Apple v. Qualcomm: You win some, you lose some

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Qualcomm patents
The ITC sided with Apple over Qualcomm today in one case, but things went the other way in a separate decision earlier in the afternoon.
Photo: Qualcomm

Just hours after an International Trade Commission judge ruled in favor of Qualcomm in a patent infringement lawsuit with Apple, the Commission as a whole made the iPhone maker the winner in a separate dispute between the pair of companies.

This is a demonstration of how much acrimony there is between these two, who were once close allies.

No patent infringement, this time

The ITC gave a final determination on an earlier recommendation from Administrative Law Judge Thomas Pender as to whether Apple infringes on three patents owned by Qualcomm: 9,535,490, 8,698,558 and 8,633,936.

The decision was entirely in Apple’s favor. The Commission found that there was “no violation” and “the investigation is terminated.”

Qualcomm had been hoping the ITC would order an import ban, preventing any Apple devices that infringed on the three patents from being brought into the United States.

A separate iPhone ban possible

However, the situation is different with another ongoing legal dispute between these two. Also this afternoon, ITC Judge MaryJoan McNamara found that some iPhone models infringe on one of three patents held by Qualcomm. These are not the same patents as in the other ITC ruling announced today.

The full commission will review this recommendation and then potentially could order an import ban.

It’s all about the $$$$

Qualcomm doesn’t really want Apple’s handsets banded from sale. It wants patent licensing fees. The chip maker claims its owed $7 billion.

Apple, on the other hand, says Qualcomm’s demands are exorbitant, and that many of the patents in question are invalid.

These legal disputes have real-world consequences. All the 2018 iPhone models include only Intel 4G modems because Apple won‘t use Qualcomm ones.

And the debut of a 5G iPhone could be delayed because Intel won‘t have the necessary modem available until next year. Rival phone makers are introducing devices with Qualcomm’s 5G modem this year.