Qualcomm files patent infringement complaints against Apple, aims to ban U.S. iPhone imports

Qualcomm owns a lot of IP (intellectual property). Much of it is for things we don't think about when we are using a phone powered by one of its processors, like network data transfer and battery management. Today, it has filed a complaint with the ITC (international trade commission) against Apple, which it says uses six patented technologies without offering the correct compensation to Qualcomm.

It makes it clear that these are not industry standard patents (which have different rules about how they are used and paid for) but still "play integral roles enabling both high-speed performance and extended battery life." The patents in question are:

  • US Patent 8698558 (issued 2014) which extends battery life by offering intelligent antenna power management
  • US Patent 8838949 (issued 2014) which helps a phone connect to the network at first boot
  • US Patent 8633936 (issued 2014) which allows for graphic intensive applications to use less battery power
  • US Patent 9535490 (issued 2017) which monitors and manages network traffic to and from applications
  • US Patent 9608675 (issued 2017) which aggregates multiple streams into a single "data super-highway"
  • US Patent 8487658 (issued 2013) which uses more efficient power interfacing for both high and low voltage circuits

Using a move from Apple's own playbook, Qualcomm is petitioning the ITC to stop imports and sales of Apple products that use these patents.

"Qualcomm's inventions are at the heart of every iPhone and extend well beyond modem technologies or cellular standards," said Don Rosenberg, executive vice president and general counsel of Qualcomm. "The patents we are asserting represent six important technologies, out of a portfolio of thousands, and each is vital to iPhone functions. Apple continues to use Qualcomm's technology while refusing to pay for it. These lawsuits seek to stop Apple's infringement of six of our patented technologies."

Apple and Qualcomm are already embroiled in a legal battle over standard-essential patents, and this just adds fuel to the existing fire. All we can say is that if the patents were fairly granted and any company is using them, it should pay for them. We're not about to guess how the ITC will rule when it comes to banning iPhone sales, but we know it has not been afraid to do the same to other companies. We also know it's simply a great bargaining chip to try and receive those backed royalties from Apple, which would naturally go to considerable lengths to keep an import ban from being imposed.

While not directly Android related, this news is important to follow as both companies involved have enough influence to shape the mobile landscape for us all.

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Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.