Qualcomm rebuts Intel, tech groups, in proposed iPhone ban case

Another week, another flurry of legal wrangling in the increasingly fierce patent war between tech giants Qualcomm and Apple.

The latest barrage involves Qualcomm’s request that the U.S. International Trade Commission ban certain iPhone 7 models for infringing on six Qualcomm patents.

The commission is seeking comments before deciding whether to proceed with an investigation. Late last week, Intel, the Computer & Communications Industry Association and others weighed in on Apple’s behalf.

These groups accused Qualcomm of being a monopoly that’s not trying to protect its patents but instead aims to protect its cellular modem market share by blocking competition.

“Qualcomm is already using its dominant position to pressure competitors and tax competing products,” said Ed Black, head of the CCIA, a trade group whose members include Facebook, Google, Intel and Microsoft but not Apple. “If the ITC were to grant this exclusion order, it would help Qualcomm use its monopoly power for further leverage against Apple, and allow them to drive up prices on consumer devices.”

On Monday, Qualcomm shot back, accusing the tech trade groups and Intel of making false, self-serving accusations – including constructing a fictional two-player market for premium LTE chips where only Qualcomm and Intel compete.

“Companies such as MediaTek, Samsung, Marvell, Leadcore, Spreadtrum and HiSilicon (a Huawei company) provide LTE baseband processors for use in mobile devices, and their global sales of these products far surpass Intel’s sales of similar products,” Qualcomm said in an ITC filing.

Qualcomm is seeking to ban only iPhone 7s that contain Intel’s cellular modems, which means devices running on AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s networks.

Qualcomm is not asking the ITC to ban older model iPhones, or iPhone 7s that run on Verizon’s or Sprint’s networks — all of which use Qualcomm modems.

“Qualcomm’s goal is not to exclude supposedly infringing products from the United States,” Intel said in a filing with the ITC. “Instead, its primary goal is to exclude Intel modems from the United States, while giving free passage to allegedly infringing Apple products that incorporate a Qualcomm modem.”

Qualcomm counters that Intel has always been free to sell its modems to all LTE smartphone makers, including Apple’s competitors, so a partial iPhone 7 ban would not result in Intel being excluded from the U.S. market.

In addition, Qualcomm claims it is seeking a limited iPhone 7 ban because it has a better chance of being implemented.

As an administrative agency, the International Trade Commission’s sanctions can be vetoed by the president. In 2013, the Obama administration set aside an ITC ban on iPhones in Apple’s long-running patent fight with Samsung. The rationale was that a sweeping ban would harm the U.S. economy and consumers.

Qualcomm’s main point with the ITC, however, is that the case is not about Intel or cellular modems. It’s about Apple violating Qualcomm non-modem patents around power management, envelope tracking, fast boot up, better graphics and enhanced performance of smartphones.

“These patents reflect the breadth of Qualcomm’s dedication and investment in domestic research and development relating to wireless technology,” the company said, “and optimizing mobile electronic devices that go well beyond the modems in the accused Apple products.”




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

three + eleven =