Apple Threatens the UK?

July 12, 2021

Apple is a friendly company. It cares about security and privacy. It wants to hobble other technopolies with its user-centric approach ad tracking. Apple wants the Apple app store to be the bestest place in the world for developers to make their products available (even if some of those products don’t work as advertised) to the Apple customers. There are so many goodnesses associated with Apple, this headline has to be a misunderstanding: “Apple Attorneys Threaten UK Market Exit If Court Orders Unacceptable Patent Fees.”

It seems clear that the word “threat” is a strong one. The notion that “fees” might dissuade a trillion dollar company is puzzling. The write up reports:

Apple’s lawyers have warned the iPhone maker could exit the UK if a court orders it to pay “commercially unacceptable” fees to patent company Optis Cellular over alleged infringement of 3G and 4G patents. Apple is currently involved in a lawsuit with Optis in the United Kingdom, with Apple refusing to pay the firm license fees for patents Optis claims it used in the iPhone and other technologies. In June, a High Court judge ruled that Apple had infringed two of the patents, and therefore Apple should pay fees.

There are some strong words in this paragraph; for example, infringement, refusing, and High Court judge ruled.

Apple?

Yes, and the write up adds:

This is not the only lawsuit involving Optis that Apple is contending with. In August 2020, a Texas federal jury ruled Apple willfully infringed on 4G LTE patents owned by PanOptis and related companies, including Optis, and that it had to pay $506.2 million. In April 2021, a federal judge allowed a retrial to take place, due to there being “serious doubt” about the verdict.

Does this suggest that Apple is unaware of the function of a patent? Does Apple not understand the laws and customs associated with an inventor who holds a patent?

Possibly.

Several observations are warranted:

  • If Apple pulls out of the UK, this might be good news for Samsung, Google, and other vendors of non-Apple mobile phones.
  • The idea of a large company threatening a country and its laws is interesting. It may suggest that Apple is tired of mere nation states interfering with its plans to deliver Apple goodness to more people than ever before.
  • Since Brexit, the UK lacks pull with other Western European countries. As a result, Britain is to blame for this threat.

This is an interesting posture and one that may be little more than saber rattling. On the other hand, no more Facetime in merrie olde Englande may be a reality for an island nation which has faced invaders, pillagers, and cut purses many times. Where is King Arthur when he’s needed? Merlin uses an iPhone I believe.

Stephen E Arnold, July 12, 2021

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