Repair store faces hefty legal bill after losing David and Goliath fight with Apple over replacement iPhone screens

Top court rules iGiant's trademark infringed by components


In a setback for the right-to-repair movement, Norway's Supreme Court has upheld a decision that a repair shop's use of unauthorized iPhone screens violated Apple's trademark.

In July 2017, Norwegian customs officials intercepted a package from Hong Kong, sent to Henrik Huseby's repair store PCKompaniet, with 63 replacement smartphone touchscreens, all but one of which bore the Apple logo.

According to Huseby's Supreme Court filing, these screens were refurbished, meaning they were pulled from old phones for resale, and the Apple logos would not be visible to anyone because they had been obscured. Apple insisted some of these screens were counterfeit and did not originate from the company's supply chain.

In November, 2017, after Huseby refused to destroy the unapproved components, Apple filed a trademark lawsuit to prevent the screens from being used to repair iPhones.

In February, 2018, Huseby won the initial round in an Oslo court on the basis that he never claimed the parts were approved by Apple. The court told Apple to pay Huseby 13,700 NOK, or about $1,450, £1,150 or €1,290.

The iPhone maker then took its claim to Norway's Court of Appeals, which the following year ruled in Apple's favor because the parts unlawfully appropriated Apple's trademark.

That decision attracted criticism from supporters of the right to repair movement for the court's failure to consider environmental sustainability as a justification for using refurbished parts.

An upset woman with an empty wallet

We lose money on repairs, sobs penniless Apple, even though we charge y'all a fortune

READ MORE

"The core of the case is the right of repairers to access spare parts without Apple approval," wrote Maja van der Velden, informatics professor at the University of Oslo, in a blog post last year. "This right is under attack by Apple’s drive to control how and whom can repair the Apple products you own."

Huseby appealed to Norway's Supreme Court. He said in a plea for help paying his legal costs that the company was trying to use intellectual property law "to make my job and the job of millions independent repair businesses almost impossible."

The Norwegian Supreme Court on Tuesday affirmed [PDF] the appellate ruling. The high court's decision orders Huseby to destroy the 62 phone screens seized by customs officials and to pay Apple's legal costs, 247,500 NOK or about $26,000, £20,820 or €23,300.

Previously, the appellate ruling directed Huseby to pay Apple more than about 114,000 NOK, $12,000, £9,500 or €10,700 in legal costs for the initial case and the appeal. This could be crushing for his business.

Advocacy group Right to Repair Europe did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but characterized the decision as "a dark day for our cause" on Twitter.

"We're sending strength and moral support to Henrik Huseby today," the group said. "He took a stand where other businesses were afraid to. And he will pay a heavy price."

Apple, after years of criticism for difficult-to-repair products and hostility toward independent repair vendors, last year made a concession to the right-to-repair movement by announcing that it will provide independent repair shops with access to its technical documentation.

There are about 20 right-to-repair bills being considered in states across the US.

In response to a US House Judiciary Committee competition inquiry addressed to various large tech companies last year, Apple responded with a letter [PDF] insisting that it doesn't prevent consumers from seeking out third-party repairs and that it has lost money on its repair business every year since 2009.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Workers win vote to form first-ever US Apple Store union
    Results set to be ratified by labor board by end of the week

    Workers at an Apple Store in Towson, Maryland have voted to form a union, making them the first of the iGiant's retail staff to do so in the United States.

    Out of 110 eligible voters, 65 employees voted in support of unionization versus 33 who voted against it. The organizing committee, known as the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees (CORE), has now filed to certify the results with America's National Labor Relations Board. Members joining this first-ever US Apple Store union will be represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

    "I applaud the courage displayed by CORE members at the Apple store in Towson for achieving this historic victory," IAM's international president Robert Martinez Jr said in a statement on Saturday. "They made a huge sacrifice for thousands of Apple employees across the nation who had all eyes on this election."

    Continue reading
  • Apple’s M2 chip isn’t a slam dunk, but it does point to the future
    The chip’s GPU and neural engine could overshadow Apple’s concession on CPU performance

    Analysis For all the pomp and circumstance surrounding Apple's move to homegrown silicon for Macs, the tech giant has admitted that the new M2 chip isn't quite the slam dunk that its predecessor was when compared to the latest from Apple's former CPU supplier, Intel.

    During its WWDC 2022 keynote Monday, Apple focused its high-level sales pitch for the M2 on claims that the chip is much more power efficient than Intel's latest laptop CPUs. But while doing so, the iPhone maker admitted that Intel has it beat, at least for now, when it comes to CPU performance.

    Apple laid this out clearly during the presentation when Johny Srouji, Apple's senior vice president of hardware technologies, said the M2's eight-core CPU will provide 87 percent of the peak performance of Intel's 12-core Core i7-1260P while using just a quarter of the rival chip's power.

    Continue reading
  • UK competition watchdog seeks to make mobile browsers, cloud gaming and payments more competitive
    Investigation could help end WebKit monoculture on iOS devices

    The United Kingdom's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on Friday said it intends to launch an investigation of Apple's and Google's market power with respect to mobile browsers and cloud gaming, and to take enforcement action against Google for its app store payment practices.

    "When it comes to how people use mobile phones, Apple and Google hold all the cards," said Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA, in a statement. "As good as many of their services and products are, their strong grip on mobile ecosystems allows them to shut out competitors, holding back the British tech sector and limiting choice."

    The decision to open a formal investigation follows the CMA's year-long study of the mobile ecosystem. The competition watchdog's findings have been published in a report that concludes Apple and Google have a duopoly that limits competition.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022