Apple and Ericsson call truce: What may be behind the ‘peace deal’


Ericsson and Apple have called it truce. The two tech giants have reached a multi-year, global patent license agreement. The deal includes a cross-license relating to patented cellular standard-essential technologies and grants certain other patent rights. Furthermore, Ericsson and Apple have mutually agreed to strengthen their technology and business collaboration, including in technology, interoperability and standards development. The deal settles all global legal cases — numbering at least half a dozen — between the two companies. The latest fight also included a brief ban on sales of the iPhone 14 in Colombia.
What was the latest dispute over
Ericsson and Apple went through a similar series of international lawsuits before signing a six-year deal in 2015. Apple first licensed Ericsson’s patents in 2008, when this deal expired, a 2015 complaint by Ericsson against Apple led to another global cross-license deal between the companies that year. But when those licenses expired, the battle resumed in October of 2021, this time over patent licensing related to 5G technology.
Ericsson accused Apple of infringing its patents in respect of the 5G chips used in iPhones. Reason: Apple used to pay royalty fees for the use of the patented tech, but then failed to renew the licenses when they expired. Seems Apple wanted to negotiate a better deal for the 5G licenses, after earlier reaching agreement on 2G, 3G, and 4G patented technology. Apple in its turn has sued Ericsson over what it describes as “standards-essential patents.” The iPhone maker accused Ericsson of “strong-arm tactics” in negotiations for licensing patented communication technology.

What may be behind the 2022 deal
The settlement comes just days after the latest trial between Ericsson and Apple begin at the United States District Court of the Eastern District of Texas. Apple is reportedly developing 5G iPhone modems to replace Qualcomm’s chips. The peace with Ericsson may help clear the way for these modems by reducing the chances of any new legal dispute coming up over what Apple makes. Apple acquired Intel‘s modem business in 2019 to add to its arsenal.
Ericsson comments, Apple mum
Ericsson did not disclose the value of the deal but said that the agreement is backdated to January 15, 2022. Also, while the press statement comes from Ericsson, Apple so far has not publicly commented on this deal between the two companies.

In ‘Ericsson’s words’
This settlement ends the lawsuits filed by both companies in several countries, including in the United States District Court of the Eastern District of Texas, as well as the complaints filed before the United States International Trade Commission (USITC). Ericsson’s IPR licensing revenues continue to be affected by several factors, including expired patent license agreements pending renewal, the technology shift from 4G to 5G, and possible currency effects and geopolitical impact going forward. Including effects of the agreement with Apple covering sales from January 15, 2022, and including ongoing IPR business with all other licensees, Ericsson estimates the fourth quarter 2022 IPR licensing revenues will be SEK 5.5 – 6.0 billion.
Christina Petersson, Chief Intellectual Property Officer at Ericsson says: “We are pleased to settle the litigation with Apple with this agreement, which is of strategic importance to our 5G licensing program. This will allow both companies to continue to focus on bringing the best technology to the global market.”

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