The United States International Trade Commission (ITC) has agreed to investigate claims that Apple’s iPhone and iPad has infringed on a number of Ericsson’s cellular technology patents.
The patent dispute between Apple and Ericsson first arose following the expiration of a 2008 patent agreement between the two companies. The companies failed to establish a new agreement allowing Apple to continue using Ericsson’s technology.
Apple sued Ericsson in January, claiming the patents are not essential for LTE technology, and that the price Ericsson wanted was excessive. Ericsson countersued, saying Apple had infringed their patents, and that the price was fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND).
February saw Ericsson file seven new lawsuits against Apple, in addition to filing two complaints with the ITC, in an effort to prevent Apple from selling the infringing products in the U.S.
Companies have taken to filing complaints with the ITC, due to the length of time it takes for patent lawsuits to work their way through the court system. The ITC can act faster, and can ban products from being imported into the U.S. if there is a likelihood of infringement. An import ban has the effect of immediately halting sales, which can pressure a defendant into settling.
If the ITC finds Ericsson’s claims to have merit, they could possibly order Apple to stop sales of their devices in the U.S. until the dispute has been resolved.
PCWorld reports that one of Ericsson’s suits involves “Apple iPhones, iPads, and other cellular-enabled products that use the 2G GSM and 4G LTE telecommunications standards,” while the other covers “smartphones, tablet computers, digital media players, and smartwatches.”
While Ericsson is seeking to get a portion of overall device sales, Apple argues a more equitable deal would be to charge on a per-component basis.