Apple threatens to leave UK market over £5 billion lawsuit

July 14, 2021 at 02:53PM
Customers queue up outside an Apple retail store (Getty)
Customers queue up outside an Apple retail store (Getty)

A lawyer representing tech giant Apple has said the company could theoretically pull out of operating in the UK.

Marie Demetriou made the claim in the midst of a $7 billion (£5 billion) legal row over patent infringement.

She said that if Apple was forced to pay the ‘commercially unacceptable’ fee for technology used in its iPhones, it could quit the UK market.

Last month, a judge ruled that Apple had infringed on two patents held by Optis Cellular Technology because it refused to pay a licence fee on technology that helped its phones connect to 3G and 4G networks.

Optis, which bought the LTE patents to effectively make claims like this, had already won a case against Apple in the US – but it was overturned on appeal.

Mr Justice Meade, the Chancellor of the High Court and judge in charge of Intellectual Properties in the UK claimed: ‘There is no evidence Apple is really going to say no [to paying the rate set by the judge], is there? There is no evidence it is even remotely possible Apple will leave the UK market?’ 

Which brought the stunning statement from Apple’s lawyer: ‘I am not sure that is right. 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 [U.K.] market. There may be terms that are set by the court which are just commercially unacceptable.’

TOKYO, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 20: Apple Inc.'s iPhone 11, iPhone11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max smartphones are displayed in the Apple Marunouchi store on September 20, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. Apple launched the latest iPhone 11 models featuring a dual-camera system today. (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)
Would Apple really pull out of the UK market? (Getty)

While Apple is highly unlikely to follow through on its threat to withdraw from the UK, the implication is clear. It doesn’t want to be compelled by the court to pay the eye-watering sum of money and is engaging in a bit of a game of chicken to see who blinks first.

Kathleen Fox Murphy of EIP Legal, representing Optis, said: ‘Everyone thinks about Apple as the market leader in smartphones, but Apple has to buy in most of the technology in an iPhone.’

The lawsuit is being watched closely as many UK officials are keen to reign in the power of US technology firms like Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google.

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