Qualcomm Files Patent Lawsuits Seeking iPhone Sales Ban in China

Qualcomm has filed a patent suit in China seeking licensing fees for several mobile technology patents it says Apple is using in its latest iPhone models.

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Qualcomm has filed several patent lawsuits in China against Apple demanding licensing fees for several mobile technologies that the chip producer claims are built into iPhones. The lawsuit asks China's courts to ban iPhone sales in that nation as it pursues compensation from Apple for the alleged patent infringement.

The new lawsuits, the latest gambit in Qualcomm's protracted legal battle with Apple, were reported in an Oct. 13 story by Bloomberg. They allege that Apple is infringing on three Qualcomm patents related to power management and the Force Touch touch-screen technologies used in the phones. 

The Qualcomm lawsuits seek to "ban the sale and manufacture of iPhones" in China, which could have huge implications for Apple because most of the devices are manufactured there. A majority of Apple's revenue comes from the global sales of its iconic iPhones.

Christine Trimble, a Qualcomm spokeswoman, told Bloomberg the company filed the lawsuits because "Apple employs technologies invented by Qualcomm without paying for them." The lawsuits were filed Sept. 29 in a Chinese court but have not been made public, Bloomberg's story reported.

Spokespeople from Apple and Qualcomm did not reply to email requests for comment from eWEEK.

The patented technologies allegedly being used improperly by Apple "are a few examples of the many Qualcomm technologies that Apple uses to improve its devices and increase its profits,” Trimble told Bloomberg. Both companies have been battling loudly and publicly over patents around the world since early in 2017.

In July, Qualcomm asked the International Trade Commission (ITC) to ban imports of some Apple iPhones that officials said infringe on multiple Qualcomm patents that drive performance and battery life of the devices.

The complaint to the ITC came after Apple in January filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Qualcomm over its patent licensing practices, claiming that the chip maker is using its “monopoly” position in baseband chips—a key component in mobile phones and other wireless devices—to charge costly fees and royalties and practicing “exclusionary tactics” in the market.

Both companies have a lot at stake in this legal battle. Apple just launched its latest iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X models in mid-September and counts on iPhone revenue around the world for a huge percentage of its revenue.

For Qualcomm, the battles have been affecting its corporate earnings, which have been falling. The earnings drops came after Apple sued Qualcomm in January, while also cutting off $2 billion in annual licensing payments it had previously been making to the chipmaker.

Several IT analysts told eWEEK that the fight between the two companies is one to watch closely.

"This is a big deal," Dan Olds, principal analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group, said. "This is a perfect storm for Apple—in a bad way," because its newly launched iPhones are expected to bring in lots of holiday sales revenue for Apple and that expected revenue could now be seriously endangered by Qualcomm's latest legal action.