Apple is facing the prospect of iPhone import bans in multiple counties as Ericsson steps up the pressure in its patent infringement claims.

Ericsson has already applied for injunctions in both Brazil and the Netherlands, and is expected to do so in additional European countries. One patent litigation expert says the UK is likely next in line …

Background

We previously explained the background to this dispute.

Manufacturing any mobile device requires the use of patented technology. If you literally cannot make a device without licensing a patent, this is known as a Standards-Essential Patent (SEP). There is a global agreement that licenses for these patents must be available on FRAND terms: fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory. In other words, the price asked must be appropriate, and you’re not allowed to charge one company more than another one.

Ericsson owns a number of SEPs, which Apple was licensing, alongside other patents that don’t qualify as standards-essential. However, Apple did not renew its licenses when they expired, likely hoping to negotiate a smaller fee, and we learned yesterday that Ericsson was therefore suing Apple for patent infringement.

Apple also owns some SEPs, and is now countersuing Ericsson for infringing these patents. Apple cited three patents relating to wireless charging and antennas, alleging that Ericsson mobile base stations infringe these patents.

Foss Patents noted that Apple made an “astounding” U-turn by trying to have everything resolved in the Eastern District of Texas – a jurisdiction that the company had previously gone to huge lengths to avoid because it is known to favor patent owners. It’s likely Apple sees the district as a lesser threat than overseas courts, hence seeking to reach a global deal before that could happen.

Ericsson sues in other countries

However, Ericsson is not letting up on the pressure. First, Foss Patents notes that the company has sued Apple in three other countries – the very prospect Apple wanted to avoid.

Ericsson has told Juve Patent that is has filed multiple patent infringement actions (over technologies including but not limited to 5G) against Apple with three German courts:

  • the Munich I Regional Court (the world’s premier patent injunction venue),
  • the Mannheim Regional Court (which is closest to Munich in every respect),
  • the Dusseldorf Regional Court (which according to Juve Patent has already assigned case numbers 4b O 4/22 and 4b O 5/22 to Ericsson’s lawsuits, which means that patentee-friendly Judge Dr. Daniel Voss (“Voß” in German) will preside over the cases)

Additional lawsuits have been filed in the District Court of the Hague (in the Netherlands), and a court in Brazil.

Prospect of iPhone import bans

Second, the site also reports Ericsson’s request for preliminary injunctions.

A U.S. court filing by Apple […] mentions four cases in another jurisdiction, Belgium (three standard-essential patents (SEPs), one non-SEP). The same filing says Ericsson has sought preliminary injunctions against Apple in Brazil over three SEPs, and that Ericsson informed Apple’s counsel that Ericsson intends to seek preliminary injunctions against Apple in the Netherlands, too (where, according to Apple, Ericsson has asserted four SEPs–and where I know Ericsson sought a preliminary injunction against Samsung last year).

Patent litigation expert Florian Mueller says that he expects Ericsson to file a similar request in the UK next.

The injunctions currently sought appear to refer to legal issues around which cases are heard where. However, Ericsson previously sought an iPhone import ban over the very same patents before Apple signed license agreements, and it seems likely the company would do the same again if a swift resolution is not achieved.

Photo: Ekaterina Bolovtsova/Pexels

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About the Author

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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