Qualcomm and Apple’s tit for tat legal battle continues yet again this week with a series of new filings from Qualcomm, one of which seeks to ban some iPhone X sales in the US.
Three new lawsuits allege that Apple is infringing 16 Qualcomm patents with the iPhone 7, 8, and X, as well as their Plus models. Many of the patents cover technology that improves battery life, but others focus on additional smartphone tech. In one case, Qualcomm says Apple is relying on its patented technology to create the iPhone’s Portrait Mode effect.
The lawsuits ask for unspecified payments from Apple for the alleged patent infringement and for the court to make Apple stop using those technologies. Qualcomm goes further in a claim with the US International Trade Commission, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune, where it asks for imports of iPhone Xs using modems from its rival, Intel, to the banned, which would prevent the device from being sold on AT&T and T-Mobile (that is, unless Apple started buying modems for those phones from Qualcomm).
In particular, Qualcomm points to the iPhone X’s multitasking interface and its similarities to the interface webOS used to use. Qualcomm apparently now owns patents covering that interface, as well as other technology first developed at Palm. “All of these Palm inventions — owned by Qualcomm — have vastly improved the functionality of mobile devices and the user experience, and all of them are widely found in Apple products without license or permission,” Qualcomm writes in one of its lawsuits.
Qualcomm already filed a series of similar claims against Apple back in July, again asking for payments and for a ban on iPhones. But this week, it’s updating those claims to include the iPhone X, which wasn’t out when the legal battle first began.
The filings were issued yesterday, shortly after Apple filed its own patent infringement lawsuit against Qualcomm. In that suit, Apple said Qualcomm’s behavior was akin to “a common patent troll.”
Qualcomm pointed to its filings when asked for comment. Apple also referred us to yesterday’s filings when asked for comment.
This legal dispute started at the beginning of the year after the Federal Trade Commission accused Qualcomm of anti-competitive behavior. Apple then filed a lawsuit making similar accusations and continued to make those claims in courts around the world. Qualcomm has fired back, and we’ve been watching the volleying play out over the last several months.
These patent lawsuits are more of a sideshow. They’re largely a defensive maneuver for Qualcomm, which has already been fined by regulators in other countries for similar behavior to what it’s now under attack for in the US. The real battle to watch is the one around whether Qualcomm will have to change its overall patent licensing behavior, which could mean the company will earn far less money off the sales of its modems.