​Ericsson takes Apple patent fight to UK, German, and Dutch courts

Swedish telecoms giant Ericsson is out of the handset business, but it still wants royalties from those using its mobile patents.

Ericsson is opening a European front in its patent royalty battle with Apple, after the pair sued each other in the US earlier this year.

Ericsson has filed a number of lawsuits in Europe today, centring on patents used in 2G and LTE standards, as well as non-standard patents such as the design of semiconductor components and non-cellular wireless communications.

Ericsson said on Friday it had offered to enter into arbitration with Apple to reach a global deal on the patents, but the deadline for Apple to agree to that process has now expired. As a result, it has filed claims in the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Ericsson also filed a complaint this January in the patent-holder-friendly Eastern District of Texas court, which Apple responded to with a suit of its own against Ericsson in the Northern District of California.

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Apple had been paying royalties to Ericsson since 2008 for standard essential patents but stopped after a licensing agreement between the two expired. The pair have since been negotiating over global royalty rates for two years.

Ericsson claims it's been trying to get Apple to license its standards essential patents on terms that are fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND), however exactly what constitutes FRAND often ends up in litigation, with a final decision down to the courts.

Apple had not responded to request for comment at the time of publication.

Ericsson said today that it had signed more than 100 patent-licensing agreements with "most major players in the industry", including Samsung. However, again, several of those deals were struck after multiple court battles.

"Apple continues to profit from Ericsson's technology without having a valid license in place. Our technology is used in many features and functionality of today's communication devices. We are confident the courts in Germany, the UK and the Netherlands will be able to help us resolve this matter in a fair manner," Kasim Alfalahi, chief intellectual property officer at Ericsson, said.

Late last year Ericsson also sued Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi in India, accusing the smartphone maker of violating eight patents.

While Ericsson says it is committed to licensing its standards-essential patents on FRAND terms, its claim is complicated by its move in 2013 to hand over 2,000 patents to Unwired Planet, a patent license management firm - an arrangement that will see Ericsson benefit if Unwired Planet can enforce the patents.

The effects of that decision are starting to take shape now. In March, Unwired Planet filed suits in London and Germany against Samsung, Google, Huawei, and HTC over six patents that Ericsson transferred to it.

As noted by Foss Patents blogger Florian Mueller, Unwired Planet, when it announced its enforcement action, said the venues it had selected "offer strong remedies if a license cannot be reached on FRAND terms, including the potential for injunctive relief". Unwired Planet has filed its German suit in Dusseldorf, one of the cities - along with Mannheim - where Ericsson is also fighting its patent battle with Apple.

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