Ericsson has taken its legal battle with Apple to Europe – filing lawsuits in Germany, the Netherlands and the UK – to ramp up pressure on the iPhone-maker to pay royalties, on standard-essential patents, on what it insists will be a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) basis.
“Our FRAND terms [with Apple] are in line with the other some 100 licensees using our technology,” Gustav Brismark, Ericsson’s vice president of patent strategy, told Mobile World Live. “Our policy is to be fair and treat everybody the same in the market. We simply demand a fair royalty.”
The litigation in Europe, which relates to 2G and LTE standards, comes after Apple licences to use Ericsson patents expired in January, and a subsequent offer by the Swedish firm to take the FRAND dispute to independent arbitration was not taken up by the Cupertino giant.
“Our long-term objective, as it has always been from the start of negotiations, is to find a solution in line with our FRAND commitment,” said Brismark. “We firmly believe what we have already offered to Apple is FRAND. In the end, we hope to find a global [licensing] solution.”
For its part, Apple has claimed that Ericsson’s royalties are excessive and disputes that some of the Swedish supplier’s patents are essential to LTE.
Indeed, as Brismark explained, Apple first took legal action against Ericsson, filing a US lawsuit (a California court) in January, asserting it had not infringed on seven of Ericsson’s patents.
“But that is a very small subset of all the patents Ericsson has,” added Brismark, “and would not in any way resolve the wider [FRAND] dispute covering hundreds of patents.”
A few days later, Ericsson asked a Texas court to resolve the bigger picture and assess if Ericsson’s offer to Apple was indeed on a FRAND basis. Ericsson then asked Apple to be bound by any FRAND decision arrived at, either by the Federal court in Texas or California, but, again, that offer was rejected, said Brismark.
Ericsson then took further steps in the US, making complaints with the ITC (International Trade Commission) and filing more lawsuits for patent infringement in the Texas court.
Some progress was made, at least from Ericsson’s point of view. In late March, ITC agreed to look into Ericsson’s complaint, and, according to Brismark, hearings are now scheduled for end of 2015 and beginning of next year.
As it stands at the moment, the Swedish supplier says Apple is selling products using unlicensed Ericsson technology as the licences have expired. Brismark would not be drawn on the sums of money involved with Apple royalty payments, but was keen to give a wider industry perspective.
“Companies like Ericsson spend billions of dollars in R&D, and the technology we develop is embedded in phones as well as infrastructure, and without it we would not see tremendous improvement in performance,” he said. “This benefits consumers and the whole industry, and it enables companies like Apple to enter these markets in a very successful way. We think that’s good, but we just want fair compensation.”