“Make calls, keep records, send email, browse the web and run over a thousand different applications, all while on the go…”
This holiday ad for “one of the first truly portable, mobile and multipurpose Internet devices” appeared 18 years ago, before the term ‘smartphone’ was part of the popular lexicon. The maker of the phone was Qualcomm, and the company’s lawyers are referencing these devices as evidence that Qualcomm invented many of the technologies that power today’s smartphones.
This week Qualcomm filed three new patent infringement complaints against Apple in the U.S. District Court of Southern California. This action follows a previous suit filed in July by Qualcomm, which covered different patents, and a countersuit filed this week by Apple, which alleged that Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors infringe on Apple patents.
Qualcomm calls Apple “a relatively late entrant into the mobile device industry,” and argues that Apple would not have enjoyed such success had it not been able to leverage Qualcomm’s foundational mobile techologies. It wants the iPhone maker to license the technologies, which it says are not covered by the rules surrounding “standards essential” patents. Those rules require patent holders to offer “fair and reasonable” licensing terms for technologies deemed essential to device operation and interoperability.
Apple has countered by claiming that Qualcomm’s patents were invalid, and now by adding a countersuit claiming that the chipmaker’s Snapdragon 800 and 820 processors use a power-saving technology patented by Apple. In addition, Apple has sued Qualcomm for $1 billion in an unresolved lawsuit filed early this year.
All the patents Qualcomm claims Apple is infringing are implemented outside the cellular modem, according to Qualcomm. But LTE modems are nonetheless a big part of this fight. Qualcomm is trying to keep Apple from selling iPhones that don’t use a Qualcomm modem to connect to carrier networks. This week the company filed a second complaint with the International Trade Commission, asking the agency to ban the import of iPhones that don’t use Qualcomm modems. Apple started sourcing modems for some iPhone models from Intel when it developed the iPhone 7. Now Apple is said to be planning new phones for 2018 that do not use any Qualcomm components.
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