You are here:Case Study - PatentPatent
Ericsson in patent dispute with ZTE
Published 2011-04-04
Ericsson, the world’s largest mobile network equipment maker, is suing ZTE, a Chinese rival, over alleged infringements of the Swedish group’s technology patents.

Ericsson has accused ZTE of refusing to sign a patent licensing agreement under which the Chinese telecoms equipment maker would pay royalties to the Swedish group. The move by Ericsson underlines how Chinese companies led by Huawei Technologies and ZTE have emerged as strong rivals to the Swedish group. But it is the first time Ericsson has taken legal action against a Chinese competitor over alleged patent infringements.

ZTE, which is state-controlled and has a Hong Kong listing, has become one of the world’s top five mobile network equipment makers over the past five years. It is also enjoying rapid growth by manufacturing handsets.

On Friday, Ericsson said it had filed lawsuits against ZTE in the UK, Italy and Germany.

Kasim Alfalahi, Ericsson’s chief intellectual property officer, accused ZTE of infringing some of the Swedish company’s patents relating to second and third generation wireless technologies called GSM and WCDMA.

“ZTE has been infringing Ericsson patents both on GSM and also on WCDMA for years now,” he told the Financial Times.
Mr Alfalahi said Ericsson had been trying to finalise a licensing agreement with ZTE for at least four years.

“We have been trying very hard to sign an agreement with ZTE,” he said. “They have refused to sign and we have no other option than to ask the courts to enforce our rights.”

In the absence of a licensing agreement with the Chinese company, as well as seeking damages, Ericsson is also planning to ask the courts in the UK, Italy and Germany to halt sales of ZTE mobile phones that feature technology where the Swedish group’s patents have allegedly been infringed. Ericsson is also planning to ask the German court to halt sales of certain of ZTE’s network infrastructure.

Lin Cheng, president of ZTE’s western European operations, declined to comment on Ericsson’s allegations of patent infringements and said he was unaware of the Swedish group’s legal action.

However, he disputed Ericsson’s claims that ZTE had been refusing to sign a licensing agreement. He said ZTE had been in discussions with Ericsson, and wanted to sign an agreement with the Swedish group that was similar to ones it had with other telecoms equipment makers.

Patent disputes in the technology industry are reaching a new level of intensity, notably between smartphone makers.
In 2009, Nokia sued Apple for alleged patent infringements, and the US technology company has counter-claimed against the Finnish group.