US ITC to Investigate Apple Over Ericsson Patent Infringement Complaints

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The battle between Apple and Ericsson has reached an important milestone, as the US International Trade Commission (ITC) has agreed to look into the matter and launch an investigation into “certain wireless standard compliant electronic devices”, which, in this case, are Apple’s iPhones and iPads, as well as other cellular-enabled products that use the 2G GSM and 4G LTE telecommunications standards (via PC World).

You may recall that Apple and Ericsson couldn’t reach a licensing agreement after the one signed in 2008 expired. Negotiations broke down, so the two technology companies are now in the middle of dispute over cellular technology patents.

The investigation is based on a complaint filed by Ericsson Inc., of Plano, TX, and Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson of Stockholm, Sweden, on February 26, 2015.  The complaint alleges violations of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 in the importation into the United States and sale of certain wireless standard compliant electronic devices, including communication devices and tablet computers that infringe patents asserted by the complainants.  The complainants request that the USITC issue a limited exclusion order and a cease and desist order.

Apple isn’t willing to pay the price Ericsson is demanding for LTE patents, and claims they aren’t standard-essential patents for the LTE communication standard.

On the other side of the coin we find Ericsson, which brought its complaint to court to determine whether its licensing fees are excessive – as Apple claims – or fair.

As patent lawsuits can take years, lawyers have often found themselves arguing about obsolete products (see Samsung vs. Apple patent lawsuits). The quick reaction of the ITC is doing a great service for companies, who, as PC World’s Martyn William highlights, often turn to the regulator because it has the power to ban products in the US. In Apple’s case, however, a product ban is unlikely.

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