Apple, Qualcomm Trade New Patent-Infringement Allegations

Updated on
  • Apple filing targets Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors
  • Charges are part of an increasingly bitter royalty battle

Apple Inc. alleged Wednesday in court filings that Qualcomm Inc. is using the iPhone maker’s patented technology for extending battery life, opening a new front in the royalty battle between the two technology behemoths.

Qualcomm, meanwhile, said it filed even more patent claims against Apple.

The new patent-infringement claims filed Wednesday by Apple were part of an amended answer to a lawsuit Qualcomm first filed in July. Qualcomm said it was filing three new patent-infringement suits in federal court in San Diego, plus a second complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington. Each is trying to up the stakes in the billion-dollar battle over who profits most from technology and electronics that have transformed society.

Apple claims that Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 and 820 processors used in smartphones infringe as many as eight patents for ways to control the power in mobile devices. It says it’s entitled to royalties and a court order that would block Qualcomm from using the patented inventions.

Qualcomm contends that Apple is infringing a total of 16 patents covering what it calls a “broad range of technologies” used in smartphones. These aren’t part of any industry standard, so don’t have limitations on how much Qualcomm could recover in damages if it wins, the company said.

“We feel we have to continue to make the point to Apple they just can’t continue to flout agreements and force their contract manufacturers to do the same, and to use our property and not pay for it,” said Don Rosenberg, Qualcomm’s general counsel.

Courts in the U.S., Europe, and China are being pulled into an increasingly bitter battle with each company trying to inflict as much financial pain on the other as possible. Apple has pushed its contract manufacturers to stop paying royalties to Qualcomm. The chipmaker filed patent suits in China -- where the iPhone is made -- to cut off production, and with the ITC to stop the devices from entering the U.S.

Qualcomm gets the bulk of its profit from licensing its mobile technology, ensuring it gets a cut of every device on the market whether it uses a Qualcomm chip or not. Apple and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission have accused Qualcomm of using its market power to extract unfairly high royalties. Qualcomm denies the charges and said Apple lied to regulators so it could keep more of the profit from sales of the iPhone.

The newest claims from both sides are on patents that aren’t related to any industry standard. Still, at its heart, the dispute is over how to value the fundamental technology that ensures every mobile device actually functions. The European Union is developing guidelines on how to value patents on standardized technology, hoping to become a sort of peacemaker and curb the types of lawsuits that are sweeping through the industry.

The case is Qualcomm Inc. V. Apple Inc., 17-1375, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (San Diego).

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