A patent case currently pending in court in the United Kingdom could fine Apple up to $7 billion. The tech giant now says a withdrawal from the country is possible if it gets that far.
The case revolves around some Optis Cellular Technology patents and some $7 billion in licenses that Apple refuses to pay for the use of what the tech giant calls “standardized” smartphone technology.
Optics is a patent holder in the United Kingdom whose main income comes from lawsuits related to those patents, sometimes referred to as a ‘patent troll’. Last month, the UK’s Supreme Court ruled that Apple is infringing two of Optis’ patents surrounding the technology on which the company’s devices connect to communications networks.
Apple was also ordered to pay a fine in Texas last year. Then it had to pay $506 million to PanOptis, a sister company of Optis Cellular Technology, for the use of some patents related to 4G technology. The fine can be so high in the UK because a judge previously indicated that the UK court could collect fines for breaking Optis patents worldwide, not just in the UK.
The lawsuit to determine how much Apple will ultimately pay will begin in July 2022. Marie Demetriou, Apple’s attorney in the case, now says it’s possible Apple will leave the UK if the lawsuit makes it “commercially unacceptable” to the tech giant to sell more devices in the country. The company could avoid any conditions and fines by no longer having commercial activities in the UK.
That is, to be clear, probably boastful and a possible threat to get more favourable terms. Apple employs hundreds of thousands of people in its App Stores in the country, so that’s a lot of employment that would be lost. However, the chance is very small that Apple will actually leave a large market such as the United Kingdom.