Apple challenges Qualcomm patents as legal battle rages on

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Qualcomm patents
Apple to Qualcomm: "I wish I knew how to quit you." But the companies continue to do business even as they drag each other to court.
Photo: Qualcomm

“Coopetition” best describes the relationship between Apple and Qualcomm. Wireless modems made by Qualcomm are used in iPhones even as the two companies are locked in a years-long patent dispute over billions of dollars.

The fight reached a new phase today as Apple challenged four Qualcomm patents, arguing they shouldn’t have been awarded in the first place.

Qualcomm took Apple to court last year claiming that it’s owed as much as $4.5 billion in licensing payments for using these patents.

The four patents relate to touchscreens, PDAs that also function as phones,  focusing a digital camera, and circuit memory, according to Bloomberg.

Apple asked the three judges of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board to assess whether these patents actually covered new  ideas when they were awarded. If not, then Qualcomm should never have been granted them, and Apple certainly doesn’t owe any licensing fees.

The patent war wages on

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is only one of the places where Apple and Qualcomm are facing each other in court over patent rights and payments.

Qualcomm asked the International Trade Commission to ban imports of all iPhone 7 models that include Intel instead  Qualcomm modem chips because the Intel models supposedly violate its patents. The European Patent Office is mulling over whether some Qualcomm patents are valid after Apple challenged them. And there’s a similar dispute before the Chinese Patent Review Board.

Amidst all this legal wrangling, Apple is trying to find alternative sources for its modem chips. The 2018 iPhone models will still use Qualcomm parts, but Apple might make its own 5g modems.