Apple, Ericsson Countersue Over Mobile LTE Patents

The lawsuits pit Apple and Ericsson against each other regarding counterclaims about patents for Long Term Evolution (LTE) wireless technologies.

patent lawsuit

Apple has sued Ericsson AB over mobile patents related to Long Term Evolution (LTE) technologies and then was hit by a countersuit from Ericsson in response, sending the two rivals into a new patent war.

The dispute involves a disagreement over pricing for patent licensing for the LTE technology, according to a Jan. 14 report by Bloomberg. The two companies could not reach a financial deal for the patents used by Apple in its iPhone and iPad devices, the story reported.

In its lawsuit against Ericsson, Apple said that its rival is "seeking excessive royalty rates" and has asked a California federal court "to rule that Ericsson's patents aren't essential to long term evolution, or LTE, standards," the story reported.

Ericsson quickly filed a countersuit, asking a Texas District Court to rule on the fairness of the company's fees, the story reported.

In a Jan. 14 announcement about its lawsuit against Apple, Ericsson said that every iPhone and iPad made by Apple uses cellular capabilities based on technologies from Ericsson and that two years of negotiations on a new licensing agreement have failed to reach a fair conclusion. A previous licensing agreement had expired and a new deal has not been finalized.

"Ericsson filed the suit in order to receive an independent assessment on whether Ericsson's global licensing offer complies with Ericsson's FRAND (fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory) commitment," the company said in its announcement.

The Ericsson action came after Apple filed its own lawsuit seeking court assistance to resolve the licensing fees for the patents, according to Ericsson. "During the past two years of negotiations, the companies have not been able to reach an agreement on licensing of Ericsson's patents that enable Apple's mobile devices to connect with the world and power many of their applications."

Kasim Alfalahi, the chief intellectual property officer for Ericsson, said in a statement that the company's "goal is to reach a mutually beneficial resolution with Apple. They have been a valued partner for years and we hope to continue that partnership. Global sharing of technology has created the success of the mobile industry and allowed new entrants to quickly build successful businesses. We believe it is reasonable to get fair compensation from companies benefitting from the development we have made over the course of the last 30 years."

In Apple's lawsuit against Ericsson, Apple alleged that "Ericsson seeks to exploit its patents to take the value of these cutting-edge Apple innovations, which resulted from years of hard work by Apple engineers and designers and billions of dollars of Apple research and development—and which have nothing to do with Ericsson's patents," reported Bloomberg

Patent disputes like this one seem to arise regularly in the tech world, particularly in the fast-moving and profitable world of mobile technologies and mobile devices. Apple, Samsung, LG and other vendors have been involved in lawsuits and countersuits often over the last few years as they battle to protect their intellectual property and innovations.

Often, companies work to avoid such disputes ahead of time by signing long-term patent licensing agreements. In February 2014, Cisco Systems and Samsung signed a 10-year cross-license patent deal to help reduce their risks of patent-infringement lawsuits from other vendors or patent trolls, according to an earlier eWEEK report. Under the terms of the deal, both vendors can access the patents that are in their portfolios and that will be developed over the pact's timeframe. Cisco and Samsung said in a statement that the agreement "covers a broad range of products and technologies," but declined to elaborate on what those technologies are or any other parts of the deal.

In January 2014, Samsung also reached a patent deal with Ericsson, a move that ended a patent legal battle that stretched back to late 2012, when Ericsson sued Samsung for allegedly infringing on its intellectual property. The case involved licensing agreements that Samsung had signed in 2001 and 2007 to use Ericsson patents, with Ericsson officials claiming some of those agreements had expired.

Also in January 2014, Samsung announced a 10-year cross-license patent agreement with longtime partner Google in connection with the Android mobile operating system.