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Ericsson turns patent royalty spat with Apple into an international incident

Months after taking Apple to court in the U.S., Swedish telecom giant Ericsson has filed separate but related lawsuits in the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands accusing Apple of using Ericsson patents without a legitimate license.

Ericsson says that they have engaged Apple in licensing discussions for as long as two years, but were unable to reach an agreement on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. The previous licensing arrangement between the two firms expired in January.

"Apple continues to profit from Ericsson's technology without having a valid license in place," Ericsson intellectual property chief Kasim Alfalahi said in a release. "Our technology is used in many features and functionality of today's communication devices. We are confident the courts in Germany, the UK and the Netherlands will be able to help us resolve this matter in a fair manner."

Many of the patents involved in these suits are considered standards-essential, and Ericsson— a century-old company that invented many modern telecom technologies— is required to license them on FRAND terms. As has often been the case, Apple disagrees with Ericsson's interpretation of FRAND.

Apple sued Ericsson in January, alleging that the Swedish company was charging excessive royalty rates for intellectual property related to 4G LTE technology. Ericsson responded with a total of seven countersuits and filed two complaints with the International Trade Commission, seeking damages and sales injunctions.