Qualcomm renews efforts to block certain iPhone imports in U.S.

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Qualcomm headquarters
Certain iPhone models could potentially be blocked from sale in the U.S.
Photo: Qualcomm

Qualcomm has ramped up its efforts against Apple as part of the long-running battle between the two tech companies.

The chip maker has asked U.S. trade regulators to reverse a previous judge’s ruling. This would allow it to block the import of certain iPhone models into the United States.

These iPhone models are alleged to infringe on at least one Qualcomm patent. In a September ruling, a judge agreed with Qualcomm about the patent infringement. However, they refused to block the import of iPhones carrying Intel chips. This because it would supposedly give Qualcomm a monopoly on modem chips in the U.S. market.

Qualcomm has waged similar battles with Apple over the iPhone in China and Germany. Apple recently came to an agreement with Qualcomm that allowed it to resume selling older model iPhones in Germany. It achieved this by agreeing to only sell iPhone 7 and 8 models containing Qualcomm chips.

Qualcomm uses Apple’s own words to argue why the previous decision about not banning imported iPhones should be reversed. Apple said that it issued a fix last September to stop iPhones infringing on Qualcomm’s patent. However, it noted that it needs time to prove that the fix will satisfy regulators and to sell its existing inventory.

Lawyers for Qualcomm argue that this goes against previous suggestions that no workaround could be developed. “[The judge] recommended against a remedy on the assumption that the [Qualcomm] patent would preclude Apple from using Intel as a supplier for many years and that no redesign was feasible,” Qualcomm wrote. “Apple now admits — more than seven months after the hearing — that the alleged harm is entirely avoidable.”

Apple vs. Qualcomm

Apple and Qualcomm started their long-running feud back in January 2017. The initial instigating factor was Apple suing Qualcomm for allegedly withholding $1 billion in rebates because Apple assisted South Korean regulators investigating Qualcomm’s business.

The big issue is now the $7 billion in royalties Apple supposedly owes Qualcomm. Qualcomm also says that Apple has stolen its proprietary trade secrets and passed them on to Intel.

Qualcomm will meet Apple in court in the U.S. this April. A ban on certain iPhone models would hurt Apple immeasurably ahead of this meeting in court. Such a ban would not cover the current model iPhones, but would still cost Apple substantially when it comes to older iPhones.

Source: Reuters