Why Apple threatened to pull out of the UK

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If a UK court orders Apple to pay a tremendous patent licensing fee, the iPhone maker might decide it’s better to just leave the country.
Photo: Sora Shimazaki/Pexels CC

Apple reportedly warned a U.K. court that it might withdraw from the country if it must pay an enormous patent licensing fee. The iPhone-maker is being sued by Optis Cellular Technology over patents Apple says are invalid because they cover standard cellular-wireless technology.

Nevertheless, a U.K. court ruled in June that Apple devices infringe upon the patents. A follow-up trial in 2022 will determine the amount of lingering fees owed, but it could go as high as $7 billion, according to This is Money.

And that’s just for past fees. Apple would be required to continue to pay Optis for every cellular-enabled device it sells worldwide going forward.

Apple could leave the UK

Marie Demetriou, an Apple lawyer, warned that if the licensing fee is too high, the company would consider withdrawing all its products from the United Kingdom.

“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,” said Demetriou.

Naturally, questions arise about whether this amounts to anymore more than gamesmanship. Apple’s lawyer is negotiating for the lowest fee she can get.

Optis Cellular Technology accused Apple of patent infringement in a U.S. court as well. But Cupertino regularly faces similar suits from many companies. That’s not because Apple ignores patent laws but because some patents are overly broad, apparently granting their holders ownership of technology in common use. Some firms’ entire business model consists of buying the rights to these patents and then suing other companies for infringing on them.