Ericsson Goes after Apple on 41 Mobile Tech Patents

Swift on the heels of a Texas jury ordering Apple to pay $532.9 million to a patent troll, the Swedish multinational tech giant Ericsson is also lodging complaints about patent infringement against the Mac- and iPhone-maker. On Thursday, Ericsson filed two complaints against Apple with the U.S. International Trade Commission and seven lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

The complaints allege that Apple is using 41 of Ericsson's patented technologies without proper licensing. In addition to damages, the complaints also ask the ITC to block imports of Apple products into the U.S.

Ericsson's actions come one month after the expiration of Apple's global license agreement for Ericsson's mobile technologies. Following that expiration, Apple filed a lawsuit in California seeking a ruling that it does not infringe upon Ericsson's patents. Ericsson also filed a suit in Texas last month seeking a ruling on its global licensing offer to Apple.

Royalties 'May Undermine Profitability'

The lawsuits filed Thursday are just the latest illustration of how competitive and complex the patent licensing atmosphere is for smartphone technologies.

A working paper published last year found that the potential patent royalties on a hypothetical $400 smartphone could exceed $120. That was almost as much as the cost for all the phone's components, the authors wrote.

"There has been significant recent focus on 'royalty stacking,' in which the cumulative demands of patent holders across the relevant technology or the device threaten to make it economically unviable to offer the product," wrote Ann Armstrong, Joseph J. Mueller and Timothy D. Syrett. "Thus, the smartphone royalty stack across standardized and non-standardized technology is significant, and those costs may be undermining industry profitability -- and, in turn, diminishing incentives to invest and compete."

Armstrong is vice president and associate general counsel at Intel. Mueller...

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