Apple is currently locked in a bitter legal battle with Qualcomm, one of the major chip suppliers for the iPhone. The case relates to the royalties Qualcomm charges for the use of its patents; Apple claims they’re unfairly pricey, and has stopped paying Qualcomm for the time being. Qualcomm, as you can imagine, isn’t thrilled about this.
In the latest development, Apple has argued in a court filing that Qualcomm’s business model is illegal and involves licensing patents that aren’t even valid.
As it currently stands, Apple is suing Qualcomm in court over its patent licensing system. Apple originally claimed that Qualcomm’s demands for patent royalties were not fair or reasonable, so it stopped paying Qualcomm while it tried to pursue the issue through courts. Qualcomm responded with a counter-suit against Apple and its manufacturing partners for non-payment of royalties.
In a new court document, Apple has been more specific and made bolder claims against Qualcomm. According to Apple’s filing, Qualcomm chooses to license its patents in bundles. Some of those patents are critical for cellular communications, and some aren’t. Worse, Apple claims that 12 of Qualcomm’s patents are invalid because of conflicts with other patents.
Together, the claims basically accuse Qualcomm of abusing the patent licensing system to force companies to pay royalties for patents they don’t need, and also accuse Qualcomm of peddling patents that aren’t even valid.
The stage is set for a long and torturous legal battle at this point, but things are likely to get resolved sooner rather than later. Qualcomm is an essential supplier of chips in iPhones that allow for wireless communication, and with the iPhone 8 on the horizon, Apple can’t afford to completely cut off Qualcomm.
But at the same time, Apple’s royalty payments are huge for Qualcomm, as is the contract for supplying chips to Apple. With all that’s at stake, some kind of settlement is still the most likely outcome. Let’s just hope it comes before an all-out legal fight seeks injunctions on Apple products, which could delay upcoming launches (cough, iPhone 8!) for months.