back to article Apple v Ericsson: Yet ANOTHER patent war bubbles over

Apple and Ericsson have both lawyered up and are suing each other in the US courts over LTE patent pricing. Apple was the first to file a case in the long-running dispute between the tech giants, claiming that the Swedish company's LTE wireless tech patents are "essential to industry cellular standards" and that it is …

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Ericsson ???

Is that still a thing.

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Re: Ericsson ???

Yes, and one with real, hard engineering IP - not slide-to-unlock, scroll bounce, and other frippery that Apple prides itself on.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ericsson ???

Telecoms operators still buy core networks from them, if that's what you mean? Or are you missing your T68i?

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Re: Ericsson ???

Yes they are a big player in the Telecoms arena, just not the shiny shiny stuff.

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Re: Ericsson ???

Yes, in the same way that Nokia's still a thing.

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Re: Ericsson ???

Absolutely, no one in the world can make a phone call without using Ericsson kit or technologies somewhere along the way. They have a solid engineering pedigree that most firms can only wish for.

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Trollface

Strange how fruity patents are so valuable

When anyone has a patent which Apple wants, it is only worth 1 or 2 cents per unit but when anyone else needs to put round corners on a rectangle that it is worth several dollars .

On another note, I have always wondered why friends with "sent from my iphone" sigs always wrote in french with no accents. Having been asked to input a couple of addresses into one of said friends iphones and selecting "french keyboad" I now know why. It may be possible, but from a company which prides itself on making everything so easy a chimp could use it, I am b*ggered if I can find how you put in accents.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Strange how fruity patents are so valuable

The Apostrophe (') on a German keyboard is also difficult to find, many Germans seem to use the forward slanting version (´) which screws up things when downloading mp3 files ;)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Strange how fruity patents are so valuable

I am no Apple fan but as with nearly all touch screen keyboards I've used, you just hold down on the letter and select the accent you want from the pop-up.

I just checked it with an office iphone 4s running iOS 7 and it works just like the android keyboard on Lollipop on the nexus 5 on my desk.

Hope that helps.

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Accented Letters in IOS

If you want accented letters in IOS, just hold down the relevant letter key and all the accented options will pop up.

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Stop

Re: Strange how fruity patents are so valuable

Still not grasped the difference between FRAND and normal patents then? If a company wants to get one or more of their patents included in a standard then they must commit to licensing them under FRAND terms (Fair, Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory). If they do this then the fee per use they can charge tends to go down, but the number of items using it goes up so they can make good money from the licensing.

Ordinary patents carry no requirement to license and no fee structure. A company doesn't have to license them, and can charge whatever they can get away with if they do. Apple didn't want to license out its patents in the cases you've heard about, hence they were asking for more in infringement costs. They do however take part in a number of other patent pools (like h264) where they have contributed and get paid on FRAND terms.

Typically the Apple patent arguments have been over whether the patent owner can charge their fee on the radio element of the design, or on the whole RRP of the phone. Most companies get their licenses for GSM/LTE from the baseband chip manufacture included in the price of the chip, i.e. a few bucks per phone in total.

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Megaphone

Grumble grumble All patents should be FRAND

Recall the colonization of the United States.

At the time, to encourage settlers to go populate the big empty West, the government decided that any settler building a house somewhere in a big empty place would automatically own the land around. As a result many people went for the big adventure, and the West ended up colonized.

Now, imagine that the settlers had decided that the land they wanted was a millimeter thin and a thousand kilometer long, along the South-North axis. Imagine further that each settler had decided that, in order to explore further at leisure, search for gold and the like, they would forbid anybody from crossing their property. Or charge a million dollars for passage. How fast do you think the West would have been colonized then, with every few meters a new guy with a gun shouting "you shall not pass"?

Of course, had they tried that, they would have got their arse kicked out by the same government who had given them property of their land; because it was very clear that the colonization was the goal, and the granting of property was only the means.

FRAND patents are the equivalent of settlers grouping to build a road going through their lands, agreeing to let anybody travel that road and not to charge extortionate prices for the right of passage. They typically do that to ensure it is their road that is used by travelers, and not another one which wouldn't bring them a cent.

Right now, in the patent world, there are settlers who have barricaded themselves across valleys leading to vast lands, and are refusing to let anybody through. Because hey, it's their property, they get to decide, and they damn well don't want anybody else reaching those lands, even if colonization is held back centuries. Fuck colonization. Fuck progress.

The sensible thing is for the government to build a road through their lands, and tell them to go fuck themselves. This has happened before, though only in time of crises: See the Wright brothers patent war

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Strange how fruity patents are so valuable

That "forward slanting version (´)" is U+00B4, an "acute accent", not used in German, but very useful in French, obviously. Could you perhaps ask for it to be returned to the correct keyboard?

