Apple might leave the UK market if it is forced to pay too much money to a patent troll, after losing a case last month, says the company’s lawyer. The case relates to a claim by Optis Wireless, which initially won a $506M award against Apple in the US, before the judgment was overturned on appeal.

Optis – which bought some standards-essential LTE patents in order to make claims like this – then won a separate case against Apple in the UK, this time claiming billions rather than millions …

This is Money reports.

American tech giant Apple has threatened to quit the UK over a $7billion (£5billion) legal row.

Apple’s lawyers warned it could quit the UK market if a court forces the company to pay a ‘commercially unacceptable’ fee for the technology used in its iPhones.

The extraordinary threat raises the prospect of an end to new iPhone sales in the UK and the restriction of services and upgrades to existing customers.

Apple issued the warning as part of a court battle with UK patent holder Optis Cellular Technology. 

Optis is suing Apple for patent infringement after the iPhone maker refused to pay licence fees worth a possible $7billion for using ‘standardised’ smartphone technology in its products. 

A High Court judge ruled last month that Apple had infringed two Optis patents, which help iPhones connect to the 3G and 4G networks. 

The second ruling that upset Apple is that the UK Supreme Court said that any decision it made on the amount the iPhone maker must pay would apply worldwide, not just to its UK sales.

The judge understandably expressed skepticism about the idea of Apple exiting the UK market, but the company’s lawyer insisted that it might.

Mr Justice Meade [said] ‘There is no evidence it is even remotely possible Apple will leave the UK market?’ 

Apple’s lawyer Marie Demetriou replied: ‘I am not sure that is right… Apple’s position is it should indeed be able to reflect on the terms and decide whether commercially it is right to accept them or to leave the UK market. There may be terms that are set by the court which are just commercially unacceptable.’ 

The idea of Apple quitting the UK market is of course laughable, but the case does again highlight the need for global patent reform to end the process of companies acquiring either standards-based or overly broad patents with the sole aim of extorting money from tech companies.

Via Patently Apple

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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