Apple Pulls a Trump Card on Qualcomm

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If you haven’t been keeping up, Apple and Qualcomm have been waging quite the slap battle across the globe. Apple sued Qualcomm. Qualcomm countersued for patent infringement. Qualcomm called for a ban against iPhones in China covering both sale and production, which would cripple Apple. Qualcomm then asked the ITC and US District Court to all ban imports of iPhones.

Since then, Apple has fired back and sued again with allegations that Qualcomm’s business model of double-charging for their technologies is illegal, which would be severely damaging to them. Qualcomm countered. Again. Apple filed a THIRD suit in US and then sued Qualcomm in China for an additional 145 million.

The above may sound like two business heavyweights squaring off in battle against each other until a deal is struck at some point and the dust settles. Unfortunately for Qualcomm, it doesn’t look like that is the case anymore. They may be regretting the decision to make their definitive stand against Apple, because in reality, they seem to be losing ground now. At this point, it isn’t just Apple standing on the other side facing them down. Intel, Samsung, and Google have backed Apple in this suit, which isn’t a bug surprise since all of the above have something to gain from Qualcomm’s loss. What is more significant than either competitors or customers who owe them lining up on the other side is the fact that the Taiwanese Fair Trade Commission has also joined in with Apple, and the US Federal Trade Commission is also on the record against Qualcomm, calling them a monopoly.

Today, Qualcomm’s situation deteriorated, as Apple has countersued in one of cases against them, asserting that Qualcomm is actually violating eight of their patents dealing with power efficiency with their Snapdragon 800 and 820 mobile processors. What is notable about this is that Apple started the process of approval for these patents years before Qualcomm pursued the patents it is suing Apple over. This could give Apple the upper hand in the one case that Qualcomm had the most chance of success with. In what has mostly been a battle of business-related legal posturing, it is highly unlikely that any import or sales bans are going to be imposed, either here in the US or in China. There is little to no precedent on the grounds that are being offered, especially since the patent wars that waged from 2008 until around 2013 ended. There seems to be little public or government appetite for things like import bans and blanket restrictions anymore.

It feels like Apple and their legal team have been holding this trump card for just the right time. There was a point at which Qualcomm seemed to have some momentum in this case, if for no other reason than they were the most active in the news cycle. However, momentum based on filing more suits, counter suits, and complaints doesn’t hold up to industry heavyweights and regulatory agencies weighing in against them, and now Apple’s play today. Unless Qualcomm has something even better in reserve, it would appear that Apple now has the upper hand in this worldwide legal showdown.


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