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Re: Strange how fruity patents are so valuable

'I have always wondered why friends with "sent from my iphone" sigs...'

I've always wondered whether they're bragging, complaining or apologising.

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Re: Strange how fruity patents are so valuable

"just hold down on the letter and select the accent you want from the pop-up."

Ah! Another one of those "intuitive" features of the type we used to learn about by reading the manuals.

For you youngsters reading, a "manual" used to be a set of paper sheets bound or folded in half along one edge with a description of your device and how to use it printed on the paper. Sometimes with "icons" printed on it. Think of it as being a bit like the Help App but it still works with a flat battery and doesn't need (but does have) an index, as you can just "flick" the pages to skim through it until something catches your eye rather than trying to work out which search the author used that was different to what you thought it would be.

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Re: Grumble grumble All patents should be FRAND

"At the time, to encourage settlers to go populate the big empty West, the government decided that any settler building a house somewhere in a big empty place would automatically own the land around."

Rather like how they decided that other countries' patents and copyrights didn't apply to the USA too so as to help build the economy ;-)

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Re: Grumble grumble All patents should be FRAND

Yeah, just one of those little details that don't get mentioned unless you study the history of American economics. Or you're doing patent law. And definitely how copyright works today.

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Re: Strange how fruity patents are so valuable

The Apostrophe (') on a German keyboard is also difficult to find, many Germans seem to use the forward slanting version (´) which screws up things when downloading mp3 files ;)

Actually, the use of accents or "ticks" instead of apostrophes is common in Germany even though it's infuriating to anyone who understands the difference. To be fair, they're not helped by Outlook's tendency to treat an apostrophe as a single quote, in which case, in German, the first quote is written on the base of a line very much like a comma.

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Re: Strange how fruity patents are so valuable

> Still not grasped the difference between FRAND and normal patents then?

Grasping the difference may be difficult, because there isn't one. Patents are granted by the issuing government; it is up to the patent holder to determine the licensing regime, and careful standards bodies usually ensure that the holders of patented technology that makes it into formal standards have committed to license those patents on a Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory basis. So it's the *licence* that differs, not the patent.

Of course, then there is scope for the lawyers to argue about the Fairness, degree of Reason and extent of Discrimination in the licensing.

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Coat

One day CEOs of geek companies will say "why the hell are we giving all our money to lawyers. Lets stop suing each other and we can make some actual money"

Laughs hysterically and gets coat.

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They'll get sued

> One day CEOs of geek companies will say "why the hell are we giving all our money to lawyers. Lets stop suing each other and we can make some actual money"

The lawyers will then sue them for acting like a cartel and cutting the lawyers out of their gravy train.

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Meh. Nothing to see here.

Here's the gist of the lawsuit:

Erickson owns patents that every telco has to license. They are required to license this under FRAND.

What Erickson considers reasonable doesn't match what Apple considers reasonable so they are going to court to come up with some number in between that both companies can live with.

Its a non-event.

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Re: Meh. Nothing to see here.

I guess there's a simple solution to this. And a risk of a fragmentation of standards if we don't find one, as if the boring R&D required for standards doesn't turn a profit - companies might stop doing it.

They'll have to build the licensing cost into the standard, when they decide what patents will be included. Rather than some companies having it as part of cross-licensing deals, and others having to pay for it. Otherwise there's no way to check that everyone's paying the same amount.

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Re: Meh. Nothing to see here.

"What Erickson considers reasonable doesn't match what Apple considers reasonable"

For most other users of Ericssons FRAND patents, there is probably some cross-licensing deals in place too, making the FRAND deals seem cheaper in cash terms than what Apple can get since Apple have few, if any, patents that a company like Ericsson would want.

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Re: Meh. Nothing to see here.

They'll have to build the licensing cost into the standard, when they decide what patents will be included. Rather than some companies having it as part of cross-licensing deals, and others having to pay for it. Otherwise there's no way to check that everyone's paying the same amount.

How do you expect this to work? Who collects the money? Beyond that it's interfering with a company's right to do business, which may well lessen its desire to continue. Or do you consider the MPEG-LA something worth emulating?

FRAND isn't perfect but it does try and compromise between gouging and interoperability.

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Re: Meh. Nothing to see here.

How do you expect this to work? Who collects the money? Beyond that it's interfering with a company's right to do business, which may well lessen its desire to continue.

