Apple loses appeal in London court in long-running Optis patent dispute

Silhouette of mobile user is seen next to a screen projection of Apple logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
  • Apple and Optus still awaiting court ruling on fair terms of use More rulings to come in long-running U.K. litigation

(Reuters) - Apple Inc lost an appeal in a London court on Thursday in the latest stage of a long-running dispute over key telecommunications patents used in Apple devices including iPhones and iPads.

The Court of Appeal ruled Texas-based Optis Cellular Technology LLC can stop Apple infringing its patents which are essential to certain technological standards, such as 4G, before a court has ruled on fair terms of use.

Judge Richard Arnold said on Thursday that in order to avoid an injunction on utilising the patents in England and Wales Apple only needed to agree to take a global licence over the standard essential patents on terms which a court found are fair and reasonable.

He ruled that a lower court’s finding that Apple intended to use one of Optis’ patents without a licence before the terms were decided by the High Court in London was “obviously correct”.

The decision by the Court of Appeal, which upholds the lower court’s ruling, marks the latest chapter in litigation initially brought by Optis in 2019 that has since prompted six separate trials and three appellate hearings in Britain alone, with two further Court of Appeal hearings due next year.

The sixth trial, concerning the fair terms of a licence to use Optis’ patents – which will apply globally – and Apple’s claims that Optis has abused its dominant position, was heard in June and July and a judgment is pending.

Apple and Optis are also engaged in parallel litigation in the United States, where an East Texas court in May rejected Apple’s bid for a third trial after it was hit with a $300 million verdict for violating Optis’ wireless-standard U.S. patent rights.

Judge Arnold was also critical of Apple and Optis over their conduct of the litigation, saying Apple’s appeal and Optis’ cross-appeal illustrated “the dysfunctional state of the current system.”

He said both parties “adopted its position in an attempt to game the system in its favour” and called on organisations which set technological standards to require “legally-enforceable arbitration” of patent disputes as part of their intellectual property rights policies in order to “put a stop to such behaviour”.

Apple and Optis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is Optis Celluar Technology LLC and others v Apple Retail UK Limited and others, CA-2021-003153.

For Apple: Marie Demetriou and Sarah Love of Brick Court Chambers, Meredith Pickford and Ligia Osepciu of Monckton Chambers, and WilmerHale

For Optis: Sarah Ford and Emily MacKenzie of Brick Court Chambers, Isabel Jamal and Jennifer Dixon of 8 New Square, and EIP Europe and Osborne Clarke

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