Apple took $7B dare, threatened to leave UK

A British patent holder whose U.S. case was thrown out got a warmer reception in a British High Court.

From “Apple’s lawyers warn it could quit UK market if court forces company to pay ‘commercially unacceptable’ fee for technology used in its iPhones” posted Saturday on This Is Money:

Optis [Cellular Technology] is suing Apple for patent infringement after the iPhone maker refused to pay license fees worth a possible $7billion for using ‘standardized’ smartphone technology in its products.

A High Court judge ruled last month that Apple had infringed two Optis patents, which help iPhones connect to the 3G and 4G networks.

At a hearing in January, Mr Justice Meade warned Apple that ‘it might be disappointed’ by the rate set by a judge.

Apple could walk away from the fees if it exits the UK market. But Mr Justice Meade suggested this was unlikely, saying: ‘There is no evidence Apple is really going to say no [to paying the rate set by the judge], is there? There is no evidence it is even remotely possible Apple will leave the UK market?’

Apple’s lawyer Marie Demetriou replied: ‘I am 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.’

My take: Sputnik News loved this story. Patently Apple‘s Jack Purcher called Optis Cellular a “patent troll” and invoked FRAND. Sounds about right.

10 Comments

  1. Patent trolls are a perennial problem. They probably keep entire floor of Apple’s lawyers busy. With the exception of a certain West Texas courthouse, patent trolls are seen in a dim light elsewhere.

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    July 12, 2021
  2. Gregg Thurman said:
    Apple should be buying patent pools from defunct companies as they become available. Between the awards and legal fees defending, I’ll bet they could have saved money, not to mention the aggravation.

    0
    July 12, 2021
    • Steven Noyes said:
      It doesn’t help. Buying patent pools only protects you against companies you compete with which have actual products. They do nothing to protect you from Non Practicing Entities (NPE). These companies buy up amazingly worthless patents and then sue everyone using anything even remotely adjacent to similar. Because the NPE makes nothing, counter suits are meaningless. They have 0.000% skin in the game.

      98% of NPE companies border on evil IMO.

      1
      July 12, 2021
  3. Jerry Doyle said:
    If Optics Cellular prevails in court, would such a judicial award affect “other” phone manufacturers similarly selling products in the UK? They too, make seek the same recourse Apple warns the court it would seek, and leave the UK. If all vendors left (and that is likely) then UK citizens may have to go out-of-country to purchase their phones. I say this because if the largest market capitalization company in the world can’t stomach the costs, how can lesser finance companies do so?

    4
    July 12, 2021
    • Bart Yee said:
      Agree. Unless other companies (the modem and transceiver chip makers) had already licensed, or if the Android makers relying on the same parts had already licensed, then the Android makers “could” be also at risk. But of course, Apple is always the target because it has the deepest pockets. The comments section in The Money article reflect the same bias against Apple – “Chinese company”, “my MotoG is a better phone at 1/4 the price”, overpriced poor quality” “cr*p”, “ Ok, how do we expidite the process of kicking Apple out of UK altogether? They seem to forget that they are selling an overpriced commodity”, “good riddance”, Ad infinitum.

      If the UK wants to hit Apple this way, and Android is left alone, precisely because few Android companies save Samsung could even pay such a sum, then fine, Apple can leave UK, leaving its UK based carriers to soldier on without them, sales will shift to the EU and be imported in, VAT will be lost, and everyone in the UK would then have to buy other, ironically, Chinese and Korean made phones.

      Interestingly, this would actually reduce competition in the UK and Android would be a “monopoly” due to an unfair ruling and fee, IMO. But then again, the UK has had so much decimation of its tech sector, never having even a long term viable smartphone company compete. The two that are there, Bullitt (a ripoff of the movie name, IMO) and WileyFox, are but 12 y/o or less, and of course, both built in China to spec., either ruggedized UK designs, or copies of Google Android reference designs respectively. Both are very minor niche players, rather irrelevant IMO.

      While I have many U.K. friends and admiration for its history, the U.K. has been a mess for awhile, IMO.

      3
      July 12, 2021
  4. Fred Stein said:
    Ironically, this is just after Branson beat his US rivals to space.

    My message to the UK and EU legal minds that which to use courts or regulation to contain the US digital transformation innovators: “Your people can compete. Just let them. Further, if you hobble the US, you’ll see Korea and China stand ready, willing and able to move in. Don’t follow India’s older failed model of obstruction.”

    2
    July 12, 2021
    • Steven Noyes said:
      I think Musk’s team beat Sir Richard Brandon’s team by a wide margin. This in relation to manned non-test space flight.

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      July 12, 2021
  5. David Emery said:
    There is, or at least there should be, a significant difference between ‘just plain patents’ and FRAND patents. The latter are expected to be “fair and reasonable’ and are not (by definition) things where a company can use an alternative technology. I don’t agree with a lot Florian Mueller says, but on the abuse of FRAND patents by courts in various jurisdictions (US included) is just criminal! Now when I am king, there will be no such thing as FRAND patents. If a patent is required for the implementation of a standard, then no royalties or license terms shall accrue. (I expect everyone here to vote for me in the next Regal election 🙂 Let me know if you want to hear more parts of my Royal policy platform.)

    4
    July 12, 2021
    • David Drinkwater said:
      I think FRAND patents are reasonable (something of a tautology), but they are a deal:

      If a company submits it’s patent for FRANDship, it gives up patent trolling and exorbitant fees. In exchange, it receives, essentially, an annuity or guarantee of future income.

      If a company chooses to aggressively own and pursue its own patents, it may be able to make a killing, but it also risks that it may not.

      I think both business models should be available.

      1
      July 12, 2021

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