Qualcomm's legal battles with Apple rage on. The chipmaker requested that the U.S. International Trade Commision (ITC) halt imports of certain iPhones and iPads into the United States, alleging that these devices violate some of Qualcomm's patents. Additionally, Qualcomm filed a separate lawsuit that seeks monetary damages for patent infringement.
The devices that Qualcomm wants barred are those with cellular baseband processors supplied by anyone but the company and its affiliates. Presumably, Qualcomm is referring to chips made by Intel. However, the exact complaint isn't that Intel's chips violate Qualcomm's patents directly. Rather, the argument is that Apple's implementation of those chips violates six of Qualcomm's patents concerning smartphone power efficiency.
Despite Qualcomm and Apple's longstanding business ties, 2017 hasn't been a good year for their relationship. In January, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed a suit against Qualcomm alleging that it used monopolistic tactics to maintain its position in smartphone chip manufacturing. The FTC also asserted that Qualcomm's supply and licensing terms for its chips were onerous and designed to weaken the competition. Apple quickly followed up by withholding payments to Qualcomm and filing a $1 billion lawsuit over those allegedly anticompetitive tactics.
Apple upped the ante last month by adding further complaints to the forementioned suit. The complaints are based on a Supreme Court decision from May stating that companies do not maintain their patent rights over an item after it is sold. Apple alleges that Qualcomm is "double-dipping" by not only selling chips, but by also licensing the technology in them, leading to a situation where Qualcomm demands a cut of every phone sold even if the handset in question doesn't contain any of its silicon. For its part, Qualcomm maintains that Apple provoked the investigations.
As usual with lawsuits between major tech corporations, an end to these legal proceedings isn't expected any time soon. Reuters estimates that ITC cases take a little over a year to conclude. In the meantime, Qualcomm has to fight this battle on multiple fronts, as it's being investigated not only in the United States but in Europe and Taiwan as well—and that's on top of a record fine imposed by South Korea on the chipmaker last December.
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