Friday, January 21, 2022

Ericsson sues Apple in three German courts, the Netherlands, and Brazil over 5G and other patents (in addition to handful of U.S. cases)

Ericsson has told Juve Patent that is has filed multiple patent infringement actions (over technologies including but not limited to 5G) against Apple with

  • three German courts:

    1. the Munich I Regional Court (the world's premier patent injunction revenue),

    2. the Mannheim Regional Court (which is closest to Munich in every respect),

    3. the Dusseldorf Regional Court (which according to Juve Patent has already assigned case numbers 4b O 4/22 and 4b O 5/22 to Ericsson's lawsuits, which means that patentee-friendly Judge Dr. Daniel Voss ("Voß" in German) will preside over the cases),

  • the District Court of the Hague (in the Netherlands),

  • and a court in Brazil.

For an overview of Ericsson's U.S. patent infringement actions against Apple (three USITC complaints and two federal lawsuits in the Western District of Texas), may I refer you to a very recent post. Apple filed a countercomplaint with the ITC over three patents and all of a sudden declared itself a big fan of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

The choice of the three German courts is unsurprising, and if I interpret Juve Patent correctly, Ericsson filed two cases each in Dusseldorf and Mannheim, but more than two in Munich (as would I in their shoes).

One or more filings with the Dutch court were also more than predictable, given that Ericsson sought an anti-antisuit injunction there last year. And just like the three German courts, the Dutch court is also one of the venues Ericsson chose for last year's dispute with Samsung (which got settled pretty quickly).

In Brazil, Apple is not the first company against which Ericsson enforces patents: the Swedish company already did so against TCL, as articles from Brazil like this one confirm.

What does surprise me a bit is that the London-based High Court of Justice is not on the list, but Juve Patent says Ericsson may bring cases in additional European countries. For SEP holders, the UK has recently become a very attractive jurisdiction. But Germany is such a large market, and the SEP case law there (Sisvel v. Haier I and Sisvel v. Haier II) creates a strong incentive for implementers to act constructively in negotiations. Still, my bets would be on the UK for the next European jurisdiction in which Ericsson might file, depending on how Apple responds to this week's developments.

Ericsson would have no benefit whatsoever from disrupting Apple's business through injunctions: it just wants to be paid reasonable royalties on its patent portfolio, taking into account what others are already paying Ericsson. Apple, by contrast, pays only a very small amount of patent royalties on each iPhone it sells, with Qualcomm getting far more than anybody else though its patent portfolio is not even battle-tested.

While Ericsson's multi-jurisdictional enforcement sends out a clear message to Cupertino, it's much smaller for the time being than Nokia's ongoing campaign against OPPO (with filings in Germany, the UK, France, Spain, as well as India, Russia, and Indonesia). Also, last time Nokia sued Apple, it brought far more cases--and in more jurisdictions--than Ericsson has so far. So, by comparison, Ericsson is actually exercising restraint.

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