon involve products such as the iPhone and iPad’s ability to connect to LTE, 2G, 3G, and 4G networks.

­­Ericsson is turning to the Trade Commission because the group has the authority to act more swiftly than regular courts. The Commission has the power to block the import of Apple goods from China, where Apple makes its products.

Up until January, Apple was paying an undisclosed amount of royalties for access to Ericsson’s patents. When it came time to renew the agreement, discussions fell through. Ericsson offered to have an independent arbitrator determine a fair reimbursement rate, but Apple declined the offer.

“We have offered them a license; they have a turned it down,” says Kasim Alfalahi, Ericsson’s chief intellectual property officer, in an interview with Bloomberg. “We’re not a company that’s planning to extract more than the value we put on the table.”

Apple had its own grievances, though, saying that Ericsson “seeks to exploit its patents to take the value of these cutting-edge Apple innovations” and even alleges the company has “abusive licensing practices,” the tech giant said in a complaint.

The two giants have been at each others’ throats since January, when both companies initially sued each other; Apple claiming in a California court that Ericsson was demanding excessive royalties and Ericsson protesting in a Texas court over Apple’s use of expired licenses. The latest round of court battles is designed to put pressure on Apple and for Ericsson to collect what it is owed.

Ericsson holds more than 35,000 patents and is the largest individual proprietor of standard essential patents in the wireless industry. The majority of companies in the telecommunications business have some sort of agreement with Ericsson, which is mandated to follow FRAND terms – this means Ericsson is required to offer companies terms that are “Fair, Reasonable, and Non-Discriminatory.”

In Apple’s opinion, Ericsson did not follow FRAND terms (though Ericsson did offer to take the matter to a US federal court), so legal action was taken.

When asked about the renewed filings, Apple directed TechCruch to the following statement made in January by Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokeswoman:

“With tens of thousands of innovative employees, Apple has deep respect for intellectual property. We’ve always been willing to pay a fair price to secure the rights to standards essential patents covering technology in our products. 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.”

Apple appears to be fishing for a better deal through the courts, but it will soon be determined how costly the latest suit will be for the company.

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