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Apple attorneys threaten UK market exit if court orders 'unacceptable' patent fees

Apple's lawyers have warned the iPhone maker could exit the UK if a court orders it to pay "commercially unacceptable" fees to patent company Optis Cellular over alleged infringement of 3G and 4G patents.

Apple is currently involved in a lawsuit with Optis in the United Kingdom, with Apple refusing to pay the firm license fees for patents Optis claims it used in the iPhone and other technologies. In June, a High Court judge ruled that Apple had infringed two of the patents, and therefore Apple should pay fees.

The value of the fees has yet to be determined, but This Is Money writes it could be a legal fight worth up to 5 billion pounds ($7 billion) to Apple.

In 2020, the UK Supreme Court ruled a UK court can set the rate for patent payments worldwide, despite the court only being able to consider the infringement of UK patents. A trial in 2022 will determine how much Apple will have to pay.

As for how much it could be, Mr Justice Meade said during a hearing in January that Apple "might be disappointed" by the set rate. Meade offered it was unlikely that Apple would perform a drastic action, such as exiting the UK market, if the fees are too high, with "no evidence it is even remotely possible" that Apple would consider it.

Marie Demetriou, Apple's lawyer, argued back "I'm not sure that is right. Apple's position is it should indeed be able to reflect on the terms and decide whether commercially it is right to accept them or to leave the UK market. There may be terms that are set by the court which are just commercially unacceptable."

A court case later in July will determine whether Apple will have to make a legally binding pledge to abide by judge-set payout rates in the July 2022 trial. If it refuses, Apple has the possibility of being banned from selling iPhones in the country.

This is not the only lawsuit involving Optis that Apple is contending with. In August 2020, a Texas federal jury ruled Apple willfully infringed on 4G LTE patents owned by PanOptis and related companies, including Optis, and that it had to pay $506.2 million.

In April 2021, a federal judge allowed a retrial to take place, due to there being "serious doubt" about the verdict.

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