Apple is ending another battle over wireless patents. The iPhone maker and Ericsson have struck a licensing deal that settles all the legal disputes between the two companies, including civil lawsuits and a US International Trade Commission complaint. While the exact terms remain under wraps, the multi-year pact includes cross-licensing for “standard-essential” cellular technology as well as other patent rights.
The tech giants have a long history of fighting over cell tech. Apple sued Ericsson in 2015 to get more favorable terms for LTE patents, but Ericsson responded with a lawsuit of its own claiming that the iPhone and iPad infringed on its patented ideas. The two achieved peace with a seven-year agreement. As that arrangement neared its renewal time, however, the animosity returned. Ericsson sued in October 2021 over Apple’s attempts to shrink royalty rates, while Apple countersued in December that year over allegations Ericsson was using unfair pressure tactics for the renewal. Ericsson filed another lawsuit this January over 5G licenses.
We’ve asked Apple for comment. In announcing the deal, Ericsson’s IP chief Christina Petersson said the ceasefire would let the two companies “focus on bringing the best technology” to the world. Ericsson is one of the world’s largest wireless patent holders, and said the Apple agreement would help boost its licensing revenue for the fourth quarter to the equivalent of $532 million or more.
The timing may be significant. Apple is reportedly developing 5G iPhone modems to replace Qualcomm’s chips, having bought most of Intel’s modem business and even launching not-so-subtle recruitment efforts in Qualcomm’s backyard. The Ericsson truce may help clear the path for those modems by reducing the chances of legal dust-ups over whatever Apple builds. And time might be in short supply — rumors have circulated that Apple could use its own components as soon as 2023.
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