Charlie Clark,

Apple now have form in this not paying for standards required patents. If the courts then rule on the patents having to be really cheap, as there's no sane way for them to work out market prices because half the people involved are on cross-licensing deals, then the system will break down. And people will be less likely to put their patents in the firing line by agreeing FRAND terms. Because FRAND terms stop being fair when one of the major players in the mobile industry doesn't have any technical patents of its own. Not quite fair, but I don't believe Apple do research on the radio/networking side of things, and I don't think they've bought that much.

We definitely want to reward companies for their R&D work in this area (or they'll do less of it), and we definitely want open and inter-operable standards. However if FRAND patents are devalued, and become worth less than other ones, then we're less likely to get these things we want.

At which point it seems sensible to make the whole process transparent.

Also I don't see how fixing the price of a patent in advance is interfering with people's business any more than forcing them to do FRAND is. Surely FRAND should effectively mean everyone pays the same anyway? You could have volume discounts built into the system. There doesn't need to be a central collection organisation, although that might be just as easy, you just put the prices in the standard documentation. The patents are already in there anyway. Then there can be no disputes. It also means everyone knows how much value standards add. If they're profitable, we're likely to get more R&D, if they're not then the prices need to be upped otherwise more companies will "free ride" on other peoples' research efforts, gain a competitive advantage and the whole industry will get skewed towards companies that don't invest, and in the long term it will decline.

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Re: interfering with a company's right to do business

If the company is sitting on the standards board and is offering their tech as part of the standard, I don't see where it's interfering with their right to do business to require the FRAND price be set in the standard. If the company doesn't want to set a FRAND price, they just don't offer it for standards.

Here's the thing that gets my goat:

"We've always been willing to pay a fair price to secure the rights to standards essential patents covering technology in our products. Unfortunately, we have not been able to agree with Ericsson on a fair rate for their patents so, as a last resort, we are asking the courts for help."

To me, that says Apple are knowingly and willfully infringing on the patent and going to court to get a lower price than is being offered by the patent holder. Period. The end. Doesn't matter if it is part of a standard or not. If Apple regard the price as non-FRAND, they need to sue for better price without including the tech until such time as the price is what they consider fair. Or pay what they consider fair, set up an escrow account for the difference to Ericson's asking price, and then take it to court. Otherwise not only should Apple have to pay Ericson's asking price, they should have to pay treble damages for willful infringement. I'm not picking on Apple here. Put in any names you want for plaintiff and defendant, I'd still find the same way. Because the people losing the most in these damn patent fights are the consumers.

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The innovation tax

1. become part of the mafia legally practicing law

2. get most of the people who write the laws to either be a part of the lawyer mafia or at least have close buddies that are, Its all about billable hours baby and those who write the laws need to understand that.

3. your one profession profits often at the expense of every other profession.

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Ericsson trying the strategy Motorola got slapped down for

Sorry, as much as you might wish, you can't charge based on the sales price of the entire phone. Otherwise GM would owe them quite a bit for every car they sell with OnStar built in!

As for the "these patents aren't essential and we aren't infringing", that's a whole other argument and I have no idea who is right there, nor does anyone else here (though Apple fanboys and Apple haters alike will no doubt assume they do)

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So basically it sounds like Apple want to pay less in royalties but keep their prices the same earning them more profit?

Sounds normal.

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As this is about the 20 billionth story about Apple not wanting to pay X company for use of their patents, isn't it about time the US judicial system said "pay up and stop wasting taxpayer funded courts time and money"?

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Does not compute...

The Fine Article says:

Apple was the first to file a case in the long-running dispute between the tech giants, claiming that the Swedish company's LTE wireless tech patents are "essential to industry cellular standards" and that it is demanding excessive royalties. The fruity firm said it has not infringed on the patents and does not owe royalties for them.

Eh? That's two mutually exclusive arguments. Pick one EOR the other. Apple cannot be arguing both that the standards are essential to the cellular comms kit it sells, AND that they don't infringe. I don't believe that Apple's lawyers can have been this confused, so there's been some garbling in the story, somewhere.

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re: does not compute

It can compute. The implication would be that Apple's product does not implement the full LTE standard. Apple desires to licence the patent in order to fully implement the standard.

Frequently, a licence is included with the relevant chip, negotiated by the chip maker. Because Apple has so much money, patent holders have been known to sell a royalty based chip licence, excluding use of the chip in Apple products, precisely in order to charge Apple more than other users. If the royalty is 1 cent on a $5 chip, the patent holder will likely ask for the "same rate", i.e. $1 on a $500 iPhone. With tens of thousands of patents needed for a smartphone, this isn't really viable. Meanwhile Apple's competitors get a licence for $0.01.

It's easy to see that there may be something for Apple and Ericsson to argue about.

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